David Masciotra, writing in Salon, lays the wood to all of us “childish” Americans who harbor the “childlike” notion that all soldiers are heroes.
Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.
It’s impossible already when Masciotra and his friends reject the premises upon which U.S. foreign policy is based. Stopping the hero worship of cops and soldiers won’t alter that one iota.
“Rhetorical sloppiness”? How does “anointing” soldiers as heroes constitute rhetoric of any kind and how is it sloppy? Writers who want to sound important and knowledgeable who are unimportant and ignorant employ such ridiculous criticisms in order play to their peanut gallery of equally ignorant lefties. It’s a meaningless statement but it sure sounds good, especially when paired with the pejorative “intellectual shallowness.”
So speaks the author of an upcoming book on that sage of sages, John Cougar Mellencamp.
And what’s this “cultural streak” of “nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism”? Sheesh. All that because many of us admire soldiers and cops? Dial up this fellow’s meds because it’s obvious his paranoia is out of control. It is impossible to see how thinking soldiers and cops are heroes would lead to totalitarianism. Maybe Masciotra is projecting a wee bit much, no? Admiring Che and Mao could easily lead to a totalitarian mindset because, well, they were bloodthirsty totalitarians. Soldiers fighting for the freedom of us or others and cops who are trying to beat back the savages of the street who don’t think twice of murdering anybody (including the police) deserve a little more consideration.
But, wait, it gets better…
It is equally challenging for anyone reasonable, and not drowning in the syrup of patriotic sentimentality, to stop saluting, and look at the servicemen of the American military with criticism and skepticism. There is a sexual assault epidemic in the military. In 2003, a Department of Defense study found that one-third of women seeking medical care in the VA system reported experiencing rape or sexual violence while in the military. Internal and external studies demonstrate that since the official study, numbers of sexual assaults within the military have only increased, especially with male victims. According to the Pentagon, 38 men are sexually assaulted every single day in the U.S. military. Given that rape and sexual assault are, traditionally, the most underreported crimes, the horrific statistics likely fail to capture the reality of the sexual dungeon that has become the United States military.
Chelsea Manning, now serving time in prison as a whistle-blower, uncovered multiple incidents of fellow soldiers laughing as they murdered civilians. Keith Gentry, a former Navy man, wrote that when he and his division were bored they preferred passing the time with the “entertainment” of YouTube videos capturing air raids of Iraq and Afghanistan, often making jokes and mocking the victims of American violence. If the murder of civilians, the rape of “brothers and sisters” on base, and the relegation of death and torture of strangers as fodder for amusement qualifies as heroism, the world needs better villains.
Please note the gigantic strawman set up by Masciotra. We nationalistic, authoritarian, chauvinistic totalitarians look at all cops and all soldiers as heroes. No exaggeration there. And Chelsea Manning is, of course, an unimpeachable witness who has absolutely no ax to grind with the U.S. military and is a paradigm of virtue. Forget the fact that Manning purloined secret documents and handed them off to people whose devout wish is to bring America down and that these documents gave our enemies killing Americans on the battlefield invaluable insight into our methods and operations. It is still unclear how many people died as a result of Manning’s treachery.
No one elevates soldiers to hero status for anything that Masciotra criticizes them for. It’s just another strawman that he can knock down by ascribing false beliefs to those who think that soldiers and police should be admired for their service.
One more example of wild, bizarre exaggeration:
Given the dubious and dangerous nature of American foreign policy, and the neglect and abuse veterans often suffer when returning home wounded or traumatized, Americans, especially those who oppose war, should do everything they can to discourage young, poor and working-class men and women from joining the military. Part of the campaign against enlistment requires removing the glory of the “hero” label from those who do enlist. Stanley Hauerwas, a professor of divinity studies at Duke whom Time called “America’s best theologian,” has suggested that, given the radical pacifism of Jesus Christ, American churches should do all they can to discourage its young congregants from joining the military. Haurwas’ brand of intellectual courage is necessary, even among non-Christians, to combat the hysterical sycophancy toward the military in a culture where even saluting a Marine, while holding a coffee cup, is tantamount to terrorism.
I don’t recall anyone claiming that President Obama’s disrespectful salute was “tantamount to terrorism.” What is it with this guy? All he does by writing such overwrought drivel is reveal himself to be a hack. Masciotra’s writing is cheap, gimmicky, soulless crap. His ideas and opinions are half-formed, rancid demonstrations of a worldview that equates nationalism with authoritarianism, and judges more than 2 million active duty military personnel based on the actions of an extraordinarily few misfits, sociopaths, and malcontents.
But as an article in a liberal rag celebrating Veterans Day, it doesn’t get any better.