Something of Consequence

One of the largest support organizations for U.S. military personnel is hosting a drive on the world’s largest social media network to allow you to send an e-card thanking a service man or woman. Here is how I responded and how I hope you might do instead.

How perfectly consequence-free. How fitting. I spent a quarter of a century in service to this great nation. I don’t care if you ever say thank you, and I certainly don’t care if you sign some internet card. I wore the uniform because I believe in our country’s foundational concepts born of the Enlightenment … that ALL deserve liberty and an equal opportunity to achieve greatness. Everyone. Even when they don’t look like you, or pray like you, or love like you. Even if they are willing to do the work you may not be willing to do or came here sometime after they were born, some of them fleeing lives that would kill the average coddled citizen. Don’t waste your time and that of our service men and women sending some pre-fab, do-gooder cyber card. It is without consequence for you or your intended recipient, and if we need anything right now it is to do things of great consequence. Do this instead.

Register your neighbors to vote. Make sure they get to the polls. Vote next time and every time thereafter, and be thankful you don’t have to split your family up so you aren’t all killed if insurgents decide to blow up polling places. Thank a teacher every single time you see one for what they do for the future of our country every day of their lives. Join the effort to see them paid better and to reduce attrition for new teachers. Don’t ever excuse bullying or discrimination in any form. Write actual letters to your elected officials. When you first meet or call someone, address them as Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. or their appropriate title. Put down your phone and really listen to someone. Don’t ever let racism find purchase in your day-to-day dealings with others. Talk to someone on the street you have never met. Smile at someone. Ask the name of your gardener or brick-layer or cable repairman or limo driver. Get one or two subscriptions to real newspapers. Read novels and see plays. Ponder a painting, then buy it on impulse. Don’t ever watch cable “news” again. Make sure your school board is solid on teaching science and critical thinking and writing. Block most of your “friends” on social media. Listen to NPR; the first few days are on me. Take a music lesson or tell a story or read to kids at the library. Don’t ever say, or excuse anyone who does, that God decided some sporting event when children are dying in the name of religion around the globe. Then … walk up to a veteran and, suppressing that nearly uncontrollable urge to thank them for their service, just ask them where they’ve been, how they are doing, what they’re most proud of, who they miss, or what they want in life. Do that instead. Please. Do something of consequence. You’ll be defending those things that make this the most unique experiment in governance in the history of the world. Then we can thank each other for securing our own self-determination—that natural state of humankind that seems so fragile and fleeting. Do that … instead.

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