Apparently, I do not understand the purpose of “social networks.” I admit I’m a holdover from previous generations who learned to tolerate diverse opinions; even if those opinions were not respectable. Today, we’re either on one side or the other.
I got into a Facebook discussion about the purpose of our military over the last 50 years with a kid who seems to believe that having served in our military gives him a “higher power” platform for his opinions.
After disagreeing with his devout opinion1 that any military service gives the service member some sort of religious standing, he wrote: “Ah, I see you very well now, Thomas. You're a one-note choir without anything to add to _this_ topic unless it involves knee-jerk opposition to your military and everything it does, stands for, or is capable of. You disregard even the possibility of something valuable or noble in soldiers, whom you see as lesser citizens -- even lesser humans -- than yourself. You blithely generalize that hundreds of thousands of your fellow American citizens would be ‘perfectly happy’ to shoot you up on any order, because apparently you can see into their heads and hearts better than can their peers.
“If you say it loud enough and long enough, to enough people, that may make it true -- for you. Some of us have a broader experience of fellow soldiers, and expect them to comport themselves faithfully and professionally because that is more than their job. It is their sworn oath, undertaken on your behalf and mine.
I’ve heard this definition of “bigot” before, but failed to understand the intended meaning (something considerably different than the traditional Webster’s definition). I’ve heard it from biker gangbangers, when I disrespected their “right” or moral authority to terrorize the general public. I’ve heard it from modern country musicians after I questioned their rural authenticity, when the only thing they know about the country is that audiences in the country are insufficient to support the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.
With Jack’s response, all of a sudden, I got it. What “bigot” means is that I am unwilling to submit to their threat of banishment or worse if I don’t, at least, pretend to be afraid of them. It gives them a position from which any sort of violence, from cyber to physical, can be justified. It’s obvious where members of our military would learn this response.
The good thing about these probably-short-lived social networks is that disparate people and opinions have the opportunity to break across social, physical, economic, and spiritual barriers. The sad fact is that we Americans have lost most of the capacity to see across those lines because of our personal history (what you would call "bigotry"). While the technology our country has concentrated on developing has been massively destructive to the world, our democracy, and our nation's future, it's nothing new. Failed empires have pounded on their chests exciting young men to useless, amoral, destructive wars, invasions, and to overreact to oversized (relative to real) threats as long as humans have recorded history (and likely beyond).
It is no surprise that men and women who have given a portion of their lives and sanity to this pretense of national "defense." Our discussion has reminded me of friends returning from Vietnam who desperately wanted those who didn't engage in those atrocities to "honor" their sacrifice. I can't express how sad I was for them and for the many wasted lives resulting from the damage they suffered, physically and mentally. Some good friends returned from that war so angry and incapacitated that they never recovered. This insistence on "honoring" the warrior even if the war was evil seems to be a new thing. My father's generation spent a lot of energy trying to forget what they were forced to do in WWII. Korean War vets were the first guys I knew who had a sense of desperation about getting credit for having done something questionable or awful.
Vietnam and Iraq vets have a lot in common in that they both have massive sins to live down and want to be told they did something less awful than their senses witnessed. I get that, but can’t help them with their illusions of morality. They fell for the oldest trick in human history and want to be comforted for their error. There is a reason the military wants young men for this task and it is not because they are “the best and the brightest.”
As for my belief that more than enough of our current members of the military would be “‘perfectly happy’ to shoot [me] up on any order,” I think history has already demonstrated that to be likely. This is very much the old Churchill question about prostitution. Based on the response of too many members and ex-members of the military to any sort of dissent from within (including the article from which this discussion originated), I think Newspeak is the only language the military can handle. My phrase was “most military members" will be perfectly happy to fire on American citizens if they are so ordered.” We could debate their happiness, but I have no doubt that at least 50% of the current mercenary military would fire on order. From what I’ve seen, military happiness is a rare condition, so they’d be as happy as usual, at worst.
A discussion that includes the possibility that our oversized military has often been used to defend interests other than that of the average citizen is off limits and “unpatriotic.” However, there is a good reason why police departments give priority to military vets and it is not a politically correct reason; it is because they will follow orders regardless of morality, legality, or any other rational argument. I suspect in my lifetime, we will find that the “volunteer army” will be volunteering for some pretty nasty domestic duty.
1 The words that inspired Mr. Lewis to such irritation were, “. . . the original post used several examples of men (like John Kerry) who openly opposed the militaristic bend of the nation of the time as cowards and called soldiers who disguised their identities as cowards. Clearly, the ‘thought’ is that if you're in uniform, you should conform. If the JCS comes to congressional hearings and television interviews in uniform to promote their wars, it seems disingenuous to disallow their opponents the same ‘credibility’ platform. ‘Most military members’ will be perfectly happy to fire on American citizens if they are so ordered, so using that generality doesn't make me feel much safer in my opposition to the military.” [NOTE: For the math-disabled, “most” means more than 50%.]