I am a veteran.
I love telling people that for two reasons; I’m proud of my service and it nearly always surprises people. When you meet me, you meet an extremely liberal, out lesbian who is often mistaken for a man. I was a vegetarian for eight years, I am very much against the death penalty, and I work hard to topple the status quo of classism, racism, sexism, and every other form of oppression. So how could I also be a veteran?
Veterans are too rare a breed in the world of liberal politics. And I’ll admit, some of my views have changed since I turned to Uncle Sam 20 years ago to help me get through college in the form of an ROTC scholarship. But the common thread that runs through my life from military service to fighting for social justice is both my belief in the value of democracy, and the understanding that it is a participatory activity. It doesn’t work if we don’t do it.
To some extent, my military service was a radicalizing experience for me. I guess you get out of it what you bring to it, but I learned the joy of mass actions, the benefit of socialized medicine, and witnessed people from all walks of life setting aside differences to work towards common purpose. Furthermore, I learned some great topple-the-status-quo skills in the military and use them in my fight for social justice now.
To my fellow veterans: Happy Veterans’ Day. At NCTE, we salute you and we invite you to join us in continuing the fight. Defending democracy doesn’t have to stop when we leave the out-processing station.