The Reluctant Citizen-Soldier: A Conversation with my Liberal-Hippie-Brother-in-Law

I love this country.  And I am a huge supporter of our military.  The bravery of the men and women who join the arm end forces and willingly put their lives at risk to defend our freedom – well, it humbles me.  I am grateful for our soldiers and I think we ALL ought to be.

And this, of course, leads me to a conversation I had recently with my brother-in-law, Jim.  A little backstory on him:  He’s a die-hard liberal, conspiracy theorist and will blame any and every problem on “the right-wing conservative a**holes.”

I always seem to learn a new term or concept that I haven’t heard of before, and often ask myself during our conversations, “Is this a thing now, or is he making this up?”

The newest concept was of “the reluctant citizen-soldier.”

A “reluctant citizen-soldier,” as defined by Jim, is not a “blood-thirsty killing machine” like the solider we know today, but a thoughtful citizen who sees humanity in our enemies and will not blindly follow orders from their commanders.

While I appreciate the flowery concept of the human race looking to find peaceful solutions and alternatives to bloodshed, I’m a realist.

Here are a few issues I have with the concept of the “reluctant citizen-soldier”:

1) “Independent thinking” is not part of the military model for good reason.  Questioning a commander’s authority or being unwilling to act when given orders will put all of our brave soldiers’ lives on the line.  While we are all connected as human beings, one’s loyalty to his or her fellow soldiers must be paramount.  Signing up to defend our country is no small thing, and to lose any amount of respect for that, even for a minute, because you think that you know better than your commanders… well, THAT is inexcusable.

2) Reluctance is dangerous.  In combat, speed and presence of mind are what keep you alive.  I understand that it’s not easy for the average person to hold a gun and pull a trigger, knowing that someone could be killed by your direct action.  I’m not saying that it is.  But one cannot keep that in mind when in combat.  Lives will be lost, and they will be of your compatriots.

3) The “blood-thirsty killing machine”.  I believe that some people are more capable of being soldiers than others.  We are all built differently.  Some of us are more sensitive, some more brave, some of us rise to anger easily and find it hard to stay out of a fight when provoked.

This is the “blood-thirsty” quality referred to by my brother-in-law.

First off, to dehumanize soldiers to the extent of calling them killing machines…  come on, now.  That reminds me of the people who, on the morning of 9/11 said, “Hey, we deserve it.”  Have some respect.

Secondly, I know some people who have more of a need for adventure and violence.  They may have gotten into many fights as kids, been trouble-making teenagers.  They knew they were different and couldn’t have “boring, civilized lives” like everyone else.  So they decided to use their natural temperament to their benefit and channel it into something good by joining the military or the police force.  It’s the same thing as a naturally argumentative person deciding to become a lawyer instead of an elementary school teacher.

4) Soldiers need training.  Another aspect of the reluctant citizen-soldier concept is that we do not have a military ready to go at all times; instead, we have regular people who are not “brainwashed” by the military (aka not well-trained) who work as normal citizens, and break out their guns at war time, kind of like a volunteer fire department.

My question here is: if you’re sending people out for a job, especially one that could mean the end of their life if they don’t do well, why on earth would you not want them to be adequately trained and prepared?


The main issue I have with Jim’s point of view, on this as well as on things in general, is that it seems to be lacking in logic and a real idea of what life is really like.

The concepts can be interesting, but I think that we, as citizens, have to understand that life isn’t perfect.  If life were perfect, there would not be any wars; there would be no killing, theft, cheating…

…but we do not live in such a perfect world.

We live in a world with war and violence, genocide, slavery and abuse… we live in a world with evil.  And sometimes, we need our brave citizens to put their lives at risk and fight for the good cause.  And we do NOT need them to do so reluctantly.