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In the wake of our annual national fallen heroes orgy, replete with flags, hot dogs, parades, and prayer, I am always left to wonder why no one seems capable of measuring collective sacrifice against collective accomplishment. It is perceived to be enough that those who sacrificed their lives did so to protect “our freedom.” As long as this is the simple calculus, without any discussion of exactly what freedom was actually endangered, young people will continue to die in wars started and perpetuated by their elders.

A nation that revels in flag-draped coffins and folded flags for the survivors will continue to send its young to war and then use its “fallen heroes” to further justify the righteousness of the “cause” that put them in harm’s way in the first place. Without doubt, the individual sacrifice is real and great, but exactly what has been accomplished beyond perpetuating the notion that dying for your country is equivalent to dying for a greater good? Our freedom sometimes will need protection, but not from the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, the Afghans and the other assorted chosen ones. Rather, it needs protection from leaders who take us to war, who perpetuate war, and who glorify those whose personal sacrifice they are unwilling to make themselves.

Honor our fallen heroes every day by confronting those who create the fallen heroes in the first place. Make sure that before this nation ever goes to war again, each and every one of us is fully informed, that the information is credible, and that the freedom we seem to hold so dear is actually threatened by a real and identifiable enemy. Then be certain that you would send your son or your daughter to defend that freedom against that enemy. If not, fight hard to send no one.

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