Our militarist society, that celebrates the group over the individual and incessantly calls for self-sacrifice, enables the growth of empire and puts our youth at unnecessary risk. The fault for this starts with parents.
Well you see, said the devoted Mother, looking at her husband proudly, we are great parents. We really believe in what we did. For our Nation, you know. We encouraged Jimmy and told him he would be honored and respected. He would get to wear a uniform and shiny buttons. I think he understood, don’t you dear? she asked her husband. He silently nodded his head but one could detect a little hesitation. Finally he cleared his throat and said, “Most all the other parents feel this way, and sometimes it works out good and sometimes,” he glanced down nervously, “sometimes not as good.”
The sympathetic reporter asked, “So he did it because he was good patriot, right?”
“Oh, my yes,” said the Mother. “Most of his friends were also going. They carried little flags and wore their uniforms. They all looked so handsome and adorable.”
The reporter nodded his head sympathetically and said, “Well we all appreciate his courage and sacrifice, and your sacrifice also. You are great parents and so brave.”
The Mother nodded her head vigorously but the father nodded his head slowly and thoughtfully, his eyes sad and distant.
The reporter laid a sympathetic hand on the Mother’s hand, Only “Great Parents” would take their toddler out of their stroller and send them out into the highway traffic and on Memorial Day too, as you did little Jimmy. All of us here in the USA are so proud of little Jimmy and appreciate all the parent’s sacrifice of their little children. We lost some brave little soldiers today but a few came through, thank God.
Now back to you Tom. Can you give us that weather report?
Unlike many of the anti-war people, I do not blame the young enlistees. Unlike many of them, as much as I appreciate their writings and efforts, I will posit a different viewpoint: I emphatically blame the parents. When parents encourage the idea of going into the military, they are supplementing the ongoing and tremendous pressure put on many children from their first awareness. Glorifying the military and war, relatives bragging about their stint in the military, media extolling the honor and courage of the heroes, schools glorifying “national interest” and shaming children for holding ideas that are selfish (self interested) in any areas. The individual should be subordinate to the group. The group is a smaller part of the large national interest. Right?
The very clear message is that their own interests, indeed their future, is nothing compared to the importance of society’s needs. To cinch the feeling of duty, over the whole land hangs the constant drum beat of the evil intent of the “Others” always lurking in strange lands. They are, we are all told, ready to sneak over here and murder us if we do not (honorably, of course) kill them first.
These enlistees are indeed like toddlers, the boys barely needing to shave. Besides a lack of maturity physically, most have not been taught logical, critical thinking. Many of these young people have never held a job, managed their own money, had to make life and death decisions or even contemplate them. Most are simply not able to make the kind of decisions to go or not go into the military.
Even if they were mature in one sense, no generation has been immune from immersion in the nationalistic brainwashing. They hear a constant barrage of messages calling for sacrifice of one kind or another. It comes not just from their own parents. Surrounding them is continual noise from the media, schools, and relatives that their ”service” is needed to protect the Nation. We will praise their sacrifice. If they have the bad luck to come home without legs, blind, or disfigured with scars from burns, well, that is too bad but necessary. They had better fight them there than over here. They will be doing it for the rest of us.
What is one life compared to the many lives they will save. Their own life cannot compete in value to the whole. Nationalism, not some selfish individualistic ideology is above all, pragmatic. We are all depending on you now; off you go.