Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Different Kind of Battle

"We give the enemy the maximum opportunity to give his life for his country." - a motto widely used and recognized by the United States Military (especially by colonel Michael Dane Steele and the Rakkasans).

The first time I really considered the idea factions of the US military were corrupt, or at least partially so, was when I saw the movie, In the Valley of Elah, when Tommy Lee Jones flew the American flag up-side-down, signifying a country in distress. Of course we had seen glimpses in several other movies like A Few Good Men etc., but in the movie world, usually the "good" soldiers would come in and expose the baddies: Jack Nicholson-like egotists would confess their crimes causing their own downfalls, and we all would cheer and wave flags and sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Before I go any further and cause offense to my more patriotic readers, I would like to remind everyone that I am not anti-military or anti-US. I would also like to point out that I believe that blind patriotism is a very bad thing for any country and part of what makes our country great is that we are encouraged to question (as is necessary in true democracy) so that we can become part of the checks and balances system that keeps our country on the right track. I believe it is the duty of our citizens to inquire (to think!), and I am saddened when I see people embracing morally wrong acts in the name of patriotism. Protesting (voicing one's opinion, peacefully) is one of the most patriotic things one can do in a democracy. We know too well what protesting leads to in countries that do not embrace democracy. Specifically, see what's happening in Tehran or in Urumqi.

Back to the point.

Today was not the first time I came across the above mentioned quote. As a 12th grade teacher, many of my students opt to join the military. I actually had one who went to boot camp the summer before his senior year. All he could talk about was killing. In fact, one day when we were discussing some general philosophy (probably as an introduction to The Stranger - something like whether or not it is ever morally right to kill), the conversation turned to current events. With an arrogant air the student used the exact quote, word for word, to support his claim that some lives were worth less than others. He was in favor of "nuking the (Middle Eastern) bastards" because, "they're all terrorists, anyway, which makes it Ok." By the way, he was not familiar with where the actual fighting is taking place and he could not point out Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan on a map much less discuss the politics of any of it.

I tried not to react in anger. I took a deep breath and found myself utterly dumb. There was no response I could give that would undo boot camp. All that came out was "I cannot begin to explain to you, not only how wrong you are, but also how sad I feel that you can even entertain that idea." He tried to explain himself, but I interrupted to change the subject because my heart couldn't take it, and because (to some relief) several of my students physically stood up in protest.

I realize that the military is struggling with whether or not to "rebuild" certain areas, giving food and water to those who are cut off from it in war torn places, while trying to "hunt" the bad guys. Guerrilla warfare changes the rules of engagement. I understand that. What I don't understand is how it is ever Ok to kill civilians (or anyone for that matter), much less take pleasure in it. To do so diminishes our humanity, and takes away our honor. It makes us the terrorists.

There are many inquests going on in the military in the hopes of restoring some of the lost dignity to our armed forces. There are some very good men serving our country. In fact, many of them are my students, my kids. We owe it to them to shut down statements like the one Col. Steele likes to wield, and restore the good qualities in our heroes.

6 comments:

Kool Aid said...

ellseWow, you definitely generate questions and debates with your post. There's a great big part of me that agrees with everything you say, then there's another great big part of me that's married to a man who served in Afghanistan that, I'm sure, is quite familiar with that quote.

I'm glad I found you from SITS!

♥ Laura ♥ said...

I'd be very curious to know if your student who was so focused on killing changed his opinion (or at least brodened his view of what he was in the military for) after he went to boot camp.

Thanks for your post on my blog last night, I responded this morning. Hope you are well. Love, L

♥ Laura ♥ said...

I mean broadened. good grief I can't spell. if I mispelled any other words sorry I'm only on my 1st cup of coffee

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing this. It was pretty interesting to read...

Debbie said...

Wow. Just came upon your blog from SITS. Love this! I like a woman who isn't afraid to stir the pot and offer her opinion.

Jennifer said...

This is a different blog! Nice job!
I'm new to SITS!
Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Different Kind of Battle

"We give the enemy the maximum opportunity to give his life for his country." - a motto widely used and recognized by the United States Military (especially by colonel Michael Dane Steele and the Rakkasans).

The first time I really considered the idea factions of the US military were corrupt, or at least partially so, was when I saw the movie, In the Valley of Elah, when Tommy Lee Jones flew the American flag up-side-down, signifying a country in distress. Of course we had seen glimpses in several other movies like A Few Good Men etc., but in the movie world, usually the "good" soldiers would come in and expose the baddies: Jack Nicholson-like egotists would confess their crimes causing their own downfalls, and we all would cheer and wave flags and sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Before I go any further and cause offense to my more patriotic readers, I would like to remind everyone that I am not anti-military or anti-US. I would also like to point out that I believe that blind patriotism is a very bad thing for any country and part of what makes our country great is that we are encouraged to question (as is necessary in true democracy) so that we can become part of the checks and balances system that keeps our country on the right track. I believe it is the duty of our citizens to inquire (to think!), and I am saddened when I see people embracing morally wrong acts in the name of patriotism. Protesting (voicing one's opinion, peacefully) is one of the most patriotic things one can do in a democracy. We know too well what protesting leads to in countries that do not embrace democracy. Specifically, see what's happening in Tehran or in Urumqi.

Back to the point.

Today was not the first time I came across the above mentioned quote. As a 12th grade teacher, many of my students opt to join the military. I actually had one who went to boot camp the summer before his senior year. All he could talk about was killing. In fact, one day when we were discussing some general philosophy (probably as an introduction to The Stranger - something like whether or not it is ever morally right to kill), the conversation turned to current events. With an arrogant air the student used the exact quote, word for word, to support his claim that some lives were worth less than others. He was in favor of "nuking the (Middle Eastern) bastards" because, "they're all terrorists, anyway, which makes it Ok." By the way, he was not familiar with where the actual fighting is taking place and he could not point out Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan on a map much less discuss the politics of any of it.

I tried not to react in anger. I took a deep breath and found myself utterly dumb. There was no response I could give that would undo boot camp. All that came out was "I cannot begin to explain to you, not only how wrong you are, but also how sad I feel that you can even entertain that idea." He tried to explain himself, but I interrupted to change the subject because my heart couldn't take it, and because (to some relief) several of my students physically stood up in protest.

I realize that the military is struggling with whether or not to "rebuild" certain areas, giving food and water to those who are cut off from it in war torn places, while trying to "hunt" the bad guys. Guerrilla warfare changes the rules of engagement. I understand that. What I don't understand is how it is ever Ok to kill civilians (or anyone for that matter), much less take pleasure in it. To do so diminishes our humanity, and takes away our honor. It makes us the terrorists.

There are many inquests going on in the military in the hopes of restoring some of the lost dignity to our armed forces. There are some very good men serving our country. In fact, many of them are my students, my kids. We owe it to them to shut down statements like the one Col. Steele likes to wield, and restore the good qualities in our heroes.

6 comments:

Kool Aid said...

ellseWow, you definitely generate questions and debates with your post. There's a great big part of me that agrees with everything you say, then there's another great big part of me that's married to a man who served in Afghanistan that, I'm sure, is quite familiar with that quote.

I'm glad I found you from SITS!

♥ Laura ♥ said...

I'd be very curious to know if your student who was so focused on killing changed his opinion (or at least brodened his view of what he was in the military for) after he went to boot camp.

Thanks for your post on my blog last night, I responded this morning. Hope you are well. Love, L

♥ Laura ♥ said...

I mean broadened. good grief I can't spell. if I mispelled any other words sorry I'm only on my 1st cup of coffee

Amy said...

Thanks for sharing this. It was pretty interesting to read...

Debbie said...

Wow. Just came upon your blog from SITS. Love this! I like a woman who isn't afraid to stir the pot and offer her opinion.

Jennifer said...

This is a different blog! Nice job!
I'm new to SITS!
Have a great day!