Glorifying the Military

Gloryifing the MilitaryI wrote this several weeks ago, but elected to set it aside as Memorial Day had been on the horizon. But with Iraq falling apart and whispers of military intrusion rising, I felt it should be said.

Let me start off by saying that I have great respect for every soldier, sailor, airperson, and marine, as well as National Guardspersons, and any other person connected with the military. Do not take anything I am about to say as an insult to the individuals that face great fears and do great things in the name of the country they represent. My Dad was/is a Marine. I have learned a military person never gives up that part of themselves. It isn’t that Dad was a Marine, he still is and always will be, even though he has not served for decades. His service is logged and carries forward. . . .

More than two-thousands years ago there existed a great library, the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. It has been touted as one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. Its main function was to house scholarly works, being part of a larger research center, the Museum of Alexandria, a place frequented by many of the world’s most famous thinkers such as Euclid, Archimedes, Hipparchus, Hypatia, Aristarchus of Samos, and Saint Catherine.

It is not known how many scrolls were stored in the library, though most estimates are well over 500,000. Mark Antony is supposed to have given Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls of ancient writings that doubtless went into the library. That is quite a figure given the age of civilization at the time.

The library and much of the museum were destroyed. Exactly how its complete destruction came about is uncertain, but we know that Julius Caesar set fire to it in 48 BC, there was an attack by Aurelian in the 270s AD, as well as separate decrees about 250 apart by Coptic Pope Theophilus and the second caliph Omar ibn Al-khattāb that aided in its final ruin. So we may not fully understand how it was destroyed. What is important is that it was destroyed by war and intolerance.

After the main library was largely destroyed a sister library was used, known as the Serapeum. According to Socrates of Constantinople, Coptic Pop Theophilus destroyed that library in 391 AD.

All that knowledge lost. For centuries afterward scholars had to rediscover things that we feel certain were in those libraries. We are confident that the actual size of the Earth had been determined, as well as other astonishing facts that would not be rediscovered until centuries later. Carl Sagan said that, had the Library of Alexandrian not been destroyed we might be 500 years more advanced than we are.

A bit less than one-thousand years after the destruction of the library, kings and princes and the landed gentry of the northern lands marched into the Middle East with the sole desire of plunder and conquest. They called it the Crusades and declared they were doing these horrific things in the name of their god. More knowledge was destroyed, plundered, sacked, and torn apart as scrolls and jewels were taken in the name of glory. It was then that Jihad was given birth.

Around five-hundred years later, Hitler marched through Europe plundering, sacking, and destroying even more knowledge and art. He took what he could and destroyed what he could not. Where would we be if these destroyers of knowledge had not happened?

Military conquest has been glorified throughout history. I expect that many of the scrolls destroyed in Alexandria were recounts of martial escapades. What might we have learned if we could still read of those woes and losses? It is that military glorification, especially in these modern times, that troubles me, and the way that glorification follows the erroneous idea of might making right, reflecting an ignorance of strength over knowledge.

There isn’t a day that passes that we do not see a Facebook post, “Like a Soldier”. TV ads are flooded with the soldier coming home. We honor the warrior, in some cases rightfully so, but in other cases we make up warriors such as football players and MMA stars so we can continue our accolades of strength. It is as if only soldiers and their ilk can get a pat on the back in our modern media. Books, movies, tv, even advertising is rife with military imagery. We see memes suggesting that it is the soldier that provides freedom, as if the ideals they fight for were created by them alone, and the Ben Franklins, Abraham Lincolns, Gandhis, and Martin Luther Kings of the world are not involved in the least. We forget doctors and nurses, firefighters and teachers, researchers and artisans, farmers and social workers, and just plain folk.

The CIA’s World Factbook says that approximately 1.5 percent of the world’s GDP is spent on military considerations. Globally, that isn’t a bad figure. However, the United States defense budget represents 37 percent of that global total, the U.S. alone being responsible for more than one-third of the world’s total military budget. That is a bad figure. And that is just items of war that are classified as military. hosted the following report in 2010: “Gun Owners Buy 14 Million Plus Guns In 2009 – More Than 21 of the Worlds Standing Armies” [sic]. So how much of our GDP really goes to war, warring, and destruction? What legacy do we intend to leave our children’s children?

When artisans like the Dixie Chicks or Pussy Riot speak out about the atrocities and warring carried out by their governments, they are censured and ridiculed. Have we gone so far that we cannot even entertain the idea of hating war and destruction?

The United States proudly declares itself as a democracy, though some might dispute that claim. Whether it is a plutocracy, oligarchy, or democracy, or what-have-you, two things are certain, it is a Military State, and it is the largest one. That is the legacy we have elected to create. We send our soldiers to Vietnam, Croatia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of others, never once really defending our shores. We do this in the name of democracy, and often supported by our Christian brotherhoods. Where is that old Christian idea of beating swords into ploughshares? Can we really put that peaceful idea forward when every day we glorify the soldier?

About Sifu Keith Mosher

My new book, "Astro Boy, Sensei, and Me" is available now, as is my Sci-Fi joy ride, "On a Sphere's Edge". I have a Bachelor of Media Arts degree from USC. I have been an Audio Producer / Engineer, a Law Office Manager, and I am currently an Author and a Martial Arts Instructor.
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