Every Veterans Day, social media buzzes with memes that tell us to thank a vet for defending our freedoms. I've seen bumper stickers along the same lines, t-shirts, and even a couple of billboards with the same message -- but it always is something like this:
Don't get me wrong for a second, I hold our Armed Forces in the highest regard -- with both friends and family as veterans and active duty service members. I've had friends deployed to Iraq that didn't come home and friends that came home permanently disabled, and their service was invaluable to the United States and cannot be forgotten.
Our military is the finest armed force in the history of mankind, protecting our national security since 1776. With that power, they have also had honorable restraint -- always being subject to civilian rule, whether they agreed with public policy or not.
National Security vs Freedom
Where the myth lies, however, is the belief that National Security and Freedom are the same thing.National Security is the defense of our borders, defending against domestic terrorism, and threats to our country abroad. Freedom is our belief in the right to enjoy and demand both the inalienable rights stated in the Declaration of Independence, as well as our constitutional rights set forth by the Founding Fathers.
Freedom predates National Security. The Founders raised an army to defend the rights that had been trampled by the British. The Continental Army could have failed, but it would not have changed the belief that they were entitled to those rights.
National Security cannot be gained at Freedom's expense. As Franklin pointed out, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."Franklin, at the close of the Constitutional Convention, was asked what kind of government had been formed. He stated, "A republic, if you can keep it." Franklin wasn't worried that National Security would cause the new government to fail, but that people would lose faith in it and it would fade away into a dictatorship through apathy.
Peaceful Transitions of Power
The United States has had 113 peaceful transitions of power. The ballot box has been the most powerful device since the ratification of the Constitution, along with people's willingness and faith in the system to accept the outcome without rioting or revolution.The election of 1800 was the first true test of this and many have called this a transition "from bullets to ballots" in American history. The Jeffersonian Revolution was the first major ideological shift in the American government. Even though the outcome of the election was widely unpopular among the Federalists, power was transferred without bloodshed or military enforcement of the results. This is probably the most dangerous thing that could happen to our Republic because once faith in the ballot box is lost, dictatorship is soon to follow.
This Veterans Day, we need to thank our veterans and active-duty service members for protecting our National Security, for going wherever ordered to defend our country from threats. But we also need to make sure that the sacrifices they have made are not in vain. We need a population that is engaged in the political process. Veterans, as a group, have a keen understanding of this -- 70 percent of veterans voted in the last presidential election, a far greater percentage than the population as a whole.
We need to thank our vets by voting.
Photo Source: MLive.com