As I am writing this, a thirty-something-year-old veteran, named John, is returning home from his dead-end job at an Amazon distribution center. He is a veteran of America’s longest war – Afghanistan. Outside of John’s 1,500 sq ft home flies the American flag, a banner under which he once proudly served. His wife, who also returned home from work just a short while earlier, made Hamburger Helper. It is sitting on the stove. As John microwaves his meal to warm it up, he watches his wife play with their infant daughter. She is almost one. Fox News is on in the background.
John pulls his bowl out of the microwave, grabs a beer, kisses his wife and daughter, then sits on the couch to fill his belly and relax. He has been on his feet for ten straight hours. To his left is a side table with a stack of bills – one of which is from the furniture company that sold him that side table. It was part of a living room package he and his wife purchased with no money down and no payments for the first six months; the first payment is now due. He pushes aside the bills he can hardly pay and sets his bowl down so that he can find the remote control. John needs to turn the volume up, so that he can hear the news above the cawing of his daughter. His ears occasionally ring, so he finds it hard to hear what Fox is telling him, especially over the sounds of his baby girl. The combination of bullets and excessive amounts of salt will do that to a young man’s hearing. Finally, John can hear what is being said: “Russia just invaded the Ukraine.”
In that younger man’s life, he would have raced to the nearest recruiting station and joined the Army, just like he did when the U.S. last called for his service. The threat of Arab terrorists attacking his homeland once inspired John to fight the enemy “over there.” But those days are over for him now. John is a marginalized quasi-citizen in a country that hates him, and he feels that hatred every day.
In past wars, American veterans came home to manufacturing jobs. They would settle into their lives, albeit uncomfortably at first, find a decent job, a wife, and a home. They might go to the VFW or American Legion Hall, have a beer and reminisce about their time in the service with men like them. The next morning, they would see these same men at the same factories or mines into which they would start the recycle. Every one of those men promised themselves that their children would go to college and have a better life. They would work extra shifts to make sure that happened. Unfortunately, for John’s generation, that life is gone forever.
For the past thirty years, American elites outsourced manufacturing jobs to boost Wall Street profits that lined wealthy pockets. These same elites promised men like John that foreign outsourcing was good for him. He would get a job in the new service economy and more easily afford goods that are cheaper – like the furniture-set John is financing. By service economy, they meant Walmart and Amazon – peddling the very same cheap goods for subpar wages in order to purchase subpar goods, while elites got richer and richer and richer.
Serving the United States was an ideal, deeply ingrained in men like John. His grandfather served in World War II. His father served in Vietnam. He served in Afghanistan. In fact, John’s family has fought in every American war since the Revolution. He personifies Heritage America.
Today, that America has betrayed John and his people. While wealthy men steal economic prosperity from John, they also demonize him and those like him. They call him privileged for being White. They deny him promotions because they have set arbitrary diversity quotas. Every night on the news, they speak about his racism, his bigotry, and his anger. They deny that John has any right to be angry.
John went to a war and served in combat. He watched his brothers die. The blood, sweat, and tears that he shed for the United States were wasted on an apathetic American people and a political class that offers platitudes, but failed to provide the political will to win a war. Chickenhawks thank him for his service, while making more deals to outsource even more jobs to China and import low-wage workers from Guatemala.
John sacrificed for a country that betrayed him at every turn and now calls him a “Nazi” for wondering aloud, “What is next for my family?” They call him a “fascist” for demanding that the politicians who thank him for his service return the favor of his sacrifice. They call him an “angry White male” full of “rage” because he hates what has become of the country that he once adored so deeply. John was willing to die for his beloved Constitution – in a foreign land, amongst foreign people.
Now they are asking eighteen-year-old White boys to go die for Ukraine. The same class of people that thoroughly despise White Christian boys, especially Southern boys, want those same boys to go to war to defend a country that is an ATM for the political elites. Unfortunately, many will join, and some will likely die – if not in Ukraine, it will be somewhere else, at some other time. The wealthy will still get wealthier. Job opportunities will continue to shrink. Cheap immigrant labor will still flood the country. White people will continue to get marginalized and hated. Young Southern mothers will salt the earth with the tears shed for their dead baby boys. No one will care about them.
Yet, ironically, John still flies an American flag outside of his home.