The Fourth of July – Meh   Leave a comment

So, as I’m pretty sure I made clear in this post, I’m not really the flag waving kind of patriot. I think it’s misdirected energy that would be better spent by, you know, actually trying to improve this country.

But here’s the thing, I’m taking the day off regardless of how many flags get waved around so I may as well commemorate something good about this country. Not the country as a whole, mind you. But I do hope to prevent this blog being something other than an unremitting stream of pessimism, and I do have a lot of respect for some things, so commemorating something won’t actually be that difficult.

Today is the kind of day when the military gets its kudos. There’s a little something to that. I used to think about joining the military because I wanted to serve something greater than myself. To the extent that this motivates people to join, those people deserve some praise. But I have more issues with the military than respect. I think the military has made life worse where ever it has gone. People certainly are not better off in Iraq (whose murder rate only recently dropped back to levels that didn’t one of the most violent countries on the planet) or Afghanistan (where mental health related issues now affect two thirds of the population). Even just having a military base nearby attracts prostitution. And after the military base leaves, prostitution stays, victimizing countless women and girls.

According to the DOD’s own statistics, only a fraction of a percent of sexual assaults committed against military personnel will receive any kind of punishment. Military culture, as compared to the rest of the population, promotes and protects violence against women, and that’s when the military isn’t even seeing combat. So no, I won’t be heaping more glory on the troops. I would much rather help them escape from sexual violence.

I’ve got related issues with our police force. I think they use violence far too readily and I think our worship of the police has allowed us to gloss over when they crack down hard on political protest. In New York large numbers of officers seem to have been groping female Occupy protesters, and the police use trumped up charges to jail and fine political dissent. In Oakland, worse tactics were used. These people are paid to protect citizens, and should be held to a standard that they clearly aren’t.

So who to praise… who to praise…

I could do teachers. They’re absurdly under paid and overworked. They do not receive enough attention or help. But they do receive some attention, so maybe some other time.

Actually, I think I’d like to take today to commemorate graduate students who have graduate assistantship positions. These guys are teaching our college freshman. They are overworked. They make even less than teachers, quite frequently. Some of them are in it for a better degree, a shinier piece of paper. But a lot of them are in it just because they want to know more about their field. They are committed to learning and to teaching, and they’re willing to accept near slavery wages (compared to their skills) to pursue their interests. That deserves respect. And I ought to know. I wanted to go to graduate school. I got the scores to go to graduate school. And, in the end, I decided the compensation just wasn’t worth it to me. My commitment wasn’t great enough.

Graduate school is hard. It is poorly compensated. And our university system could not survive without the hard work of the graduate students who teach all the basic level college courses that pay for the upper level courses. And you want to know the real kicker? Many graduate students won’t really be taking today off. They’re too far behind on their thesis, or their research project, or the class they were told to design and teach.

So, for you graduate students who get a chance to kick back and relax for once, you’ve earned it. You help this country keep trudging along. And your commitment to education in the face of an unappreciative society is one of the good things we should all still value.



Posted 07/04/2012 by reluctantliberal in Uncategorized

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