Professor Who Refuses to Salute Flag: Anti-War Activists Are True Veterans

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The time has come to honor anti-war activists as veterans, professor Warren J. Blumenfeld argued in an op-ed Saturday.

Blumenfeld, a professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, described in the piece seeing a military veteran receive a discount at the veterinarian’s office (no relation to "veteran," which derives from the Latin "veteranus" and the older "vetus").

Blumenfeld argued that an American definition of veteran must reach beyond the troops, since civilians serve the country in meaningful ways. 

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"I have long thought," he writes, "about whom our country includes in its socially-constructed category of ‘veteran.' Currently, that classification remains limited to those honorably serving in our armed forces. And yes, this service and this profession has traditionally been determined by our society as honorable and noble work. Why, though, have we circumscribed the parameters of ‘veteran'? Why have we so limited its definition?"

"True patriots and veterans," Blumenfeld argued, include those "actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means."

Blumenfeld published the article in LGBTQ Nation to combat the "Patriarchal structure of domination" that glorifies former soldiers as the standard of patriotism, to the exclusion of "practitioners of non-violent resistance" and others.

Blumenfeld’s does not want a simple redefinition of the word "veteran." He wishes not simply to use the term in non-military contexts, but to draw an equivalence between veterans of activism and veterans of battlefields. Blumenfeld expands his definition from avoiding or ending real military conflicts to fighting proverbial or cultural wars. He asks Americans to "take a few minute to consider those fighting a cultural and figurative civil war to reduce the violence and injustice and place the United States in higher standing around the world."

In his op-ed, Blumenfeld is careful to voice support the military, but clarifies that activism "is also an act of patriotism to keep our brave troops out of harm’s way."

Unsurprisingly, the article provoked a response from military veterans. One, picking up on the equivalence, said: "To say this term applies to everyone who might get upset and hold up a sign somewhere, that doesn't make any sense at all."

Blumenfeld, who has previously contributed to the Huffington Post, followed his article with several tweets in his defense.

In one such tweet, Blumenfeld identifies himself as a "Veteran." He insists that "if that threatens anyone, than [sic] so be it! A central tenet of liberation is the freedom to self-define, which I do!"

After the op-ed drew attention from the Daily Wire and Fox News, Blumenfeld abandoned the op-ed’s argument about who "our country includes" as a veteran to the question of who "self-define[s]" as a veteran.

Before this op-ed, Blumenfeld voiced his opposition to gun ownership, writing that "contrary to the NRA’s assertions, guns in the hands of anyone, in any and all stations of life, kill people."

When John McCain was still living and serving as a Republican senator from Arizona, Blumenfeld accused him of abetting a "pogrom" in the United States. Blumenfeld argued firearm restrictions were failing in the Senate because McCain and others took "blood money" and "bribes" from the NRA.

In a 2017 article titled "I Do Not Pledge My Allegiance to Any Flag," Blumenfeld wrote: "I have long refused to stand at attention, place my hand over my heart, take off head coverings, and recite the Pledge."

Blumenfeld also dismissed the flag as "a mere piece of cloth, and like the words of a pledge, represents merely a symbol [emphasis added], which can signify nothing beyond the threads, the dyes, and the stitches holding it together."