Perhaps it is common to every generation to wonder whether or not their society or civilization as they have known it is going to hell. Part of this owes to, no doubt, that memory tends to employ a filter, or that in our younger years we are less engaged with the fate of the world or society than we are with our own personal needs and development. Nevertheless, I wonder.
Take the military for example. I grew up during World War II and the decade that followed. I had relatives in the military who I regarded with great respect and admiration. Although I knew when and where they served I never knew very specifically their war experience (perhaps one never could). I grew up on the war movies of the time as well; the propagandistic ones that came out in my childhood during the war, and many of the subsequent movies that portrayed us as victors. They were, in great part, so far as I can recall, all positive about the exploits of all branches of American military service. Even those productions about World War II that have come out in recent years (Band of Brothers, Saving Pvt. Ryan, and the documentary the war, among others) have been laudatory and positive, as contrasted with films about the Vietnam War (Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and others) that are darker, more negative, or ambiguous about not only our national political motivations, but the behaviors of our military. That ambiguity owes much to our national inability to distinguish between enemies with imperialistic military designs such as Germany and Japan and conflicts of internal ideological origins such as Korea and Vietnam. In that process we have gone from a nearly isolationist state in WWI and WWII to an opportunistic international bully that interprets the interests of its global corporate interests and military–industrial complex as matters of “national defense” and our globally-deployed superior professionalized military might as its handmaiden. We have evolved to a self-perpetuating def-con mode. At the same time we have evolved a self-propagating propagandistic media to justify and rationalize it.
It is Veterans Day again and our news media are full of references to past wars and current wars, flags are fluttering everywhere, patriotic speeches being made, veterans being hauled out at college and NFL football games, and much is being made of the sacrifices of those for whom we now reflexively thank “for their service.” This is always a time in which I am conflicted. In these pages I have remembered probably the service rendered by my uncles during World War I and World War II [ 85.1, 3.8, 46.2, 62.5]. But since that war I have questioned whether America has been engaged in any conflict that has been necessary to protect my country. At the same time, many American men and women have been killed or wounded in those conflicts, some of them who firmly believed they were justified, and others who were drafted into them, or pressured to serve by economic circumstances.
Nevertheless, we are expected to be grateful for their service, even if it is in what I regard as unnecessary and or unjust wars instituted by my country. We are also increasingly expected to regard our killed and wounded soldiers as “heroes” and “wounded warriors” when little concern is accorded those casualties that are simply regarded as “collateral damage” in these conflicts and, in some cases, when there have been egregious, if not criminal (though largely unpunished), malfeasances perpetrated upon civilians by some American service personnel. While I know that there are military that serve honorably in combat I also know that there are many who are “rear echelon” personnel. It is also difficult to reconcile glamorizing television commercials by the various armed forces with un-heroic* reports of atrocities upon non-combatants, the infiltration of military academies by Christian religious organizations and as many as 26,000 rapes of female military personnel.
Over the past few weeks I have received several unsolicited calls during the daytime hours from an organization called the “woundedwarriors.org.” It’s the typical unsolicited call were they asked me what my name is first, then addressed me by first names as if we were old friend. The caller followed by informing me that he was not making a solicitation but just wanting to provide information, and that information in this case is about United States armed services veterans who have incurred various wounds of severity in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only after he described these various sorts of injuries and indicated the good work his organization does in providing various forms of aid, that they asked me would I not like to make a contribution to support “our wounded warriors and their families.”
Of course it is all set up to make you feel like you are an insensitive, parsimonious curmudgeon if you decline to contribute the $19.95 that they “suggest.” How could one not care for the suffering of a soldier who has lost his limbs, genitals, maybe more, or is suffering from catastrophic head injury, loss of arms, or PTSD, TBI, or other forms of trauma that are inflicted in a war in which injuries are inflicted primarily by explosive blasts.
At this point I had no way of determining if the solicitation was coming from Al Qaeda or just some guy who has found an easy way to make a buck. I asked for a link to their website. It has photos of various soldiers wearing prosthetic limbs, with their families, attempting to provide lifestyle together despite their missing parts and damaged psyches. It’s an organization run out of the suite in some office complex in Jacksonville Florida (frankly, any organization from Florida is suspect). At the bottom of the webpage it says that it is a 501(c)3 organization, but that doesn’t allay much of my concern about this project.
The next call I received from the same organization I indicated to the lady that I have already paid for the support of America’s wounded warriors when I paid my federal income tax. I related that I expected that some of that money what to the Veterans Administration and other governmental auspices that putatively provide care and funding for the disabilities that soldiers have incurred during the course of their deployments. I also made the point to her that my federal income taxes have for years gone to support two preemptive, and in my view, illegal, wars in which the soldiers have been injured. I added that I regretted that they were put in harm’s way in the first place.
She hung up on me. But that didn’t daunt them. They were back couple days later with a call while I was making my lunch, a different woman this time, but I just picked up on were I left off saying that they should put their efforts into lobbying and pressuring the Department of Defense and other appropriate offices of government to do a better job taking care of the people they get injured, and cease applying guilt pressure––and especially cease alleging that these unfortunate men and women have been damaged for life “protecting my life and freedoms” when my country hasn’t entered into or started a war since WWII that has had a goddamn thing to do with protecting me or my country from any credible danger or threat. Her scarcely concealed response that I was an ungrateful, unpatriotic citizen that did not appreciate the sacrifices of “our military heroes,” really tore it and sealed off any possibility I would give even one cent to this organization.**
Most recently, what prompts these thoughts and opinions is that wounded warriors.org has been running television spots introduced by some country singer, wearing requisite cowboy hat, and drawling that we owe it to these wounded warriors who fought “for us.” I didn’t expect them to be using a university professor as a spokesperson, but the drawing country singer, the same types they used to sell trucks in television commercials, is definitely another deal-breaker for me.
Portraying our wounded soldiers as heroes and wounded warriors, rather than as the “victims” that they are of a governmental system that is corrupted with war profiteering, the construction of weapons systems and military bases that comprise substantial amounts of the economies of red states that consistently support exorbitant defense expenditures, the perpetuation of wars, and often, perversely, are unsupportive of sufficient expenditures for the medical needs of the “wounded warriors” that their interests and policies create. For the citizenry to be forcibly made complicit in this process by way of their payment of taxes is difficult enough to abide, but to be asked to help promote and propagate the fiction of our military actions and its deleterious consequences is to enlist us in the perpetuation of a lie and a fundamentally immoral process. That some many of those who have served honorably and out of patriotism have their victimhood euphemistically-cloaked in events and media dramatizations and “heroes” and “wounded warriors,” and so many have taken their own lives is a tragic national hypocrisy.
© 2013 James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.11.2013)