Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A seldom heard push back against the script

It is the Soldier not the reporter, who has given us Freedom of the press. It is the Soldier not the poet, who has given us Freedom of speech. It is the Soldier not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate. It is the Soldier not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier, who salutes the Flag, who serves beneath the Flag and whose coffin is draped by the Flag, who allows the protester to burn the Flag.

Columns of drums beat as a solemn white male voice -- Sam Elliott? -- recites each line, indicting those who don't fall to their knees at the sight of a camo-painted Hummer or a Predator drone cleansing some Haji-infected neighborhood.

Stirring stuff. Gets the wood nice and stiff. Only thing is, it's bullshit.

Of all American manias, military worship is particularly noxious. Much of this fetishizing comes from civilians who've never worn the uniform, but who get excited at the idea of others Kicking Ass. They believe that the military is a sacred religious order to be obeyed and revered without question. But there are those who've worn and wear the uniform who feel pretty much the same way. It's drilled into them from boot camp on. It appeals to those who have little else in their lives.

A seductive pitch. So I understand where this mindset originates, how powerful it is to those who desire some kind of power in their lives. But even a general glance at American history shows us something else.

The claim that the "Soldier not the reporter" gave us freedom of the press, and the "Soldier not the poet" gave us free speech, while reassuring, is mostly wrong. Actually, war, the threat of war, and post-war periods often deliver the opposite of free press and speech.
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