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American war culture: Death should not be celebrated

By Matthew LaCorte COLUMNIST

Spend some time on Hofstra’s campus, and you will find dozens of students walking around in full-army fatigues. Attend any professional sporting event, and you will see fighter jets flying over the field at the start of the game. Turn on the news, and you will hear politicians discussing American “wars” on poverty and drugs. The American military is everywhere we look. It has infiltrated all aspects of our culture.

At the same time, most Americans remain wholly ignorant about the state of U.S. militarism, the financial cost of war and, most importantly, the human toll of America’s war culture. This ignorance results in the wrongful glorification of war. U.S. citizens – from Hofstra students to sports fans – have accepted an all-encompassing military culture, enabling a dangerous rise in militarism both at home and abroad.

Young people have grown up in a post-9/11 atmosphere of fear, partly justified and partly fabricated, but always present. Adults vote for wars and young people fight them.

While our generation did not understand the impact of the Sept. 11th attacks as kids, the reality of America’s war culture comes more clearly into view as we age, since we ultimately pay the price for the country’s militarism.

Most of us have friends in the military and know students from class who participate in the ROTC program, and too many of us know someone who was injured or killed fighting the War on Terror. Young people take the brunt of the American war culture.

Thirteen years of consistent war comes with serious human implications. In 2012, the Army reported a record-high 325 suicides. One-third of all soldiers returning home from deployment suffer from PTSD or another form of depressive disorder. We can expect nothing less when human beings are trained to be killing machines.

A 2013 International Business Times report found that over one million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were treated for some type of injury. Sadly, that number doesn’t include the nearly 7,000 American troops killed in those wars.

War ravages the mind, breaks apart families and forever changes the makeup of those who fight. It’s not patriotic to send young people into war. “Supporting the troops” should mean avoiding war at all costs.

Despite the staggering statistics, the truth of the U.S. military remains below the surface of the American consciousness. We have grown accustomed to war imagery all around us without taking on the real issues of conflict and peace. This military culture creates the conditions that lay the foundation for the torture at Abu-Ghraib, the assassination of American citizens abroad, the CIA’s carelessly operated drone program, the NSA’s widespread unconstitutional surveillance and the doctrine of preemptive war.

Unfortunately, this war culture does not exist solely with the U.S. military abroad. The world watched as police militarization was showcased following the events in Ferguson, Mo. earlier this year. This was not an isolated incident. Police departments are acting more and more like armies.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there has been a 350 percent increase in SWAT drug raids in New York City alone. These raids create more violence than they subdue, result in the deaths of dozens of innocent people and pets and terrorize people with battering rams and assault weapons for mere marijuana charges. The videos of police brutality, especially against people of color, are too numerous to list, and the rise in the killing of dogs and other pets is despicable. War culture has entered the American home.

The United States has a dangerous infatuation with militarism and a culture that bolsters it. Because we don’t understand the human and financial costs of war, we wrongfully glorify it. We have acclimated to the militarization of our streets, campuses, sporting events and more. We accept it as the norm. But the deaths of young people – especially in senseless wars – should never be the norm.

Next time you walk by Calkins Hall, look at the monuments erected to honor the Hofstra students killed in war. What a sad sight. War should be seen as an absolute last resort. It should not be celebrated.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors. 

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