I have come to realize something, as I've progressed well into my 4th decade... And it's a frightening realization, a sobering one: I almost became a liberal.
Yes, it's true. I was wooed by their idealistic, unsupported course for awhile in my blooming youth; I flirted with the possibility of heading down that circuitous path. I'm not proud of this. I admit it. But that was the greatest threat to me in my post-high-school and early working years. It was not my parents' fear that in college, I was becoming a pothead (I wasn't even close) or that I was having a bit too much fun (well, that one was sort of true)—no, the greatest threat was that I'd go over to the dark side.
Then I spent a few years maturing. I gained a bit more knowledge about history; learned the difference between rights and privileges, and became more adept at managing money responsibly; and I figured out, with help, that true charity doesn't come from government, but from individuals and faith in God. I even spent some time discussing military service and the philosophies behind it with people in the know. Eventually, I straightened out. Becoming a Christian secured cautious conservatism for me... which is odd, because for some people, that same act ensures their liberalism. Weird.
Anyway. I wanted to take a moment to ponder the symbolic veteran of any armed service. There was a recent article on Facebook (why do I even bother with FB?) about how we Americans are over-revering our servicemen and women, people in uniform everywhere, and how those folks are actually terrible people who harm civilians for fun, take advantage of their power, and sexually abuse each other with abandon. And this article made me livid.
People are people, not black and white but all of us gray, and of course there are those among every rank, everywhere, who will wield their power for evil purposes. But people—isn't that the very reason we need armed services? Because sometimes, those people who allow themselves to be ruled by evil instincts are quite attractive? Charismatic? Great speakers and motivators? Don't you think Osama bin Laden had some charms about him? How else would he have inspired such evil acts in his name and the name of his cause? How about Hitler?
People are low-down and messed-up. That's why I became a Christian: because we desperately need a savior to stand in our lowly place come judgement. And when there's a void in a soul, something will always fill the void. Just like the story in the Bible, about the freshly swept out little home that was quickly re-infested because it stood empty (Matthew 11:24-26), desperate people, even well-intentioned ones, will join up with insanity to fill their void. Gangs are popular for this reason; there is even a handful of completely foolish youth from around the globe who are going to stand with ISIS for likely this same reason. There's a void, and they'll fill it with something that gives them purpose, even if there's a chance down the road that they might be asked to behead someone...
Long story short? There will always be people who choose to do bad, and they will often amass a huge crowd of [weak-minded] people to help them. For that wrong force, we need an opposing force of good. And people? A good majority of military people and police officers is good enough for me. There will be exceptions; I can live with that, much more easily than I can live with the ostrich mentality of "can't happen here." WWI and WWII happened. Ho Chi Minh, Rwanda, Darfur—they aren't made up. They're real. Terrible things happen, because of bad people, when good people permit the terrible things. If movers and shakers of those terrible things are unchecked, they will become stronger and even more terrible. Then, if they're not already there, they will visit you at your home.
I do believe that God can change hearts, but only if and when they are willing to be changed. Man has been given free will, and honestly, we do an awfully inept job of employing it wisely. Enter the soldier for the side of what is right. And even if they're not all perfect, American soldiers (and domestic law enforcement, too) of recent history have done a lot to check and/or stop evil people from doing more harm. They've suffered, died, fought, been injured and maimed and mentally haunted for life. They have preserved rights and freedoms by accepting unspeakable assignments. Anyone who sits in a peaceful country, in relative wealth, who's never set foot in danger for the sake of others they probably don't even know—that person does not have the right to speak ill of a soldier. If they sit drinking fancy coffee and typing their litany of complaints on their laptop, while scrolling through messages on their highfalutin phone, that's even more annoying. The "flag burners" need to put up or shut up. Or, they can go live in those places where they tell us our soldiers aren't needed, or are perceived as invading disrespectfully.
The sad truth is that there are bullies in this world of ours. And for the bullies who can't and won't allow their hearts to be changed, there is the American soldier. If I sound patriotic, I'm all right with that; I understand that the word patriot isn't synonymous with terrorist OR idiot. Thank you, veterans, for doing the dirty work so I don't have to.