Monday, February 09, 2009

You're Welc...hunh?

Remember the time I told y'all about Facebook?

OK, well, there's a group on Facebook called "Thank A Soldier". It seems to be run by some nice, well, meaning people (from Canada, interestingly enough) who genuinely want to say nice things to squaddies.

A "friend" of mine on Facebook just joined this group, and, like everything you do on Facebook, a little note popped up on my page: "So-and-so just joined the group "Thank A Soldier".

I thought that was very nice of her, because I'm not sure what soldiers have done for her or hers lately, but every time I see that little pop-up I end up wandering over to that page and I read the first line of their blurb:

"We Believe in thanking soldiers for our freedoms we enjoy"

And every time I get a pain in the giggy. And every time I post a comment to Facebook that goes something like this:
"I served 22 years in the U.S. Army. I cannot in all honesty think of anything I did anywhere to anyone that contributed materially to the freedom anyone in the U.S. enjoys today or did at the time. I certainly served U.S. "interests", helped further U.S. geopolitical aims and did some things that helped people in other countries.

Every time you voted, Kelli, you did more for "freedom" than I did in 22 years of armed service. Every time you wrote your congresscritter you did more. Every time you protested, wrote a letter to the editor, signed an initiative petition. YOU were the mover and doer. Not I.

I love soldiers. I loved being a soldier. But what I did had very little to do with "freedom" or "justice" or "proclaiming liberty throughout the land."
I never get any comments or discussion back. It's like a black hole; things go in but don't come back out. I get that feeling that when I talk about soldiers and soldiering - outside a handful of people, many of whom comment on this blog and you know who you are, hat-tip to all o' ya - the nice people who've never really had much to do with us GIs (which, these days, is most people) look at me like Barfus the Dog-Headed Boy.

Hey, look. The guys in VIIth Corps who sat in the Fulda Gap from 1945 to 1991 helped defend freedom against the Soviets. The guys who sat in the boomers under the Arctic Ocean, in the silos in Minnesota and Tucson, who cycled out of Minot and Elmendorf. THOSE guys, you can throw a snappy salute to and buy 'em a drink. They kept you from being Red and/or dead.

Me? The guys in Saudi and Iraq and Panama and Grenada and Kuwait and Kosovo?

Not so much.

It's not that I don't want gratitude. It just seems to me like we use it, this automatic, casual "We support our troops" yellow-ribbon bumperstickerish reflex instead of really thinking about soldiers, who we are and what we do and why, and the implications of how we use our soldiers now that they're mostly "them" and not so much "us".

Just sayin'.

15 comments:

Charles Gittings said...

Boy I hear you.

Some times I think we're just spinning helplessly out of control into an alternate wonderland where everyone just gets absorbed by the CW and thought becomes comnletely immpossible beyond the bare minimum required by day to day functions. Like the whole freaking world is slowly going brain dead.

But I had a really bad week last week so I'm probably just being gloomy. The part that really gets me is that it's so impossible to talk to most people, left, right or in the middle.

Aviator47 said...

Chief-

I, too, have found this phenomenon interesting. I never thought I was why America enjoys freedom, even in my Fulda Gap days. I was simply a instrument of that freedom, hopefully to be employed wisely.

I would guess that amongst the contributing factors, one would find:

- America is a society of vicarious experience.
- The AVF has made the military separate from society in general
- During the last 8 years of Carl Rove's alternate reality, this theme has been hyped to promote their agenda

None of these are what I would call admirable factors, but that's life in the US of A.

Al

sheerahkahn said...

Okay, Chief, I'm going to preface this with a caveat...I'm being totally tongue in cheek.
That said, prepare yourself for the wonderous rub of your fan club!


Sir,

Yessir, we know you sat where you sat, sunning yourself in sunny somewhere-that-you-thought-was-to-dam-hot, and that your idea of a good time was drinking beer and pissing on scorpions.
The fact of the matter is that we, those of us who are gutless, cowardly and wishing we had larger penises, or handsome GI in a pressed uniformed doing the dishes want to have something grander than us to worship.
You see, we live vicariously through the movies, and so by elevating you to the pedestal we can properly worship you in a fashion that befits are secret desires of being something more than what we really are.
So, with all that, and a pile of due respect to sweeten it all, you must get your shiny, golden peach like bottom back on that pedestal, and shut the hell up!

Sincerely, and with a ton of admiration of your wonderous, and glorious dedication to all things Red, White, and Blue!
Your worshippers!

P.S. Can I touch your medals?

Linda Dove said...

And when we all, en masse, hung flags from our porticos and tail-lights post-911, what did THAT mean?

pluto said...

Hate to burst your bubble, Chief, but I've had quite a few conversations with this type of people and I don't think they are at all interested in you or what you have to say.

What really turns their crank is the emotions they feel when they thank you. They don't really care what you did or did not do while you were in the service and they most definitely do not care what you think now that you are out of the service.

To take this conversation to a philosophical level that I'm probably not competent to discuss, I divide the human race into four groups.

1. Can think and do so all frequently. This is by far the best group to have conversations with but is also the smallest.

2. Can think but don't want to. This is where most of your well-wishers come from. They are just glad that somebody else did the heavy lifting so they don't have to and they recognize that they should thank somebody for having done the heavy lifting. They aren't a bad lot to chat with as long as you avoid certain topics where their critical thinking goes away.

3. Don't think and don't care much. This is probably the largest group. Again, there's nothing wrong with these people, just don't get them started on anything outside of their immediate control because they don't know about it and don't want to care.

4. Don't think and oppose people who do think. This is a relatively small group but they are far more influential than you'd like because they have an emotional need to speak up and they tend to have followers in groups 2 & 3. Unfortunately there is no reasoning with these people, all you can do is avoid them or override them.

One of the many joys of reading this blog is that it has far more than its fair share of type 1's and no type 4's.

FDChief said...

Charles: Yep. Kinda feelin' that way myself.

Al: Unfortunately, I think you're right.

Sheerah: Yike!

Linda: Ah, yes. I remember those halcyon days, when "now we were all Americans".

I don't think the burst of patriotic emotion we saw then were at all similar to this. That was spontaneous, this is manufactured. This is trying to equate professional soldiering with political liberty - that was everyone, soldier and civilian alike - rallying around our tribe and nation.

I imagine that the reaction to Lexington and Concord, Fort Sumpter and Pearl Harbor were somewhat similar. Our "tribe" was threatened and we huddled in a little flag-bristling clump, ready to hug together tightly and strike back at the outsider.

But here's what I see as the critical difference. After April, 1775 and December, 1941, we responded, not with adulation of soldiers and the celebration of vicarious heroism, but by becoming soldiers ourselves, by growing and canning vegetables for the soldiers, by buying war bonds, by pledging our "lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" to what was then the defense of our homes and our very existence.

This is no different than all the other times we soldiers have fought since 1945 - other than the Cold War, which we "fought" by not fighting - which, though perhaps necessary for the common good and the interests of our nation, hardly counts as defense of home and family and country. The North Vietnamese 309C Division had no interest in landing on the beaches of Malibu. The Hammurabi Division of Saddam's Republican Guard wasn't going to occupy Washington and burn the White House. And as for the sad little Panamanians, Serbs, Grenadians and North Koreans..?

I think what we may very well look back on with tremendous grief is that in the autumn of 2001 we might have risen to become a truly great nation, united in a hope to make the world a better place. I think many of us truly wanted that. Instead we descended - no, we were LED (but most of us followed passively) - into a slough of dismal criminality and moronic public policy.

I'm with Charles on this - there seems to be little sense possible of being talked on this issue, from either side.

FDChief said...

Pluto: Other than to say that your four Ages of Man appear depressingly accurate, I guess I'd have to say that I'm even more glum hearing that these folks - who, as I think I said in the post, I take as nice, well-meaning people - aren't really all that interested in the people they're supposedly all about thanking.

Charity becomes a mockery of itself when performed for the self-satisfaction of the doer. I sincerely hope that the people involved in this aren't #2's. It'd just make the whole business sadder.

Publius said...

I get emails from some cousins and others, passing along all of the "hero" shit, and telling me that I absolutely have to forward this off to everybody I know. I've told them the stuff dies with me and I've asked them to refrain from sending these things; I've even written, "Do you even realize who you're sending this shit to"? And they wonder why I've got little use for them.

Pluto's right. My correspondents tend to be 2-4 types. What's really sad is that I even get some of this shit from other retired guys. I'm not quite sure why a guy with a couple of Purple Hearts and a Silver Star might think he's got to make my day with this shit, but I always respond: check your addressee list; remember who knew you when, and then delete us.

Now I will say, Chief, as a perfect military specimen of my age, I might be inclined to sign up for some of this stuff, depending on the babe quotient. You might be overlooking something important here.

atomic mama said...

I can't wait to thank you in person for protecting my personal freedom with your sacrifice; and maybe you can even autograph my bumper stickers, bwahaha ha HA...!

FDChief said...

Publius: I get the same chain e-mails from some people, mostly aquaintences but fairly often from some of my wife's relatives who are VERY much #3's. I've tried gentle discussion and I've tried being snappish and neither worked, so now I just delete the damn things.

And I suppose that as a young buck I might have tried to work the hero angle, but I just don't think I could have carried it off; at some point I'd have broken down and laughed at myself, them and that'd been it.

AM: I will bring a very large yellow magnetic ribbon and you can stick it right smack on the middle of your...bumper!

I DO plan on bringing a certain manly little man his very own Portland Winter Hawks hockey jersey, though...playing junior hockey and getting a stick down the teeth for peanuts - now THAT's real heroism!

sheerahkahn said...

Publius,
Know that you are not alone. I get that stuff from friends and family too, and I just hang my head and sigh.
Good G-d, what is with these people?
Anyway, their emails die as I delete them with respect to the fact that I'm not going to be part of the pandering process.
I thank vets on veterans day because they signed their names to the dotted line, allowing the government to call upon them if the need should arise. But the rest of the time its "hey, want a beer?" and they tell me their stories of where they've been which is what I really like about vets.
They've seen a lot, interacted with people from different countries, and for me at least, it's enjoyable to hear someone else's stories of their experiences.
But worship?
There is only one vet I would come close to worshipping if I were of that same mindset, and that is the gentlemen who pulled me into his house when I was young.
He straightened me out before I succeeded in killing myself with either the booze or the bike; or some combo of those two. He saved my life, and though he passed away a long time ago, I still think fondly of him as the uncle all troubled young men should have in their lives.

Lisa said...

Excellent, Chief. Sheerahkahn, your response was poignant, and I'm glad you had that man in your life.

People love the vicarious feed and affiliation to be had by doing just enough to say they part of something, and moreover, they're doing good for The Boys, even though they mightn't know any or care to sit with any. Mr. Limbaugh would be happy; their fellow parishioners would be happy. Some girls I knew (euphemism for "silly women") would write letters hoping to snag an officer for husband.

For some, it is the patriotism of the mother in the short story who sends her son off to battle knowing that he may get killed, but reveling in her sacrifice and sorrow. It is perverse.

I allow that some mean well, but wouldn't it be better to protest unjust wars?

rangeragainstwar said...

To Linda Dove,
What did it mean?-that a bunch of Chinese made flags were sold to a bunch of idiots.
jim

rangeragainstwar said...

To the usual suspects,
It seems that all of us who have crapped between 2 combat boots and froze or sweated our asses off in the process are somewhat disaffected fron the average citizen.
They love us and call us warriors and it's all abstract.They really don't want us to date,talk to or go with their daughters.Marriage -well never mind.Every body loves us but none of them even know what we are.Or what we left behind when we signed the dotted line .I'm not whining but my own parents don't have a clue what active service meant-not to include wartime service.We can thank John Wayne for a lot of that.Everybody equates being SF with a movie-and a bad one at that.
FDChief,when I started RAW i still believed that there were just US wars such as the Revolution/Civil and WW2 but my thinking has evolved to the point that i no longer hold this to be true. There is no justice or legitimate reason that the US needed to be in any war.Take WW@ for example-how was Stalin any better than Hitler? Who won the war? Was America any safer after Hitler was defeated? How did we get a horse in that race? Why was an Imperial Japan any worse than Communist China? Sure the Japs bombed us but look at our policies- our propaganda actually portrayed them as rats/rodent like beings.Why does the US fight to disallow some spheres of influence and then give away the win frivolously?Hell guys who fought on Iwo drive Toyotas and Mishubitsis so the japs must be ok also.
Personally i think Bob Dylan got it right when he wrote With God On Our Side.
Well I guess this qualifies as a rant but like Dylan says - I'm weary as hell! It's hard to see that we even make a dent in the CW or PC patter.
All we have is each other.
jim

Rick98C said...

Pluto really nailed it.

Every now and then I can't resist responding to one of these Goebbelsian "HERO" forwards... I always regret my rashness.

Nobody I ever received one from has served a day in uniform, usually to include the Cub Scouts, but they do indeed get enormous emotional satisfaction from passing these things around like they are actually doing something.

I can't decide whether it's hilarious or utterly depressing (can't it be both?) that when I mention to one of these rabid loonies that I have umpteen years of service that I almost always get the reflexive and, to me, reprehensible, "thank you for your service."

At least it makes them pause for a moment, but then comes the predictable "but you of all people should (support, be enraged, whatever) this!"

The last guy I confronted actually calmed down after I wrote in my most gentle, sooth-an-anxious-dog voice....until he sent the next rant entitled "WHY I WOULD ELIMINATE LIBERALS"... chock full of astonishing typos and spelling errors. I sighed and deleted it and went looking for a Hopslam.