Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The militarization of American culture

It has become a thought crime to say anything even mildly critical of the military. Swaddled in patriotic sentimentality, praised for heroism irrespective of deeds, built up as the supreme symbol of nation, the American soldier has become the face of 21st century hyper-patriotism on the left as well as the right.

On the left, there is the opportunistic promotion of so-called fighting Dems (Air America, Daily Kos) to challenge Republicans for office. Status as a veteran, preferably of the latest imperial war, has become a virtual sine qua non for party support in the next election. The militarization of Kerry's image at the last Democratic convention is just a taste of what is to come. Alexander Cockburn writes
The latest evidence is that Rahm Emanuel, in charge of selecting Democratic Congressional candidates for 2006, is choosing millionaires and fence-straddlers on the war. He shunned Christine Cegelis, who nearly beat sixteen-termer Henry Hyde in 2004, and whom Illinois polls show to be a popular contender to succeed Hyde. But Cegelis has the disadvantage in Emanuel's eyes of not being very rich and of agreeing with John Murtha on immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Emanuel picks Tammy Duckworth, who embodies the cynicism of the "Democratic strategists", being a double-amputee woman Iraq veteran who is not from the district, has a hot-air position on the war and is thought to espouse a "pro-business/centrist platform."
Fueled by the myth that returning troops from Vietnam were spit upon by cowardly and traitorous war protestors, and perhaps by the fact that only soldiers, not civilians have been called upon to sacrifice, soldiers have been transformed into icons.
For civilians, the chance to directly touch a military member or family can be irresistible, so much so that people break the comfortable anonymity of public places--airports, hotels, supermarkets--to walk up and pat a soldier on the back.
Valorized as near supermen, as steely in character as they are in battle, soldiers are nonetheless treated like fragile flowers that can be undermined by the slightest criticism of the war on the homefront. The ubiquitous slogan Support our Troops encourages this conflation of the real physical danger they face with the fantasized danger of criticism. Despite the fact that they are the instruments of an unjust war in which the killing of innocent non-combattants is a matter of routine, it has become impossible to say in public that what they are doing is wrong. And that is the point of course.

Me? I don't support the troops. I pity them. They are tools in an unjust war, called upon to risk their lives and to murder others in pursuit of rich men's fantasies of empire.

lenin's tomb offers some historical context on sentimentalizing the soldier.


At 12/28/2005 1:52 PM, Blogger Comandante AgĂ­ said...

Have you seen those yellow ribbons that read: "Subvert Our Troops"?


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