It all started when Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld took his dog to the vet. While he was waiting in line to pay, he noticed that the customer in front of him got a 10% discount for being a veteran. That got Dr. Blumenfeld thinking.
Why are the people who served in the military the only ones who get to join the “socially constructed category” of veteran? Why can’t more of us, regardless of our lack of military service, enjoy the advantages that come with that title?
Dr. Blumenfeld shared these thoughts in a piece for LGBTQ Nation. Of course. Where else would one write something like this?
He argues, “Individuals who stand up and put their lives on the line to defend our country from threats to our national security, as those in our nation’s military do, are true patriots and veterans. But true patriots and veterans are also those who speak out, stand up, and put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means.”
That line about standing up and speaking out makes me a bit nervous. Especially when it’s coupled with “advocating for justice.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for standing up and speaking out and the world would be a much better place if more of us advocated for justice. It’s just that the folks over at a website like LGBTQ Nation probably mean something completely different than justice when they talk about justice.
Imagine if, thirty years from now, a child walked by a statue of a man not waiting in line for free Chick-fil-a for life and asked his grandpa, “What’s that statue of the man with the bun in his hair and the terribly skinny jeans represent, Grandpa?” His grandfather would respond, “That’s to signify the long, hard battle we all fought to have Chick-fil-a removed from the college campus.”
“But grandpa,” the child would respond, “Chick-fil-a tastes good and the workers are always so friendly. Why would anyone want... I mean… Oh, I’m so sorry. Please don’t cry grandpa! Oh, and please oh please don’t send me to the reeducation camp again?”
Even better, just picture the scene in Dr. Blumenfeld’s world a few years from now when a man walks up to the cash register at a diner to pay for his meal.
“Sir, are you a fireman, policeman, or veteran?” the cashier would ask.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I am a veteran.”
“Great! You get a ten percent discount today. What war were you in by the way?”
“The Bakery War.”
“The Bakery War. We fought against a group of insurgents who thought that they had the right to make desserts for whoever they wanted to. We were able to fight throughout that long, cold winter and push them back. Eventually, the owner of the bakery lost everything. It was a proud day in American history.”
A tear appears in the veteran’s eye and streams down his face.
The young cashier searches for the right words to say.
“That’ll be $7.32."
My grandfather was a fantastic storyteller. He could walk to the mailbox and come back with a 15 minute story about it that Spielberg would buy the movie rights to if he had known about it. I loved my grandfather’s stories. And he did much more with his life than walk to the mailbox.
He fought in World War II. He was in the South Pacific. I still have his stories etched in my brain. I hope that they never leave. They remind me of where I came from and they have helped to prepare me for where I was going. I hate to think where I would be without those stories from my grandfather, a true veteran.
I feel sorry for any kids who might grow up hearing their parents or grandparents talk about their days spent fighting in The Battle for Higher Minimum Wage or The Great Bathroom War or the skirmish to make Thomas the Train more gender fluid.
The headline for Dr. Blumenfeld’s article is “Is it time to expand the definition of ‘veteran’?”
There’s an easy answer to that question.