Thursday, July 8, 2010

Free Drinks

I was at Qdoba in the Indianapolis airport, watching them make my fat yummy burrito, when a lady came up to the line and asked, "Do you provide free drinks to armed forces people?"

The Hispanic man behind the burrito prep station had no idea. He looked to the next guy down the line, who looked at the cashier. Finally one of them said, "No."

The lady turned to the two other people in her party and said, "I guess they don't do that at this one." She was clearly upset. "We'll go to McDonald's instead," she said and left in a huff.

I mean no disrespect, but the lady's response seemed really silly to me.

Who are soldiers to demand free drinks from a private business? And then get all bent out of shape if they don't get them? What, are we living in imperial Rome? A British colony? I thought this was one of the things we rebelled against England for-- that soldiers were demanding accommodations from private citizens.

If it's about honoring their service, surely soldiers are not the only people who protect our way of life. What about teachers, doctors, military contractors, cops, firefighters, judges, sanitation workers, public defenders? Don't all of those people also contribute to the American way of life? They all protect our ideals in different ways, and yet I've never heard, for example, a teacher demand that they get free services from a business while they were off-duty. If the only thing that keeps America "free" is our military, then surely North Korea also deserves to be called "free", because they happen to have a pretty formidable military.

A lady I know once said to me, "I think our troops should get the best possible medical care." I said I agreed. "Just like everyone else," I added. "No, I mean, the best," she said. Yes, exactly. And I think everyone should have that same level of medical care. Her frustration made her unable to continue. Clearly I was too much of a pinko commie to understand what she meant.

It's a free drink, for chrissake. Not comprehensive health care coverage or proper body armor or a fair retirement plan. The cynic in me wonders whether all this trivial respect we are supposed to pay to soldiers is a way for politicians to neglect to take care of them in more substantial ways. Encouraging token acts of respect toward soldiers is a lot easier than considering the effect that sending them off to fight in unnecessary wars will have on their bodies, minds, and families.

I appreciate the dangerous and horribly stressful jobs that soldiers have. But they're not the only ones. Police and firefighters also have very dangerous and stressful jobs. I've never heard them demand special treatment because of it. If soldiers aren't making enough money, that's a separate conversation I'd be happy to have. But don't get all bent out of shape because the poor workers making minimum wage at Qdoba (and have no authority to make such decisions) didn't give your military ID card the proper deference.


UPDATE: I have added an addendum to this post here:

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