Yes, I know it’s a harsh claim that Members of Congress don’t care about sending your son or daughter off to war. Partly that’s because more than half of them are millionaires. And if they’re not millionaires now, they will be when they leave office and cash in as lobbyists and similar Beltway bandit jobs. After all, it’s hard to sympathize with working-class families with sons and daughters in the military when 1) You’re rich (or at least comfortably well-off); and 2) You have no sons or daughters in the military, and never will.
I wrote to one of my senators in PA, Bob Casey, about the need to end our wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere — about the need to bring our troops home rather than continuing to place them in harm’s way for no reason that’s in our national interest. When I wrote, I asked him if he would send any of his four daughters to Afghanistan, or even if he’d urge any of them to serve our country in any capacity in the military. I never heard back from him or his staff, not that I was surprised.
Senator Bob Casey is a Catholic who went to Holy Cross in Massachusetts in the early 1980s. I’m a Catholic who did my ROTC service at Holy Cross in the early 1980s. We may have even crossed paths on campus. But Bob Casey is from a well-connected political family. I’m the son of a firefighter and a homemaker who joined ROTC to help pay for college. Bob Casey and his daughters have never had to think about military service except in the most abstract terms. They might applaud it, but they won’t do it.
The same was true for Mitt Romney and his five sons. Eager to salute the military; not eager to join and serve. Fortunate sons (and daughters), all.
You could say the same for virtually all Members of Congress today. Almost no military service. Few sons or daughters in the military, and certainly none in the front lines in combat branches. Certainly, they’ll praise our troops. They’ll salute the flag with vigor. But what they won’t do is to send their loved ones into harm’s way.
Each and every time our Congress or our President sends troops into harm’s way, they should think whether they’d risk their own. For example, it’s conceivable that President Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, could join the military in 2015 at the age of seventeen. (You can join the military at seventeen with parental permission.) After basic and advanced training, many American teenagers have been sent into combat only to die before they’re out of their teen years.
Can we imagine such a tragic fate befalling the son or daughter of any prominent politician in the United States? Of course not. The burden of military service has perhaps never been shared equally in our history, but its inequality has never been more slanted than it is now. The rich and privileged exempt their offspring from service (or at least from dangerous service), which only emboldens them when they cast their votes for more war. In doing so, they risk nothing near and dear to them. Heck, they may even pose as being “tough” and “uncompromising.”
Save me the flag lapel pins of our millionaire politicians and all their posing. Want to support our troops? If you’re young enough, quit Congress and enlist in the military. Or be sure to encourage your own sons and daughters to join and serve in harm’s way. At least then you can say you’ve made a sacrifice commensurate with those made by so many working-class families across the USA.