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People died for this right

Written by Sherwin, published on December 25, 2012

warships from the American Civil War

I’ve heard countless pious prescriptions to do such and such, because “people fought and died for this right.” There are many versions: you should do x, because people died so you could do x.1 Each version is a cliché. And they’re totally unsound.

This fall we had a major election in the U.S. and a byelection in Victoria. And of course there was the Remembrance Day season. There’s something about war and peace and elections that brings out these idiotic shortcut phrases. The folks that say these things often say them like they were spoken by God. Or Spock.

And I’m tired of it.

People also died trying to protect slavery. People died trying to rid the Americas of every last Indigenous person. People died trying to steal a bag of chips from the vending machine. The brute truth is that folks die doing all kinds of pointless and malicious things. Humans have had all manner of interests and agendas and, unfortunately, dying for those interests and agendas does not give anyone the magic stamp of I-don’t-have-to-fucking-explain-myself-because-my-prescription-is-just-obviously-true.

By the way, I want one of those stamps, so if you know where to get one, let me know.

  1. Other versions include: 1) soldiers died for your right to do z, so you better do z, 2) your ancestors died for your freedoms/rights, so you better exercise those rights, and also 3) we fought a war to defend your right to z, so you better fracking do z.
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Archived comments

  1. Sherwin says:

    Wow, that thing I said was very clever. Nice to be quoted back to myself.