You better respect the soldiers! What kind of an American would prescribe to any other sentiment? I’m a veteran – no one needs to tell me where my respect should be given. But the use of this phrase has taken on a new significance of late, and it is not a positive one. “Respect the soldiers” has become a veneer of safety which protects the user from whatever negative sentiment precedes it. In this case, the veneer is protecting the user from, in many cases, valid accusations of racism. We have white supremacists and Nazis marching proudly through the streets with tacit acceptance from our country’s “leadership” while a straight path of connection between a media giant (Disney), a major, unique corporation that actually owns a day (the NFL), and the government (specifically the Pentagon) gets a high-profile journalist (Jemele Hill) suspended for daring to point it out. BTW, Jemele Hill is a black woman.
“Respect the soldiers” has become “Save the human trafficking victims’, “Save the planet”, “Save the children”, “Save the whales”. There are those that truly believe in these sentiments – they are “honorable” and appeal to the goodness which theoretically exists in all of us. There are also those who have used these as cover for individual, special interest, or ideological advancement. Skillfully applied, the last phrase in a sentence can deflect the reader’s thoughts from a counter-productive or totally different statement to something profoundly agreeable. “We must endanger thousands of sex workers by shutting down a platform which can allow them indoor work. We must pass laws preventing them from working together for their safety. We must arrest thousands of consenting adults through government-operated stings. Save the children”. To many uninformed Americans, the “wholesomeness” of the last phrase outweighs the negative social impact of the proceeding statement. Many also tend to focus on the last thing they have read – a result of the overload of information that comes at us 24/7.
“Respect the soldiers” can take on many meanings. Does this imply everything associated with the military must be respected? Are the soldiers the same as the flag and the anthem – just assets of an untouchable institution? The military is inherently conservative – not financially, but ideologically. It is steeped in tradition, and therefore racist (personally observed on many occasions), as racism is an American tradition. The newly-found courage of openly-racist movements and those whose racist views were less obvious have been emboldened by racist governmental leadership. For some, “Respect the soldiers” is an honest sentiment.. For some, it is is code for “I’m a racist but I don’t have the balls to cop to it”. For some, it is justification to fly the Confederate flag next to the American flag. But whichever the motivation, “Respect the soldiers” has nothing to do with respect or soldiers – it’s just a sucker phrase which depends on our shortened attention span to not think about the cause and effect of the statement it is protecting. Here’s an example – “We have to trample the rights of women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ citizens with any means possible, whether it be legally by killing social programs, health care, and legal protections, or by openly killing citizens. We need to make the flag and the anthem mandatory monuments of an authoritarian government which happily violates the values the flag and anthem are supposed to represent (but never really have). Respect the soldiers.”