Independence Day is a very special time for me. As a young boy, our extended family had many wonderful gatherings at the city park in our community of Eagle Rock. My brother Rocky played baseball for his Babe Ruth team, sponsored by Tritch Hardware. At nightfall, we would marvel at the aerial displays set off at the park under the watchful eye of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
This year, for the first time, tanks are slated to rumble down Pennsylvania Avenue in a parade of military hardware, and it bothers me a great deal. Look, I don’t mind the military flyovers, as these types of events have been a staple of the elite flight squadrons of the Navy and Air Force for many years. But tanks and other military hardware down the streets of our capital seems an awful lot like the demonstrations of power we have seen in former and current communist nations. Now, it seems that the United States will also have its own authoritarian displays just like North Korea, Iran and the Soviet Union. Should I lighten it up a bit and just enjoy the holiday, military armament and all? Here is why I do not approve, and I hope others like me will stand resolutely against the display of hyper militarism on this Fourth of July.
The independence of this great nation did not rely on an expertly trained, organized military with the latest armaments of the day. No, it was citizen soldiers who won our independence from the British. It was farmers, townspeople and young men with no military training, using simple muskets, pitchforks and whatever other arms they could scrounge up. It was the sacrifice of these wonderful human beings who risked so much that we hold our nation’s independence as an important national holiday.
During World War II, the United States once again defeated the warmongers in Germany and Japan with the blood of citizen soldiers. Yes, there were tanks and armament of modern warfare, but the sacrifice was the human toll and the incredible bravery of our military forces. When the war was over, those citizen soldiers returned home to their farms, factories or shops. These were not professional soldiers but young boys from every reach of this nation who volunteered or were drafted, and gave their all.
We can beguile ourselves into believing this silly notion that military might is what makes this country great. The fact is that these tanks, cannons and aircraft alone, without their human operators, have no preference in war. These military instruments are used for one mindless purpose and one purpose only: to wreak havoc, turn buildings into rubble and kill humans in the process. Those hulking pieces of iron are not patriotic living beings — citizen soldiers they are not.