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American troops should receive accurate praise, not blind adulation

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Last week, an unidentified New Jersey teacher made a terrible comment to one of her students that ended up as a viral internet clip and sparked astudent-led protest. After hearing some of her students speaking Spanish to each other, the teacher claimed that U.S. soldiers are “not fighting for your right to speak Spanish. They are fighting for your right to speak American.”

Despite the obvious inaccuracy and racism of this statement, which was probably intended to defend the English language, there is a more subtle falsehood. I would like, if you’ll hear me out, to tenderly make the case that our brave soldiers are fighting for neither of these rights. In fact, the common claim that the troops are “defending our freedom” is no longer the case.

Let me begin by stating the obvious: American soldiers are some of the most courageous men and women among us, willing to risk their lives to serve the country they love. They are vastly more patriotic than the average citizen. Soldiers who serve the United States overseas face enormous opposition and deserve every bit of the praise offered them by ordinary Americans and politicians alike. Many people were rightly outraged when agold-star widow received an insensitive condolence call from President Donald Trump because it represented a disrespect towards those that make the ultimate sacrifice.

However, our praise of the troops should be accurate and fair as well as laudatory. The statement that U.S. soldiers are defending the right of any American citizen to speak their minds, to practice their religion of choice, to publicly assemble, to petition the government for a redress of grievances or any of the other rights and liberties we all hold dear has not been an accurate one since at least World War II, and probably even before that.

The war in Iraq was not intended to solidify the right of protesters to gather, whether they be protesting the unfair treatment of black people by police or, yes, even the removal of a Confederate statue; it began as a just fight against a murderous tyrant.

The troops deployed in Afghanistan are not protecting the rights of Americans to practice Christianity, Islam or Judaism; they are helping rid that nation of radical insurgents and build a democratic infrastructure for the people that live there.

The war in Vietnam was not a defense of U.S. territorial sovereignty; it was an unnecessary, illegal invasion against a popular government that ended in defeat and the loss of almost 60,000 American lives.

The justice of America’s foreign military involvement can (and should) be debated. There are probably too many lives being lost for what amounts to the will of the powerful.

The troops that currently serve our nation certainly inherit the legacy of those brave men and women that defended and established our freedoms in the past. However, they deserve to receive adulation that accurately accounts for what they do.

This is not an open-shut argument. One can make the case that simply by serving our country the troops are defending our freedoms. I welcome response and debate. However, I believe that the soldiers, admittedly braver and stronger than I, deserve our respect as well as our insistence that the government only deploy them when necessary to defend the American values that their predecessors fought and died to establish.

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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University
American troops should receive accurate praise, not blind adulation