Friday, January 28, 2011

Thank You For Your Service ™

Journalists have been pointing out the growing divide - the lack of common ground - between the military and the population for some time now - how we have so few people under arms, how they are becoming economically and more demographically separate from the country, how almost nobody knows anyone in the military anymore, but most recently Bad-Boy General turned Yale Professor Stanley McChrystal hit the nail on the head, if you ask me.

We need to re-capture or re-define what service means.

We are now a nation that lives in the context of entitlement and victimhood.  We're entitled to everything we want when we want it, and we're victims because the government, the immigrants, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Gnomes of Zurich, the Tea Baggers, the economy, the university intellectuals, the Christians, the godless atheists, fucking China  we are making it hard to have cheap resources, ridiculously high paying jobs, government-funded everything, cheap cell phones, mansions and a huge powerful caveman-bombing military while just wishing the money to pay for it into existence because goddammit we're the most heavily taxed undertaxed nation in the world!  We justify our sense of entitlement and sooth our sense of victimhood by doing two simple things:

1. Thanking the troops.  Thank you.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for protecting my freedom.  Thank you for being there so I can thank you so now I can feel as if I don't have to do anything but continue to thank you and bitch about whatever group of people are bad Americans based upon what my favorite TV pundit posing as a good American tells me.  Now that I've thanked you and my well-being is in your hands, all I have to worry about is whether I should switch to Verizon or wait for the iPhone 5 to come out.  Thank you for keeping me safe enough to buy an iPhone.

2. Crying for the troops and their families and talking about how brave they are.  Because they are the real victims.  It's so sad that daddy has to go overseas and it makes me cry and I wish I could do something, but I need my iPhone and I've already thanked your daddy or mommy, so I'll just cry some more for you or maybe send you some money or some stuff so that I can feel better about the victim culture I live in because your are the real victim, having to get daddy's skull half blown off for iPhones.  And freedom.  Oh, and to keep those nasty turrrurrururuists from building houses of worship here in America.

DISCLAIMER - In case my poorly written attempt at sarcasm is unclear, read this.  Otherwise, skip to the next paragraph: My intent here is not to belittle what anyone in our armed forces or their families go through or imply that they are undeserving of understanding, respect and sympathy. Their task is huge and unforgiving and after 20 years of active service I know very well what we are involved in and what our families go through. Rather, I believe the ubiquity of the Support Our Troops® mentality points to a certain "hollowness" of many of its practitioners.

I will not go into the causes or reasons for this as there are many, and blame lays in industry, in government, in the populace, in the military - no corner of this society is untouched.

But McChrystal's message went largely unheard.  Because nobody wants to hear it.  But then again, most people can't relate to the General.

So maybe someone people CAN relate to can get the message across? 


There was an opportunity here.  An opportunity for Brokaw and Woodward, two well-known and thinking people to make McChrystal's point as well.  Both had an opportunity, but decided to link involvement to having sympathy and compassion for a small segment of the population vice the entire population thinking about how they could take ownership for this place instead of bitching at each other.

Once Oprah picks something, you know the branding is complete. Not only America's fighting men and women are no longer even remotely accessible or understandable to most other Americans, but they are finally a trademarked message that tells the rest of the country "You don't have to be invested in this place anymore.  You just have to feel bad for the troops." What a bunch of fucking crap.

The whole thought of what I'm getting at is pretty idealistic.  It'd take leadership in places where we don't currently have the right kind of leadership.  Just thinking that way probably makes me part of the problem.  So I'm going to do something about it - tomorrow, I am going snowboarding.

I may get one of these.


MRMacrum said...

Gen. McChrystal's essay was well written and his points well made. However, he failed to give the complete picture. If one were to take his twist at face value, they might think we are a country full of losers who take what we have for granted without feeling obligated in any way to pay with our sweat for it.

Bullshit. McCrystal does not even mention once the huge numbers of people who volunteer in this country. I know he was talking about "national service" as a dedicated time and paid for sacrifice for the country, but by not even mentioning the network of volunteers, he slaps their efforts in the face.

The US(15%) is just behind Australia(18%) at number 2 for the highest percentage of the population who give their time freely to help others. The 3rd rated country is not even in double digits.

That said, McCrystal and you make some very solid points about what is one of the major problems with the national attitude. And you point up the failing of the media stars to focus on what's right and instead only point out the whining, the back biting, the bullshit.

We are only living in the context of victimhood and entitlement because that seems to be the only thing our leaders focus on. We need to demand that they change the dialog, lead by example, and stop focusing on blame. We need our leaders to recognize problems and then seek our support and efforts in fixing them instead of seeking our support to challenge the oppositon.

Beach Bum said...

Chef you've read enough of my stuff to know I feel the same way. And while I understand what Mike wrote about the large number of people working in non-military voluntary services there is for me no greater distaste than to have a co-worker constantly mouth the words about "supporting the troops" but yet bitch and rant about having to take my weekend shift because I had National Guard drill which cuts into his deer hunting time. I am long since retired now but that instance and others has stayed with me.

From my viewpoint there is a huge nebulous population in this country that neither serves in the military nor assists in social activism for the betterment of all. They are disconnected from the world and nation but can tell you the latest adventures of many celebrities and reality show personalities. But like Chef wrote they are the first to bitch when something disturbs their pleasant existence.

Due to my attempt at brevity my comments are simplistic and my possible answer to this is even shorter. I sincerely believe a draft needs to be re-instituted drawing in a far wider social and economic slice of Americans into the services. It is far too easy for far too many to sit on the sidelines of life while other shed blood or make honest efforts to better humanity. I know most generals and admirals do not want a draft but in the long run I think the exposure to something tougher and harder than middle class life would open many eyes on several different levels.

Damn, still too long, sorry Chef.

Randal Graves said...

Unlike Mr. General Crystal Meth, when we start seeing live remote of cheering Green Bay or Pittsburgh teachers on a Super Bowl telecast instead of the empire's lackeys (c'mon, that's all the military is, the state doesn't give a flying fuck about them, mere disposable cannon fodder) cheering from the latest misguided Asian bullshit, then *I* will know we've arrived.

Incentivize? Never trust anyone who uses that word.

Chef Cthulhu said...

Crum - you make a great point, and you're not the only one to point it out to me.

BB - of course, said co-worker wouldn't have though twice on the weekends when a hurricane was in the area and Carolina Guardsmen were giving up their weekends to stand ready "just in case" the hurricane landed. Long comments are just fine. Generating discussion is good.

Randal, you'd never see me complain if that were to happen. And the misguided Asian bullshit is what happens when the majority of people believe the government can do everything for them and all they have to do is keep on shopping vice try to understand and engage themselves in the greater debate. Q. E. D.

"Cannon fodder"? Sniff. You hurt my fee-wings.