Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sibling Rivalry

Another day, another forwarded e-mail from my brother, another rant on the blog.

Military Rules for Non-Military Personnel

Dear Civilians,

We know that the current state of affairs in our great nation have many civilians up in arms and excited to join the military. For those of you who can't join, you can still lend a hand. Here are a few of the areas where we would like your assistance:

(1) The next time you see an adult talking (or wearing a hat) during the playing of the National Anthem---kick their ass.
(2) When you witness, firsthand, someone burning the American Flag in protest---kick their ass.
(3) Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every second. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their ass.
(4) (GUYS) If you were never in the military, DO NOT pretend that you were. Wearing battle dress uniforms (BDUs, cammies), telling others that you used to be "Special Forces," and collecting GI Joe memorabilia, might have been okay when you were seven years old. Now, it will only make you look stupid and get your ass kicked.
(5) Next time you come across an Air Force member, do not ask them, "Do you fly a jet?" Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. Such ignorance deserves an ass-kicking (children are exempt).
(6) If you witness someone calling the US Coast Guard 'non-military', inform them of their mistake---and kick their ass.
(7) Next time Old Glory (the US flag) prances by during a parade, get on your damn feet and pay homage to her by placing your hand over your heart. And, of course, if someone around you doesn't, feel free to kick their ass. Quietly thank the military member or veteran lucky enough to be carrying her (American Flag)---of course, failure to do either of those could earn you a severe ass-kicking.
(8) Don't try to discuss politics with a military member or a veteran.. We are Americans, and we all bleed the same, regardless of our party affiliation. Our Chain of Command is to include our Commander-In-Chief (CinC). The President (for those who didn't know) is our CinC regardless of political party. We have no inside track on what happens inside those big important buildings where all those representatives meet. All we know is that when those civilian representatives screw up the situation, they call upon the military to go straighten it out. If you keep asking us the same stupid questions repeatedly, you will get your ass kicked!
(9) 'Your mama wears combat boots' never made sense to me---stop saying it! If she did, she would most likely be a vet and therefore, could kick your ass!
(10) Bin Laden and the Taliban are not Communists, so stop saying 'Let's go kill those Commies!' And stop asking us where he is! Crystal balls are not standard issue in the military. That reminds me---if you see anyone calling those damn psychic phone numbers, let me know, so I can go kick their ass.
(11) 'Flyboy'(AirForce), 'Jarhead'(Marines), 'Grunt' (Army), 'Squid' (Navy), 'Puddle Jumpers' (Coast Guard), etc., are terms of endearment we use describing each other. Unless you are a service member or vet, you have not earned the right to use them. That could get your ass kicked.
(12) Last, but not least, whether or not you become a member of the military, support our troops and their families. Every Thanksgiving and religious holiday that you enjoy with family and friends, please remember that there are literally thousands of sailors and troops far from home wishing they could be with their families. Thank God for our military and the sacrifices they make every day. Without them, our country would get its ass kicked.*

"It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press."
"It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech."
"It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate."
"It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."
"If you can read this, thank a teacher"
"If you are reading it in English, thank a veteran."

Sigh. Where to start?

If you think freedom of the press, speech, and assembly have been given by the military rather than by the Constitution, look up your old high school government teacher, go to his house, and--in the spirit of this e-mail--kick his ass because he didn't teach you shit.

Juuuuuust had to get that out of my system. This endlessly repeating pattern drives me nuts, no matter who does it--the twisting of a tenable position (the military protects the country from takeover by hostile forces that would likely deny us the full spectrum of civil rights enumerated in the US Constitution) into an untenable one (civil rights exist solely due to the military). Does the statement "it is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press" reflect some portion of reality on a general scale? Yes. Is it accurate as worded? Nope. As worded, does it serve any purpose other than advancing general ignorance and a specific dogma? Nope.There's a reason the military is not tasked with the enforcement of civil law in this country. It would be a fucking disaster and there would be no civil law. Spend some time in a country where civil rights are extended or rescinded on the whims of the generals and tell me how that went when you get home.

My brother sends this sort of thing along on a regular basis. After fisking one too many of his forwarded right-wing screeds and sending it back to him (although I've refrained from pointing out inaccuracies, half-truths, and flat-out lies to his entire mailing list, no matter how sore the temptation), he's taken to adding a disclaimer that usually goes something like I don't know if Jay Leno really wrote this or not, but it's funny and makes some good points, so if you agree pass this along and if you don't, just delete it. As far as he's concerned, I have no sense of humor. As far as I'm concerned, if you have to distort the truth or fabricate "facts" to support your position, your position is probably bullshit maybe you should redirect your energy into revising your position.

I can pick nits with the e-mail above until the cows come home. #11 is amusing since I have never heard my Army brother refer to any other branch of the military except the Marines with any respect at all, unless making jokes about gay sex between Navy guys counts as another term of endearment he earned the right to use in Ranger school. #6 (don't bust on the Coast Guard) is doubly amusing since he did exactly that over Christmas last year, trying to talk his way into a gym in Flagstaff for free on the strength of his Army ID card. The girl at the desk said her boyfriend was in the Coast Guard, and my brother replied, "Well, I'm in the real military." Strangely enough, his buddy--who sent him this e-mail in the first place--was right there with him and for some reason failed to kick his ass. Maybe real military people are exempt from the ass-kicking rules.

And that brings us to my objection to this particular e-mail: the attitude the e-mail reflects, which can be boiled down to I am military so I am better than you, and if your comportment toward me and my symbols and rituals does not reflect this belief, I am within my rights to kick your ass. I will tolerate your freedom of speech as long as that speech doesn't piss me off. I will tolerate your freedom of assembly as long as you don't denigrate symbols I venerate. Your press can be free as long as it does not present opinions contrary to mine, at which point I can rightfully label it traitorous.

No word on how military people such as the seven 82nd Airborne soldiers who wrote against the war in the NY Times Op-Ed page are to have their asses kicked. This is not a petty point, an statistically meaningless anecdote. It illustrates that while there is certainly an overarching culture of the military, the people within that culture, the individual soldiers and marines--notice I'm not saying "grunt" or "jarhead," since I haven't earned that right and don't want my ass kicked--are exactly that. Individuals. Their possession of a military ID does not make them inherently more noble or boneheaded than the average civilian.

I know my brother's response without even having to read it. The point, he will say, is that people who have never been in infantry combat or a long-term deployment have no idea what it's like in a war zone, and it rankles him to see people appropriating the gear, garb, and symbols of the military without having experienced it themselves. Fair enough. He's sick of the hippie-wannabe kids he goes to school with spouting opposition to the war and the military that he strongly suspects is boilerplate rather than the product of critical thought. Also fair enough. He's been through a hell of a lot and subjected himself to things most people would not be able to physically or emotionally handle, which--in his mind--makes him and everyone else in the military just plain better than civilians. And that's where we differ. I respect his choices and growth as a person (although, frankly, he only ended up in the Army because he was too much of a fuckup at age 20 to keep his head above water in community college or keep a job), but will never confuse co-occurence with causality.

Goddammit. Let people love you or not and respect you or not on your own merits, little brother. Don't insist on blind faith and get righteously indignant--whether this was forwarded just because it's "funny" or not--when the rest of the country doesn't follow your chosen path.


*Interestingly, other versions of this e-mail bouncing around Teh Internets include numbered points slamming Roseanne Barr's mangling of the national anthem several years ago and Jane Fonda's decades-old asshattery with the North Koreans--items most people (even flaming liberals like me) would agree reflect massive stupidity. I'm not sure why they were deleted in the version I received. Perhaps they were too obvious opportunities for said flaming liberals to demonstrate their ability to agree with portions of an argument while disagreeing with the rest; those shades of gray can be so distracting to an ideologue.


Homer said...

I amused myself by substituting "licking" for "kicking."

BobApril said...

Well-said. I note that while those of us in the military like to TALK about kicking the ass of this, that, or the other ignorant or anti-military person, we don't do it very often. The continued existence of the Westboro Baptist Church is proof that our bark is worse than our bite.

Well, except when we get ordered to bite, of course.

Boltgirl said...

Of course, Westboro is the exception; that particular ass-kicking I'd sell tickets to.