Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thoughts about military service

There's been a weird thought going through my head recently. What if the military medical corps had a special set of orders? What if no member of the medical team could be forced to fight except when under fire... i.e., if they're swarming the hospital, you fight back, and you can volunteer for a combat mission, but otherwise, they can't put a rifle in your hands and say "go kill bad guys!"

Would I be willing to do that?

I finally decided that the answer was "no". But maybe not for the reason you'd expect.

I've been told by multiple military folks that the question isn't "will they screw you?" but "how much will they screw you?" But as long as my enlistment papers say that I'm medical, and can't be forced to kill people unless under fire, I'm not too terribly concerned about being screwed. I could get hurt, or killed, sure, but I'm 40 years old, and if you're 40 years old and haven't made peace with your mortality yet, you're in deep trouble, because it's all downhill from here, you know? Most likely, I'd have to work harder than I ever had in my life, and learn to control my instinctive nasty response to anyone who barks orders at me, and have to deal with a bunch of stupid stuff that drives me completely batty.

Ah... but I'd also be able to help some folks who need help more than almost anyone else. I don't approve of the war effort in Iraq, but that makes me a bit more sympathetic of the folks getting chewed up by it.

But I realized there'd be one reason I couldn't do this in the military. If I was in the military, I'd be under orders, and some of those orders would include a statement to the effect of "we care more about the fighting ability of the meat machine than the happiness and humanity of the person running it."

("Meat machine" is my term for a human body as just a body.)

If a person would suffer irreparable damage by going back to fight in the war, but it wasn't the kind of damage that the military was concerned with, then I might end up helping send that person back into combat.

In short, I could help the military patch up some meat machines, and I might even help a few people deal maintain their humanity, but I would be forbidden to be a healer, except when it served "military necessity". That's the one thing I couldn't do. At least, I couldn't do it well, I couldn't do it happily, I couldn't believe in what I was doing, and that would mean I'd probably be unable to do the job as well as someone who isn't burdened by that concern.

So I'm going to try to go back to school, and, I hope, someday be a healer who helps people find their way back to humanity and happiness. If I can help anyone damaged by this stupid war, so much the better, and if I find a way to make America, a better place, I'll do that.

It's a shame that, according to some, this means I can't be a patriot....

Loving your home, wanting to help it, being willing to protect it, that's not enough... not if you don't support wars.

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