March 22, 2006
I Don't Want to Be A Soldier...Mama. I Don't Want to Die.
I was watching the movie Jarhead the other night, when I got to thinking: If we want to stop wars we must stop glorifying the warriors. The film based on the novel of the same name depicts a group of young Marines as they prepare to go to Iraq during the first Gulf War. They are a ragtag crew of undereducated, jingoistic, sometimes homoerotic men so disillusioned by testosterone and exaggerated ideas of patriotism that they appear to be mindless brutes. Watching them run about shirtless, branding each other whilst cursing made me appreciate the hell that the military must be. It also got me questioning, what kind of person signs up for this type of work? These are the troops we are asked to support? These are the few, the proud, the Marines.
Now before you start disagreeing that not all military men and women are like these caricatures and that there must be educated sensitive soldiers, let me say that I am sure you are right. Although, I am not sure if there can be a better example of an oxymoron than educated sensitive soldiers. I think it is safe to assume that a movie based on a novel written by a Marine, one that follows the patterns we have seen many times in movies that depict military life, should be considered somewhat accurate. I mean how many times have we seen films or read books about military life where a group[ of diverse young men try and figure out why they are so angry. I would also like to submit my own personal interaction with a few military people I have met. In college, I lived with a guy in the Navy, and watching the people he dealt with on a daily basis made me count my blessings that I was not under the same sentence as him. The people I met from his ship reaffirmed every stereotype I have ever heard about military personnel.
But this has been an inaccurate introduction. I am not here to declare that the military is made up of a violent breed of idiots, even if that may be the case. I am here to question why we, as a society, honor such men. Why do we take people from our poorest neighborhoods, who are young, impressionable, lacking low-self esteem, out of options, ignorant of world affairs and history, and fill them with hatred and violence. And then when they murder fellow human beings, or are killed themselves do we award them with badges and salute them. It seems absurd.
I can already see flag waving fists pumping as their owners curse me for my blasphemy. Shouting slogans like, They are fighting for your freedom. You little faggot.(Super patriotic people have a very highly charged homophobia, that leads one to believe that maybe the inability to come to terms with ones sexuality, may lead to violent behavior and the need to be around many other strong and violent men sharing stories about who is the least gay and who is the most.) But back to our flag wavers who say that without our soldiers we would be exposed to the wrath of Nazis, terrorists or worse communists. My idea, however, goes beyond that logic. I am asking why we honor soldiers of any nation? Have we, as a species, not evolved from the Vikings or the Knights of the Round Table? Are we still so enthralled with violent victories that we must debase our sensitivities and ourselves every time a man in uniform spills blood on some battlefield. Why not simply criminalize violent behavior and make being a soldier close to a criminal act. Again I don’t mean only the US, but all nations that have armies or soldiers will be considered unlawful. I am not to naïve to believe that we can start to disarm the world today, but can we not simply start to devalue violent behavior. Can’t we stop idolizing the soldiers? Can’t we find something else for small boys to want to be?
Before you accuse me of being unrealistic or worse idealistic. Think about it. I am simply saying imagine a world where we don’t buy toy guns for our kids, we don’t play war games, we don’t salute men who kill other men, we don’t applaud violence, the fact that three generations of men have died defending a nation could be considered sad not honorable. How about a nation that gives young men who lack opportunity, opportunity, we give men who lack self-esteem, confidence, not by becoming mindless rage filled drones, but by understanding themselves and making better choices. We do not support the troops-any of them, any where in the world, we tear down barracks, fire drill-instructors and rip apart uniforms, flags, and discard badges. We cancel parades and disassemble tanks. We stop making guns and destroy the ones we have. Okay, okay I am entering fairyland, where we all run around wearing only leaves and eating fresh fruit.
I am trying to be realistic. After watching Jarhead, I felt such pity for people in the military. It seems like such a cop-out. Here are men who are so weak that they find strength through violence. They are so scared that they hide behind walls of false unity. They actually look forward to killing other men they know nothing about. I see no honor in this type of behavior. There is no honor in teaching a man to become a killing machine, no matter what the cause. I am not blaming the individual men; I am blaming the type of society that demands men sacrifice themselves as cannon fodder. I am criticizing a society that stands up at sporting events to watch jets fly over stadiums, the same jets that rain death and destruction miles across the sea. I am criticizing a society that sells military clothing in children’s sizes. I am criticizing a society that loves to fight, even when it has no idea who it is fighting or why. I am criticizing a society that is obsessed with winning, with violence. I am criticizing a society that is not evolving.
This is not a critique of the Untied States. This is a comment on all our societies. Isn’t it time that we disarm the warriors and stop treating them with reverence? Isn’t it time that we help cure our warriors, help them to curb their violence not reward it? Isn’t it time that we move passed a system of warfare that has done nothing but fail since it’s outset? So what is my suggestion? This is often the ultimatum given us idealist by the realists of the world. Yeah, well what are we gonna do? Everything is so fucked up. My answer is a simple one; do not support violence, in any form. If you want to support the troops support them before they become troops.
Yes. I too feel the violence in my words.
I am also trying to rid myself of this menace.
(I am not sure how many people read this blog or who you are if you do stop by, but I would love some comments, especially from any military personnel. Please try and be original and don’t send a slew of expletive filled diatribes. If you were insulted by anything I said, please try and prove me wrong.)