I don’t often comment on the trivia that wafts by in the media and especially on Twitter but this story I thought was especially interesting, not because of the faux outrage, the professional armed forces hero worshippers and permanently offended, but because it speaks loudly about the disconnect between the Armed forces and the rest of the UK’s population.
The story starts with a tweet, as they often do
Cue the outrage bus
Green Cllr Ben Duncan thinks it's ok to call UK armed forces hired killers. Please sign if you disagree http://t.co/KGVW3LnsQN
— Adrian Morris (@me4_ArtsCulture) July 1, 2014
He has since apologised for the offence, as they often do.
Andy McSmith's Diary: Brighton Green Ben Duncan apologises for 'hired killers' tweet on Armed Forces Day http://t.co/BiGn9XJ3EA
— GGM Strength (@ggmstrength) July 1, 2014
Putting aside the one idiots sentiment, its likely intent and the sheer bell whiffery of it for one moment.
Are we becoming far to sensitive about the armed forces?
They serve their country but they are professionals, paid by the state for their services. i.e. hired
And they kill the Queen’s enemies, for that is their job, i.e. killers.
Killing the enemies of the state in the paid service of that state is not murdering them for pay. Some may well be mechanics or cooks or drivers but they are soldiers first, tradesmen second.
So, they are not hired murderers and they are not mercenaries, both those having entirely a different meaning.
I am not even going to go down the tired old cliché ridden route of talking about sleeping in beds and rough men on walls etc. but we ask soldiers to do things we don’t want to and we should be damned grateful that they do. This does not mean that any insult should be seen as a ‘national disgrace’ or that they are not without their faults either.
Whilst the original tweet was made by someone who is clearly a bit of an idiot and we can dance around the semantics all day long, the point is this.
Soldiers may well do other things like rescue kittens from trees, march up and down the Mall and fill sandbags but the visceral reality of armed conflict cannot be massaged away by a collective public avoidance of what the state asks young men and women to do.
It is their job.
Being squeemish about the words and hiding behind our outrage at a tweet won’t change that.
I think we owe it to them to have a bit of honesty and perspective.