Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm Ambivalent

ambivalent \ambivalent\ adj. 1. undecided as to whether or not to take a proposed course of action; having feelings both for and against the proposed action.

Every year, around Armistice Day*, someone or another almost always forwards me a link to some collection of "special deals, discounts and freebies for veterans."

On the one hand, I'm an obsessive deal hunter. I hate paying MSRP for anything. I shop at thrift stores. I use coupons and Groupons and I watch for sales, oh my.

On the other hand ...

When I was in boot camp, one never said "thank you" to a drill instructor. If you made that mistake he'd curtly inform you (while you did bends and thrusts, pushups and so forth for your gall and temerity) that he neither needed nor wanted your gratitude. The Marine Corps thanked him twice a month with a paycheck.

The Marine Corps thanked me with a (taxpayer-funded) paycheck, too. And when I was on duty, it paid for my food, clothing, lodging, travel and medical care. I got to see a good chunk of America -- from California to Quantico, Minnesota to Mississippi, Nevada to North Carolina -- and other parts of the world as well, on the taxpayer dime.

It bothers me when people who earn their living from voluntary exchange feel the need to say "thank you for your service" when it was my pleasure and on their dime, whether they wanted to buy it or not.

It bothers me even more that some business owners go out of their way to reward me for long-past "service" in the form of going to far-off, exotic places, meeting exciting, interesting people ... and killing them. Which is the long and short of "military service," either directly or indirectly.

Do they do that once a year for coffee baristas? Or radiologists? How about bookstore clerks?

I like the buffet at Golden Corral and the specials at Applebee's as much as the next guy. But I think I'll probably just pay up. If I deserve any thanks, I already got my share and then some. And if I don't, well, I don't. Either way, this isn't something I want to gravy-train on.

* It's usually called Veterans Day now, but that militates against the spirit of the thing. It was meant to commemorate the long-awaited end of the Great War -- the laying down of arms -- not to honor everyone who ever took up said arms.

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