"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I pity the fools

It's a subject I touched on a few times before, and I'm considering inserting a picture of myself flogging a deceased equine subject. But, in this crazy, crazy world of chaos and anarchy, I find it comforting to know that a few things, at least, have consistency; and one of those things is the ignorant condescension that drips down the long, long noses of the high and mighty as they deign to turn their gaze upon those poor suckers in uniform. Matt Damon has added his name to this long list of luminaries, tossing out a couple of cliches about people who only volunteer for "financial reasons" and then adding that he thinks the Bush twins should go. The bottom line, as it is with so others who opine this way, is that if only the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful were forced to sign up, we'd never have any wars (or at least "unjust" wars) because the powers-that-be would never risk their offspring.

Matt Damon, fortunately, is not a policy-maker, so I feel no qualms about dismissing his vacuousness as the sad consequence of living a lifestyle completely detached from the real world. I don't begrudge him that life; hell, I'll probably pony up fifteen bucks for the next Bourne film. I just wish these stars would stop thinking that their riches and success make them somehow qualified to comment on the serious business of government policy.

Charles Rangel, though, is a policy-maker, which makes his
detachment from reality far less excusable. I'm a few days (weeks?) late on this, partly because immediately after he opened his mouth, myself and a hundred of my uneducated, poverty-stricken comrades departed for the hinterlands of Nevada to conduct cold-weather training with our aircraft for ten days, all the while bemoaning the fact that if only the Bush daughters were here, we wouldn't have to worry about fighting a rich white man's war (though, honestly, having the Bush twins with us would probably do a lot for morale no matter where we went . . .). I was quite impressed when I got back at the response from those both in and out of uniform. Mr. Rangel, it seems, is the one who needs help with his facts, not the Heritage Foundation. These links are lengthy and there are a lot of them, but I'd highly suggest giving them a once-over: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII.

What are we to make of this? That our military is not, in fact, primarily composed of the poor and uneducated who have been lured to their deaths with promises of money and an education? Seems pretty obvious. As for those who did join - there are some - to leave behind a bad social situation to find something better, or seek educational opportunities not otherwise available to them: why is that something to disparage?

The pontifications of a Rangel, Kerry, or Damon tell us far more about the inquisitors than the inquisited. I know I've mentioned it before, but it tells us of a grave disconnect between those in this country with power and influence, and those without. The problem lies not with those who join the military, for whatever reason, but with those who pity them in thinking they couldn't do any better. That anyone would join, especially in time of war, is not some socioeconomic issue at the bottom, but a cultural issue at the top. It tells us that notions like patriotism, duty, self-improvement, comradeship, shared sacrifice, and challenging one's self still exist in most corners of America, but have vanished in the penthouse. Yeah, it'd be nice to see the Bush twins and the offspring of many other movers and shakers in the military (whether or not Diana's sons ever see front-line duty, they're still wearing the uniform), but not as some kind of curb on ill-conceived foreign expeditions. They should volunteer to fulfill the old adage that to whom much is given, much is expected. It would be a sign that the ruling class still has the same values as those whom they rule. Rather than curbing war, it would prove that, no matter how rich or powerful one is, they understand that there are times when a country faces dangers so grave that it requires sacrifice from everyone.

If Rangel has a problem with who's serving, then he should start kicking the asses of his fellow congressmen and ask them why they've failed to impart basic values to their children, rather than mock those who still believe that love of country is a good thing. And if he thinks that having the children of the privileged in uniform will suddenly make lawmakers look that much harder at foreign intervention, that's only proof that his class of people already suffer from a grave and irresponsible moral failing: devaluing the lives of the men and women who execute their policies. It shouldn't matter whether a man's parents work in the Senate or Wal-mart; he's an American, he placed his life in your hands, and if that simple fact doesn't make you think good and hard about what to do with him, then you're a sick, callous individual.


Bree said...

"...no matter how rich or powerful one is, they understand that there are times when a country faces dangers so grave that it requires sacrifice from everyone."

Dude, subject-verb agreement!

Secondly, while Matt Damon is obviously no great speaker, I think you are skewing his words. Ultimately, he is saying the same thing you are: namely, that it wouldn't hurt to see some of the rich and famous getting down and dirty, too.

Cincinnatus said...

It certainly wouldn't hurt to see the rich and famous putting themselves in harm's way. It's not too much to ask, and not even unprecedented, as, until recently, military service was quite common amongst celebrities (though I find it hard to picture Matt Damon earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, like Jimmy Stewart).

Read more of his interview though, and you see what I think is a common strain of thought in all-stars like him: namely, "everyone should serve", but not me. This link has some more of that discussion: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009410 . Funny how he talks about "shared consciousness and shared sense of sacrifice", and then when asked if he would ever consider joining the military, the most he can muster is bromides about "complex questions" and "certain situations". Seems like his "everybody" isn't all-inclusive.