Are you patriotic? How do you feel about the military?

I live in the States where people tend to be pretty patriotic. Flags everywhere. Pledge of Allegiance said in schools. National anthem playing at events and at noon on country radio stations, etc.

But that isn’t really me. (Although I do like country music.)

I think there are some great things about living in America, but there are a lot of not-so-great things, too. I really hate the “Arrogant American”, especially the one who has never left the country and doesn’t know anything else. I’ve studied abroad and it opened my eyes. I realized we have a lot to learn.

I’m bringing this up for two reasons. One – Veteran’s Day is Saturday and I’ve never understood why our military is so celebrated. It seems strange to idolize soldiers and celebrate war. Why do we still see modern military campaigns as a sacrifice for our freedom? I just don’t get it. 

When I was younger and knew people joining the military it was because they didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life and the military helps you with college/career training. It wasn’t because they wanted to make the ultimate sacrifice and die for their country.

And two – I was playing around with some new markers on Sunday and made a very vibrant drawing that I can’t stop staring at. It’s kind of mesmerizing. As my husband and I were looking at it, we realized it looked patriotic. It was weird and kind of made us chuckle. It wasn’t intentional. 

Here is the drawing:

I apologize if this post offends anyone, but it’s truly coming from a place of confusion. I would love to hear your viewpoint on why Americans feel the way they do about the military.


  1. says

    why Americans feel the way they do about the military

    Propaganda. The US military spends gigantic amounts of money for sports event advertising, TV advertising, and the production of jingoistic movies that represent the military as not only inherently good, but the ideal solution for all those unfortunate problems. Movies like Top Gun, Navy Seals, The Hurt Locker, are basically extended advertisements. Also, there is a relative lack of media that shows the military as clueless, dangerous, and corrupt. Offhand, Platoon and Apocalypse Now but those were retrospectives about a war that was already well lost.

    There are also companies that pull crap like (United Airlines) “service members in uniform may board first” – whose idea do you think that was, some mil/corp liaison or corporate marketing funded by the military? You can’t tell me the airlines do that of their own initiative – they hate their customers. There’s a lot of that sort of stuff: military discounts, veterans’ parking, etc. It’s all bullshit.

  2. says

    Addendum: patriotism is identifying oneself with a country, and wanting to help or understand or support its nationalism. As such I must argue that the only patriotism is to critique the country’s leadership and encourage them not to be rapacious, evil, nationalists. In the US what passes for patriotism is “my country right or wrong” which is nonsense: it’s not any citizen’s country, it’s an out of control oligarchy. The only Americans who can say “my country right or wrong” are the 1% of the 1% who do, in fact, own the place.

  3. says

    Here the attitude is generally different, soldiers are not venerated, but they are not broadly vilified either. Since the draft was ended, the attitude toward the army improved a bit AFAIK because young men no longer see it as this huge parasite that is going to steal two years of their life.
    I am personally not patriotic, although I do like my country and I do feel a bit better when the accomplishments of some Czechs get recognized outside our borders. But I do not care about sports at all and I do wish we did not spend so much time brownnosing up to bigger countries, whether they be the USA or China or Russia.
    I was in the USA and I encountered the “Arrogant American who never left the county they were born in”. Trump’s continuing support indicates that that particular species is not in any danger of becoming extinct anytime soon sadly. There is no shortage of Americans who know no other language than English and no other culture than the USA, yet they feel confident in loudly proclaiming that the USA is the best at everything.
    I think part of the veneration of US veterans is down to the myth that the US Army helps to protect freedom and democracy around the world. At some times it did that, but at other times it just protected the monied interests of the US elites. Given that many Americans are grossly uninformed about the world beyond the USA borders (and oftentimes even within), they believe this pro-army propaganda and thus patriotic pride is born.

  4. says

    There is no shortage of Americans who know no other language than English

    “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.” – attributed to Anne Richards, former governor of Texas.

  5. SchreiberBike says

    In the US we are expected to thank the military for our freedom. But every country has a military, and there is no relationship between that and freedom. Often quite the opposite. The military does play an important role, but more important are teachers, lawyers, journalists, etc. I appreciate the military, police and firefighters who go into danger for us, but so do lumber workers, pilots, delivery drivers and other people in really dangerous jobs (see

    There’s no reason to disrespect a person who does their job with skill and compassion, and military or police work is difficult, but there’s no reason to hold them up on a pedestal either.

  6. StonedRanger says

    I love my country but my government and a lot of the things it does suck so not in love with that. I was in the Army from 1973 to 1977, I never served in combat but I served with many combat vets. Being in the Army taught me things about myself I needed to learn such as self discipline and I did some growing up/maturing as a result. If I had to say why I joined I would have to say mainly out of stupidity and not knowing what I was getting myself into. For the most part, it was four years of absurdity and stupidity, but in the end, thats what the military is all about. It doesnt have to make sense. I learned right away to not travel in uniform (got tired of being called baby killer or being spat upon even though I never fired a shot at anyone) so never had to deal with any so called perks of being in the military. Nowadays, the only time I ask about a veterans discount is at whatever dispensary I wind up in. As for veterans day, its more about honoring those who gave their lives in the name of whatever conflict they died in than it is about glorifying the military.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    In Canada 11 November is “Remembrance Day” and I’m old enough to remember my Elders referring to it as “Armistice Day”.
    There was much more to it than veterans.

    • says

      There was a bit in “Mother Night” by Kurt Vonnegut where the protagonist complains about Armistice Day, a day to honor the dead, being hijacked by the living when it was renamed Veterans’ Day.

  8. antaresrichard says

    In World War II, my father was a conscientious objector (status 1-A-0) stationed at Muroc as part of the Fourth Air Force*. My status was 1-0 during the Vietnam War. As pacifists then, our views differ with much of the general population, both past and present.

    Recently, I attended a burial service for my indomitable cousin, twenty years my senior, who, having lost his sight and forearms to a boobytrap on the Korean front; later going on to become a chaplain with the Blinded Veterans Association, was given full military honors. All I could think of during the gun salute and preposterous flag folding however, was the needlessness of the “sacrifice”. My cousin unlacerated, would have been just as indomitable in life, and worthy of pride. I’ll leave it at that.

    *At the threat of deportation, my father had to “serve”. He wasn’t even a U.S. citizen.

  9. Katydid says

    Second-generation American (all 4 grandparents were immigrants), third-generation military because both my immigrant grandfathers fought in WWII. Second generation to make it a first career (my father was career military). I hadn’t planned to make the military my first career, but I graduated college with a degree in computer science into a society where “women don’t know anything about computers, marry a nice man and go shopping, dear!” (1980s and St. Ronny Ray-gun’s war on Americans in general and women in particular). Worked various McJobs for minimum wage ($2.33/hr) at the same time, while sharing a pre-WWI, 2-bedroom apartment in a scary-dangerous neighborhood with 5 other people because “the rent is too damn high”. This was the time of my life when I won a 2-liter bottle of store-brand soda in the grocery store and burst into tears because the apartment water wasn’t safe and I’d been stealing water to drink in a to-go cup from one of my multiple jobs.

    Joined the military, where they not only said, “Hey, you’re pretty good at this programming stuff–want to further your education with a master’s degree and make a living doing it?”, but followed through on it. Traveled the world, learned a lot of great things, got married and raised kids always knowing I had a roof over my head, affordable food, and “socialized” medical care–if your child broke a bone, you would not go bankrupt because medical care is covered at no extra cost. Retired with a pension and young enough to start a second technical career in the non-military life because society had nearly caught up to the military by that time.

    Like in any other job, in the military there are pleasures and there are idiocies. The military integrated racially long before the nation. They also integrated women earlier than the nation. Is it perfect? Of course not–no job is. One of my coworkers is writing a book about the rage-worthy and utterly stupid things our current workplace engages in. There used to be a website (not sure if it still exists) where people could write in with their stories about workplace stupidities.

    OTOH, I’m noticing a pattern–people who comment here about the mlilitary served in the military 50 years ago, or know someone who was in the military 60, 70, 80 years ago.

    • says

      OTOH, I’m noticing a pattern–people who comment here about the mlilitary served in the military 50 years ago, or know someone who was in the military 60, 70, 80 years ago.

      It used to be that joining the military was a path to social movement – you could go in dirt poor and come out solidly middle class(tm). Moving up the class hierarchy has always been a thing in all militaries, I expect, since it offers the military a chance to advancement that is fair and honorable, and makes simply grabbing the reins of power less attractive.
      Some of my ex-military friends have observed that it’s a bit less like that nowadays – apparently the endless wars amounted to endless rotations into the field, which completely broke the agreement with the enlisted, who got much less training and a lot more experience being walkabout targets and civil police.

  10. flex says

    I served from 1985 – 1989 in the USAF. There were a number of reasons I joined; Reagan was threatening to bring back the draft, I was not ready for college, the AF sends their officers to fight while us enlisted slobs are >1000 miles behind the lines, etc. I didn’t join for patriotic reasons, and I wasn’t in a position where my life was improved by joining.
    It did teach me a lot. I noticed that in my flight in basic training that roughly 40% of the people were fleeing from inner-city poverty, about 40% of the people were fleeing rural poverty, and the remaining 20% were military brats. I, as a middle-class white man from a suburbia, college-track, high-school, was an anomaly. I grew up in a rural area, but one close enough to suburbia to experience that culture. But I learned that one thing the military does is grow the middle class. Someone who comes from a poor background can, if they are career military, retire as a member of the middle class. While I would love to see the military expenditure shrink, this feature of allowing poor people a fairly straightforward way to reach a middle-class income level should be retained. That’s probably the greatest benefit the military provides to the county.
    I was assigned to a DRU, where I found that that racism and sexism in the AF still existed in certain corners. The DRU I was part of included 2 people of color and 3 women. Two of the women were in my flight. I did get to travel the world. However, because of the tensions at the time we were instructed to never wear uniforms while travelling and to never use a military passport. The job I had regularly required us to work and travel out of uniform, and I learned to blend in fairly smoothly in other cultures. At least until I opened my mouth because I still haven’t learned enough of another language.
    To me, and to all my co-workers, being in the military was a job. There were certain things about the job which were different than many other jobs, like being on-call 24/7. Like being exposed to tear gas and how to wear a gas mask so you can avoid exposure in the future. Like having to escort an ambassador around your detachment because some news got out about what you were doing. But generally it was just a job, like many other jobs.
    We didn’t see it as particularly patriotic, the only people who appeared to associate patriotism with the military were the weekend-warriors. The reservists who were gung-ho one weekend a month, but didn’t do the work on a full-time basis. Patriotism isn’t about loyalty to a country, it’s about loyalty to a specific view of the world. It’s loyalty to a culture. Being loyal to the US means different things to different people. To some people it is about white supremacy, in a mild form where the people who are on top stay there. To other people it’s about inclusiveness, let everyone be welcome and let us try to ensure everyone has food and shelter. To others it’s a word to con the rubes. I distrust it. I would rather meet a person with integrity than a patriot.
    I actively discourage people to “thank me” for my service. Do these people thank someone who admits to working at McDonalds in their early twenties? Do they thank movie ushers for their service today? The reasons I joined the military are my own. If there was any feeling I had of duty to my country, those feelings are also my own. I did not serve in the military for a thank you, and while the job I did in the AF was important the person thanking me has no idea what it was. It’s like being thanked for belonging to a religion. Do you thank people for being Catholic?
    I am a little old fashioned in that I think Armistice Day or Remembrance Day are better names for some of our holidays where we are asked to remember those people who lost their lives in battles. You can argue whether they wanted to be there, or if the battles were important. But it is worth reflecting that in different circumstances, if vagaries of policy at the time combined with the weight of history, that these people may not have needed to die at all. They may have died for a cause, they may have died to protect the freedoms of others, they may have died to protect the enslavement of others. But they died, and in dying they disturbed other lives, other families. They were loved and they were missed, if only by their dog.

  11. says

    To be honest, I’m a little more patriotic than I was last night.
    Also, I’m pretty pro-military, at least to the extent that we’ll very likely need them, and soon, to deal with our own loony right, Proud Boys, and other mob-inciting troublemakers who are currently terrorizing unarmed civilians. Unless, of course, our cops start standing up to them…

  12. Katydid says

    Agree with Flex and Marcus Ranum: I grew up middle class as a military dependent, graduated college into crushing poverty (1980s Raygun Recession), joined the military, regained a middle-class life only with superb childcare and medical care, retired from that into a middle-class-with-a-pension life. I would agree with the 80% figure of mixed-poverty (rural/urban) and 20% military dependents–not counting the weekend warriors, who do tend to be very gung-ho for people not willing to commit to fulltime enlistment.

    Also, not sure if it’s my area or a nationwide thing, but there are a lot of businesses around here trying to horn in with stolen valor–that is, claiming to love the military and support the military, which don’t-cha-know, pretty much MAKES them military! (spoiler alert: it does not). There’s a barbecue place that drives military-grade Jeeps around and their logos are all military-style and there’s tons of “thank you for your service”, which just makes me uncomfortable. 1) I didn’t do it FOR THEM and 2) if they worship the military so much, why didn’t they enlist?

  13. lanir says

    I think that whether or not I’m patriotic depends on what you think being patriotic means. I don’t think there’s much to it nor is it a big deal. It’s just being a responsible citizen. Doing your part to keep things going. And the easiest bit: not working to destroy the country for fun and profit.

    Rich people seem to have an awfully hard time doing their part. And the rabid flag waving mobs can’t seem to stop trying to destroy the country. To them, patriotism means flags everywhere, salutes, anthems, and big displays. They think freedom means everyone has the freedom to be just like them. Patriotism for them is arbitrary and performative. It also seems to require loyalty to their politics. And passing arbitrary loyalty tests.

    I know, there are a whole lot of people who don’t take it to this extreme. But they sure don’t seem to have much of a problem with those who do. I could never be a patriot to any of these people nor would I want to be.

    I don’t trust the military. My dad came out of it pretty messed up and he did his best to pass it on to me. It gave me a rather ugly view of the whole thing. I generally have respect for the people who have been in the military, however. They get used as props by politicians and other performative patriots when it’s convenient and then abandoned afterward. You don’t have to take my word for it though, you can hear the same thing from veteran groups if you ask.

    I also think, like a lot of people, that the US sends troops out to fight wars far, far too easily. This hit peak absurdity with Bush and Iraq when he told us we’d find something concrete which he knew wasn’t there. They had no plan for how it ended, they just hoped we’d forget about it and move on. And after each of these boondoggles veterans sometimes have to publicly shame the same shameless patriots (who claim they care so much) just to get proper care.

    Very little of this seems like a healthy relationship. Of course there are good things that actually work. The experiences my relatives and I have had with the VA (part of the US government that handles veteran healthcare) tend to make me think there are a lot of people there who really care about helping veterans. But when politics gets in the way there’s nothing that can be done until the politics change.

    My feelings about the military are complicated. I wish it measured up against its PR efforts a bit better.

  14. sonofrojblake says

    I did come here to comment, but my entire comment was going to be literally the first word of Marcus Ranum’s answer in #1.

    there are some great things about living in America

    I can’t think of even one.

    we realized it looked patriotic

    How?. Not how did you realise – how does it “look patriotic”? Is it just the colour scheme? I’m really not seeing it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an attractive design and I like it, but “patriotic” wouldn’t be in the first thousand words I chose to describe it.

    • ashes says

      Definitely the color scheme. The stars at the top and red stripes in the flower remind me of the flag. The bottom looks like the “amber waves of grain” from the song “America the Beautiful” which unfortunately got stuck in my head after completing the drawing. I thought it looked “patriotic” just based on imagery associated with America. It really has nothing to do with how I feel about my country.

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