The military’s presence is etched into the composition of our University. It is near impossible to walk around campus without encountering a visual indicator of armed service.
While service members are part the UNC community, the over-valorization of the military ought be avoided as it promotes militaristic solutions to social crises, dwarfs the valuable contributions of other public servants and creates harmful standards for service members themselves.
As the possibility of war with Syria, North Korea and — if some politicians were to have their way — Russia increases every day, the elevation of the military to a holy institution within American society reinforces hawkish attitudes towards foreign policy. In celebrating the military, we celebrate the use of violence for the sake of achieving policy objectives. Despite discourse on nation building and peacekeeping throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, the American military is a violent institution that has destabilized countries, served as an enforcement mechanism for moneyed interests and killed countless, predominantly non-white people.
Celebration provides a shiny veneer to subterranean violence committed by the military increasingly outside the public view. In prettying up an archaic institution, valorization mobilizes emotional investments in the military as an institution for the sake of justifying the warmongering of politicians. Especially as the Trump administration searches for justifications to invade Syria or North Korea, rebuffing the celebration of the military is essential to slowing, if not stopping, the procession of the American war machine.
Outside of the violence committed in foreign countries by the military, the valorization of the military has positioned service members as the singularly important public servants within the United States. While public teachers struggle to make a living on extremely low salaries, custodians and garbage people toil to make spaces sanitary and livable and social workers burden themselves emotionally and physically to aid even a portion of their caseload, service members are the ones who are constantly celebrated as the heroes of American society.