Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I've been thinking about a post that the proprietress of Mimi's Musing wrote over at Dead Horse. An excerpt:
The New York Times is running one of their wonderfully patriotic and fat-headed series, this one on our military heroes who are such brave youth and who just incidentally, you understand, have signed up to slaughter other human beings. I commented:

What is it, in particular, these hired killers are fighting for? Not to protect our country; Afghanistan has never been a threat to this country. Not "our freedoms"; our freedoms have been eroding for years. Not "our way of life," whatever in the world that could possibly mean.
I certainly agree with the substance of Mimi's post. But there's something I get to thinking about, now and then: for instance, every Armistice Day Veterans' Day, when we're supposed to get all misty-eyed about how everything worthwhile about America only exists because somebody spent 1977 to 1983 as an avionics tech in the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. It's the "hired killers" thing I want to get to here. It's certainly descriptive of what they do, but I don't think -- in most cases -- that it's what they are. That's not a distinction that's worth much of anything to the killers' victims, but it's worth something, I think, in terms of our efforts to understand our countrymen.

The average age of first enlistment in the Army hovers right around 21 in recent years. That's certainly old enough for legal responsibility ... but I wonder how many of us were really doing a lot of serious thinking at that age? At the very least, I think we'd have to say that 21-year-olds tend to be pretty easily swayed by advertising, and by other forms of social pressure. And between one thing and another, it seems to me that we as a society are very insistent in telling the youngsters that signing up to kill is both a noble exercise, and a smart career move. (In today's hollowed-out US economy, it's about the only career move available to a whole lot of kids.) I'm sure that some of the recruits do have an insane urge to kill other people and destroy their homes. I'm inclined to doubt that the majority join up to become killers, though; I'm thinking that for most, the motivation is a good bit more mundane, and a good bit closer to innocent. America sells them on the idea; and America is well-equipped with astute salesmen.

As I say, a 21-year-old is responsible for what he or she agrees to do, and does. And the distinctions I'm referring to aren't very important to the people who are unlucky enough to live in places that our masters have decided to destroy, and unlucky enough to be the ones our masters have decided to murder. But the responsibility goes far beyond the torpedoes in uniform. It extends to everyone who pays taxes to the crime lords. When it comes right down to it, there's plenty of guilt to go around. I believe I'm wearing my share, too.


Jonathan Versen said...

A nice post. were you ever in the military Jim?

Jim Wetzel said...

Thank you, sir.

I've never been in the military. When I was of that age, though, I had no objection to doing so. Thus ... "there but for the grace of God go I."

Mimi said...

Jim, your post in response to my "Dead Horse" one is well said and very thought-provoking. Would you allow me to copy it to "Dead Horse," along with a comment about it from me? As ever, your courteous words point up that we are comrades in ideas (not arms!), and I'll respond in the same spirit. Please let me know if it's okay to copy.

Jim Wetzel said...

Mimi, I'm flattered that you have any interest in copying my stuff to Dead Horse. Of course, go right ahead. No need to ask next time, either ... "what's mine is thine."