One of the welcome aspects of the holiday season is that the people who most deserve recognition and thanks sometimes actually get it. The people who serve in the military make sacrifices that other citizens do not. They earn respect for that, even from those who may not support any or all combat missions.
The part that strikes me as deeply unfair is when the lives of particular soldiers are valued much more than those of others – specifically, a quarter million dollars more. The Canadian press is reporting that the families of married soldiers who are killed in war are awarded a $250,000 death benefit. The families of single soldiers get nothing.
It is not just in Canada that single soldiers get dramatically less compensation for the same work. In the U.S., too, single soldiers are targets of discrimination in many domains of the military, from survivors’ benefits to pay to housing and more. (I reviewed these in the section “The Command Team Wears Wedding Bands” in Singled Out.)
Similarly, after 9/11, the U.S. Victims Compensation Fund valued the lives of single victims less than those of married victims. (I discussed that discrimination in the section, “What Is the Life of a Single Person Worth?” in Singled Out.)
People who are dismissive about singlism and the myths about single people often argue that the discrimination is trivial and the myths are inconsequential. One of the myths is that single people are “alone” – they “don’t have anyone.” That’s the sort of thinking that probably contributes to the grossly unjust valuing of lives of single soldiers as literally worthless.
The belief that single people “don’t have anyone” would be news to all of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, close friends, coworkers, mentors, students, and all of the other important people in the lives of soldiers who fought in war – especially those who died in the service of their countries.
This holiday season, let us give thanks to all of those who serve – whether in the military or elsewhere. Let us start by acknowledging that marital status is not a marker of the value of a human life.
Soldier photo available from Shutterstock.