Monday, February 15, 2010

More thoughts on the military

Bitch Ph.D. has written a thought-provoking post on an important & complex topic I've been trying to clarify for myself: What conceptual place does the military have within the broader culture of our ostensible democracy, and what place should the military have within the broader culture of our ostensible democracy, and what can a comparison of these two narrative constructs tell us?

I've tried to address this this question here and here and here. I don't know if I've gotten very far yet in coming to a conclusion I can articulate clearly and concisely but, hey, it's all a work-in-progress.

Bitch Ph.D.'s post and the comments are worth reading in full. A few highlights:

US soldiers haven't been protecting "our freedom" since . . . well, the Civil War . . . They've protected U.S. interests--which are not the same as U.S. freedoms--in Grenada and Beirut and Panama and the Phillippines and the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua and China and Russia (way back during the revolution), and we've been all over Latin America. And we're in Iraq and Afghanistan, of course. But none of those countries or wars really threatened our freedom, except by some fucked-up definition where "freedom" means "right to do as we damn well please and get cheap oil while we're at it." None of those actions threatened anything in the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution.

[. . . ]

God knows I respect military folks, who by and large I think really do believe that they are serving their country, and that they *are* protecting us. . . . But it is just false fucking patriotism to think that the military is beyond reproach, or that soldiers are the only things standing between two-cars-and-a-white-picket-fence and Utter Chaos. Or that two-cars-and-a-white-picket-fence are the same as "freedom." Yes, the military protects our position at the top of the global heap, and I for one am goddamn glad that I was lucky enough to be born there. But my comfortable house and my two cats and my car that runs just fine, thank you, and my clothes that I don't have enough room to store, and my grandmother's china, and my trip to Colorado this weekend are not the same as my ability to vote, or to speak my mind, or to lobby my government to do things that I think are important.

[. . . ]

So yeah, as an American and a patriot, I would like us to quit with the soldier-worship. Respect them, as one should respect all professions, and respect their devotion to public service, as we damn well ought to respect the devotion to public service of all state employees. And yes, people whose work puts them in danger deserve a hell of a lot of sympathy and support. But until I start seeing "I support our mail carriers" or "thank a garbage collector" bumper stickers on the backs of people's cars, I'm calling bullshit on the notion that a military uniform = a halo.

I wouldn't necessarily need to curse, but I respect the strong feelings on this topic that the cursing represents. There is a contingent on the right (Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, etc., etc.) who advocate for a slavish blindness in our veneration for the military arm of our empire, and many other players on the national media and political stage allow these extremists to control the narrative -- it's a taboo subject to question military actions, military spending, military pork, because the rabid dogs will spring back with distracting claims of "unpatriotic," "unAmerican," "weak on defense," etc. Reprehensible.


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