Let's bring the lights up and get serious a minute
Had a most interesting "discussion" with a guy named "Jacob Freeze" this past Saturday on the comment thread on this article over at Common Dreams.
Mr. Freeze evidently had some problems with Sen. Obama, Rev. Wright and what he perceived as their denigration of American soldiery:
Maybe you can also explain what you and Barack Obama and his “God damn America!” friends have done that gives you the right to condescend to all the brave soldiers who gave their lives for the freedom you take for granted, especially the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who gave their lives to free the slaves.
Well, being the snarky libertarian I am, I just couldn't let the tired old "freedom isn't free" trope pass (I was feeling pissy at the time to begin with) and I responded:
Cripes, I must have missed where the Dead Soldier Fairy comes down from War Heaven and pwangs her magic wand and gives us all “freedom”.
Says here in my copy of the Declaration of Independence that we’re born with freedom as an inalienable right, that we have freedom to begin with, regardless of what governments and authorities do, as long as we’re willing to accept the consequences of our actions. But hell, I guess that’s pre-9/11 thinking or something.
Shakey Jake didn't take well to my snark, viz:
“The Dead Soldier Fairy” is really a funny idea from “Pere Ubu.” Maybe he should take a stroll around Walter Reed Hospital in his “Dead Soldier Fairy” costume and explain how the sacrifices of so many generations of soldiers meant nothing. (emphasis in original)
Well! Misconstrue me, will he?
Meant nothing? Did I say that?
No, I merely pointed out that the Founders of America, who folks like you love to quote and wank over, were a bit more subversive and libertarian than you make them out to be. That freedom is not “given” to us by governments or soldiers but is something we’re born with.
If you can’t handle the concept and would rather believe that someone getting his arm blown off in Gettysburg, the Somme, Almerdy, Seoul, Da Nang or Baghdad is somehow magically generating “freedom” for you, well, sorry, I can’t help you there.
One question, though - if the valiant fighters who died fighting fascism gave you freedom, does that also apply to the Communist soldiers who fought it in Spain in ‘36?
To which Freeze responds:
“Pere Ubu” says that “freedom is not “given” to us by governments or soldiers but is something we’re born with.”
Your comic-book idea of history explains the contempt you expressed for all our brave soldiers both living and dead with your wisecrack about the “Dead Soldier Fairy.”
All previous generations of Americans have understood that their freedom was purchased and defended with the blood of our brave soldiers on battlefields from Gettysburg to Omaha Beach.
Oooh, I assume that last line needs to be read with the Stars and Stripes flying behind you and suitable martial music playing in the background - probably something by Toby Keith. Interesting as well the fact that evidently "freedom" stopped being bought, according to Mr. Jake, at "Omaha Beach", which I assume means the Korean, Vietnam, and Iraq conflicts all don't count, or something.
But hey, let's forget " all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", and take Jake at face-value that this "freedom" thing is "purchased . . . with the blood of our brave soldiers".
Okay, which soldiers are we talking about, specifically? "Our soldiers" implies that my question of Communist/Soviet fighters against fascism is nugatory - evidently only American soldiers produce "freedom", so those sacrifices don't count. As evidently the sacrifices of the Allies - I guess "freedom" only goes to the country you're fighting for, or with, or something. (One wonders though if there's a Theory Of Conservation Of Freedom - maybe since the Soviet soldiers didn't get to use theirs, it's still out there waiting to be claimed.)
So blood purchases "freedom", and presumably death purchases the most "freedom" since that's all the blood right there. So if a soldier is merely wounded, does that purchase only half the "freedom"? What if he gets a transfusion? If that transfusion is from a non-soldier, does it absorb the magic "freedom"-creating power or does it taint the sacrifice? Should we feed our army a high-iron diet with lots of liver and spinach to encourage blood formation? Churchill talked about "blood sweat and tears"; is blood the only bodily fluid which generates "freedom", then, or does sweat count as well? How about phlegm? How about *ahem* other bodily excretions?
Does the death/injury have to happen in combat or does ordinary attrition of deployed forces count as well? Since a significant number of deaths during war happen due to accident, disease or "other" (fully 2/3 of the deaths in the American Civil War may have been due to disease alone)do those deaths count towards generating "freedom" as well?
What about the thorny issue of the American Civil War? The Confederates claimed to be fighting for "freedom" as well as the Union - being here in South Carolina, am I now using Rebel "freedom", or am I still working on the Yankee stuff I had access to back in New York? Jake mentions Gettysburg as the beginning of "freedom" generation - does that mean he thinks the Union soldiers at, say, Shiloh or Antietam didn't really count? What about black Union soldiers like the 54th Massachusetts - did they maybe only, god forbid, generate 3/5ths the "freedom" of a white soldier, or a whole "freedom" unit? (And, for that matter, what about black units during the World Wars, when they were considered perfectly fit to fight for America but still had to sit in the back of the bus when they came home?)
What about civilians who've died in conflicts? Did civilians killed, say, at Pearl Harbor produce "freedom" by their sacrifice as well, or do you have to be an actual member of the military to create "freedom"? Notice as well that the period Jake lists in his comment is pre-volunteer Army; evidently we may actually need conscription to generate "freedom" (though, then, it's confusing why Korea and Vietnam don't count).
Finally, does this "freedom" that the noble blood of our glorious fallen purchase for us get used up? I ask because the Jakester limits his definition to about 1865-1944, and there was a whole lot of "freedom" being used back in the Sixties. If we assume the entire ACW-WW2 era (counting only Union soldiers) we get a total of 456,099 deaths in combat, and obviously a limited amount of "freedom", depending on your definition of the death/"freedom" generation ratio. Are we running out? Should there be a federal program for "freedom" conservation? (silly me - obviously there already is)
See, folks, we really need to invade and occupy Iran in a massive WW2-style invasion, complete with a re-introduction of the draft - since we're obviously running out of "freedom" and need to make more!