War Heroes Should Not Be Heroes

War is destructive and evil. War is the cause for thousands of deaths every day, it holds millions of people in a permanent state of fear and it has destroyed homes, friendships and minds. War is death, and nothing more. It is the worst of man’s creations, something that we should all be ashamed of, because we have created it and we have failed to put an end to it. War is mankind’s most gruesome invention, and nothing good can ever come from it.

So then why are soldiers and veterans worshipped like heroes?

Of course, it isn’t their fault. They did what any normal human being would do, because they had the courage to stand up and do what they were told, even though they didn’t like it. Courage is important, and refusing service is a cowardice move. That’s what we have all been taught ever since we were born, and therefore that is what we believe. We were told that soldiers are heroes, and therefore, it must be true.

Isn’t that just impressive? “Society” has actually managed to convince us that killing is good. Somehow, at some point in time, the ruling authority managed to convince its citizens that it is wrong to kill unless they themselves tell you to kill someone. Ending the life of a stranger on the street is considered murder, and in many countries you can be put to death for it, but killing hundreds of strangers in Iraq is not only just fine, but it is actually encouraged, as if it is some kind of altruistic act in which you purge the world of a little more evil. It is impressive leadership, but it is also incredibly frightening.

The truth is, of course, that there is no difference between the act of killing someone in Iraq and killing someone in your own neighbourhood. Both involve the loss of life, and no life is more important than another. After all, the only reason an American soldier kills an Iraqi soldier is because he happens to be born in a different situation, with a different culture and a different understanding, but the act remains the same: an innocent life is lost, the life of someone who was told by their leaders that the enemy is evil.

Just think of both the World Wars. These people can now live side by side, they can even be friends, while a few decades ago they wanted to kill each other, all because their government, or perhaps their society, had instructed them to do so. It shows how irrational war is, and how ridiculous it is that even in this day and age, every minute, two people are killed because of it. We have found cures to terrible diseases, we have set up charities whenever natural disasters occur, but we cannot stop murdering each other.

It is pathetic. For some strange reason, it is human nature to think that our own beliefs are superior, and when someone is different, that is a reason to kill them. We go marching into Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt thinking that we know better. But we don’t. We want peace, so do they. We don’t want to kill anyone, neither do they. We kill them, so do they.

War has no purpose. It is just a perpetual cycle of murder that we all accept as if it is a necessary evil, as if we don’t cause it ourselves, as if some kind of natural law dictates that there must always be war, as if there is a God who would punish us if we don’t stop killing other people. But that is not how the world works. War isn’t necessary, and it can be avoided, if only we have the courage to stand up against it. If only we have the courage to say no, to refuse to pick up that gun and to refuse to end people’s lives. Going to war is not courageous. Saying no is.

~

I understand that this might raise some voices. Especially in the US, but also elsewhere, there is a tremendous amount of respect for soldiers, and these words will not be taken lightly by everyone. Still, I think it is important to say this. As long as we keep seeing soldiers as heroes, the young men and women of today will keep going to war looking for some kind of glory, and that isn’t good. What we need is a change in culture, a change in our mindset. We need to stop seeing war as a good thing and see it for what it truly is: a murderous atrocity.

Of course, the individual soldier is not to blame. They are victims, and we should do whatever we can to make their time after service as good as possible. However, as long as we keep glorifying their actions, more people will become soldiers, and that means even more victims.

Don’t forget to rate/share/like this post, and if you have any thoughts of your own, please do leave them in the comments! And if you’re new here? Feel free to like the Facebook page for regular updates, or try having a look at the list of most popular posts!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Why We Shouldn’t Harass Russia over its Human Rights Record

Gay Rights and War: Russian and Western Politics are Equally Ignorant

Nationalism Is Dangerous And Should Be Eradicated

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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10 Responses to War Heroes Should Not Be Heroes

  1. norm-ds says:

    You completely miss the whole concept of defensive fighting. When I think of honoring vets I think of how they defended, and nothing else.

    Is there a case to made that some wars are wrong? That attacking other countries is wrong? Sure, but by being so black and white about a complex issue your whole post is moot.

    Even in an unjust war a soldier can do honorable things.

    This is what I think of on Remembrance Day. I have the freedom to make that choice. I could also make the choice to only think of the negatives, of which there are many.

    I guess Canada should have stayed out of WWII and let The Netherlands be over-run by Hitler huh?

    • Of course, even in an unjust war a soldier can do honourable things. However, the question is what we prioritise: do we want to honour those victims of war (the soldiers) so that we can try to minimise the damage done to them because of the war, or do we want to avoid these soldiers becoming victims in the future in general? I would opt for the second.

      Of course, many soldiers have done amazing things, and it is good that that is appreciated, but the problem with appreciating the amazing things they did is that you encourage other people to go and do the same. After all, being a soldier is seen as something glorious, which is very attractive to a lot of people.

      Also, defensive fighting is something that hasn’t happened in a long time in the Western world. World War II is probably the only example of which veterans are actually still alive, while all other wars since then have been acts of aggression. Not something the soldiers can be blamed for, but as long as society honours the idea of fighting “to defend one’s country” (by going to a far away country that doesn’t want any help), it will keep happening.

      Finally, Nazi Germany was very different. Canada was not the aggressor, Germany was, and the Netherlands actually wanted help. That hasn’t been the case in any war since then.

      Edit: After seeing your comment on Tumblr, I would like to stress that I in no way blame anything on the individual soldier. They are victims, sometimes very honourable victims, but the way society views war right now, these victims will keep coming, because they want to be that honourable soldier. War has become systemic, rooted in society as something glorious, and that is what I am criticising. Not the individual soldier.

  2. norm-ds says:

    I’ve been trying to find ways to discuss the comments you have made but it’s all so completely naive and messed up I don’t know where to begin… but I’ll try anyways.

    I do agree with some of your points, I am most certainly anti-war and agree that many recent conflicts were misguided and unnecessary.

    I just have a hard time understanding how people cannot separate the concepts of honoring war veterans and glorifying war. To be honest, and I’m trying not to be mean here, the only people I encounter who use the whole “honoring war vets is glorifying war” idea are either extremely naive or so anti-war they clutch at any straw they can to back up their beliefs.

    “After all, being a soldier is seen as something glorious, which is very attractive to a lot of people.”
    That’s just wrong… do you honestly believe this? Of course there are likely some people who DO go to war to gain honor and glory but the number is likely so minuscule as to be pointless to use as a statistic, much less a definite statement.

    • Can you explain to me how exactly they are not related, then? I mean… if war vets are seen as honourable because of their actions, and their actions are characterised by the war, does that not mean that there is honour to be gained from war? After all, these veterans would not have been honoured in this way if they had not gone to war, meaning that the war caused them to gain honour.

      That does not mean that the war itself is honourable, but that doesn’t matter for the soon-to-be soldier. The fact is that the act of going to war and fighting for your country is seen as honourable, and that is all an individual can do anyway. They cannot change the cause of the war or make it more just, but they can contribute to it, and no matter what, gain honour. Just think of the Vietnam war: it is one of the most unjustified and inhumane acts of murder in modern Western history, yet still the soldiers who fought in that war are seen as heroes, because they are not responsible for how dishonourable the war was. They are only responsible for the honourable deeds they committed, and that gives them a lot of honour in today’s society.

      That is what a young soon-to-be soldier can see. He or she can see that no matter how unjustified the war is, if they fight in it, they will be honoured, therefore making war something honourable.

      In the end, the act of honouring those who fought in the war will make us see “fighting in the war” as a more honourable act. We will still see the war itself as something bad, but fighting in that war has suddenly become honourable, and that is all that matters: the war itself does not have to be honourable for the individual to strive for honour by joining a certain war.

      Finally, I would like to add that I do know people who joined the army for such reasons, and I think a lot of people also do so without mentioning it. It might not be the main reason, but it might very well be an underlying reason, and if going to war was not seen as something honourable, I don’t think a lot of people would go for it. Just consider the average war-propaganda, which puts a lot of emphasis on glory.

      Basically, I have two questions I am curious to hear your thoughts about:
      -Why and how can the concepts of honouring war veterans and glorifying war not be related?
      -What other reasons do people have to join a war, if it is not honour/glory?

  3. jq1317 says:

    If you think war is unnecessary and “no good has ever come of it” then maybe you should go to the library and read about the holocaust…I wonder what would have happened to the Jews if war had never happened….or maybe the oppressed people of England who fought for independence..you know those people known as Americans. Or how bout every other people who has ever fought for their freedom from oppression and death brought on by tyrants? Maybe you should stop looking at one side of war and start reading a history book. Educate yourself in some sociology and understand why we have had war since the beginnings of time. Yes peace would be wonderful. Beautiful. And one should never hope for war. And many a war has been fought over selfish politics And for wrong reasons. But maybe if you opened your mind and educated yourself a little you’d see that not every person in war is evil. Is the soldier who laid his life on the line to defeat Hitler and stop the mass murders not a Hero?

    • I never said that every person in a war is evil, and that definitely isn’t something I’d agree with. I mean… World War II is a perfect example of how evil war is. Of course the Jews weren’t wrong to defend himself, but Hitler was definitely wrong to begin the Holocaust and therefore starting the war. All the Jews (and the Allies) did was defend themselves, and that is very different, just like fighting for freedom is very different.

      I have had and am still enjoying plenty of education on the subject of history and social sciences every day, so I am fully aware of how things were different in history and how things are different in other parts of the world. However, this post is targeted at a specific audience: Western people alive in 2013. I still very much want this blog to be international, but as it happens, even through all my attempts to attract Middle Eastern or African readers, a great, great majority of my daily visitors are from Western Europe or North America, and that is why a passionate piece like this is directed at that audience.

      In the end, if you think about, not a single war that Western countries have been involved in for the past 68 years has been out of self-defence or in an attempt to achieve freedom. All those wars are the ones I am talking about in this blog post, because I personally don’t see this situation changing any time soon. I don’t think the West will be involved in any defensive wars for a very, very long time, and that is why I wrote this piece.

      Edit: In fact, quite ironically, both before and after replying to your comment I was/am reading an academic text about World War II.

  4. norm-ds says:

    The answer to both of your questions is “A sense of duty and service to others”.

    Here’s an analogy of “Duty” that I hope helps.

    Let’s say I am completely and utterly opposed to everything about McDonalds. I have a family to support. I have a duty to them. I feel a sense of responsibility to support them and help them in life. I am jobless, and although there are other jobs available I know that for me, for various reasons, taking a management job at McDonalds is the best way to support them. I take the job, I work hard at it even though there are aspects of it that I disagree with tremendously. I show my kids a strong work ethic and after 10 years I quit and move on and am happy to be able to do so. I did what I had to do, I worked hard at it. I supported them and was able to grant them opportunities in life that other jobs would not have given them. I sacrificed.

    Twenty years later my kids thank me and show me respect and honor for what I did. I feel proud of what I did and thankful for their respect even if I wish I would’ve rather had better options but at the time this is what I felt would be best for my family. I talk to my kids and let them know what a horrible place McDonalds is, I tell them why I felt I had to work there. They understand, they don’t like the place either.

    Question, by thanking me and showing me respect, are my kids glorifying McDonalds? Are they encouraging others to go work there?

    • I have to admit, you don’t often see analogy’s that are that close to what it is meant to portray. Anyway… no, they would not be glorifying McDonalds. However, they would be glorifying “working at McDonalds”, because as you quite passionately describe, you have done the right thing by taking that job. Working at McDonalds was a very honourable thing for you to do, because you spent 10 years of your life getting emotionally scarred from all the flipped burgers so that you could support those kids. You sacrificed yourself, and that is very honourable.

      Now, I think the core matter of what the analogy comes down to is not “duty”, or as you could translate “moral obligation”, but instead it is a lot closer to “obligation.” You have a family to support, and the best way to do that is by working at McDonalds, regardless of the fact that you don’t want to. There simply isn’t any other option, McDonalds would gladly have you and the payment is very good, not to mention all the extra benefits.

      That issue is something I might want to write a post about in the future. Joining the army is indeed something people do because they have to, because they have a family to support and because there is no other way for them to make enough money unless they have to rely on often very minimal government support. And that is an issue. A big one. But it is an issue on the governmental level, and in this case I am mainly concerned with the societal level.

      Also, once again, I am in no way blaming the individual soldier. Flipping burgers against your will because you have to, and working very hard at it, is indeed a very honourable thing to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        I see what your saying Dean.
        A change in mindset, in how we view each other and war would be a good thing. If everyone looked at the person next to them as a human being, regardless of what religion, colour, creed or flag they represent. Then the world could be a better place. No aggreesor, no need for anyone to be defensive!!!!

        If anything this post had highlighted how heavily ingrained, these things are in society and how hard it would be to change!!

        Don’t stop trying though!!!!

        • Absolutely, and I definitely wasn’t planning to stop trying! I actually wrote a couple of other posts about war with a similar message in the weeks/months after this one, and there will definitely be more!

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