February 13, 2009

THE WAR EFFORT

Sis B wrote a great post about not opening Dover up to the press. She wrote it after having an email discussion with Dave, in which he said:

But with respect to you and to the father (whose piece I did read), I think we have gone far too far in making war "yours" and not far enough in showing how it is "ours." Soldiers in uniform fight and sacrifice for all of us, and when they die, they have died for all of us. They have died for us whether we're honest enough to face it or not.

This can't be allowed to be exclusively a burden for the friends and families directly affected. Down that road lives the casual, lazy, flag-waving, yellow-ribbon-on-the-SUV form of war, the kind of war that's always someone else's problem and abstracted from most people's daily life, as if it's a cable channel we can choose to watch or ignore.

In her blog post, Sis B followed Dave's thoughts with this:

I would love for the burden of these wars to not be carried by us and us alone. I get pissed at the yellow magnet status symbols attached to the bumpers of cars owned by people who forget what Memorial Day means. I'm just really not sure how to bring the realities of all of this home to those who don't care. [...]

I suppose I would feel differently about the coffin photos if the general American public truly cared about our servicemembers and our families the rest of the time. If they paid attention to the news. If they could locate Iraq or Afghanistan or Iran or in some cases, the United States, on a map. But most of them can't and they don't, and quite frankly, I don't want to be made to share with them something as sacred as our fallen warriors coming home.

Sis B did a 180 on her feelings about whether or not the public should have access to the coffins. In reading this exchange, I was reminded that I have done a 180 in how I want the rest of the country to feel about us being at war.

Though I have never been as fervent as many of my fellow milspouses, I too used to lament that the rest of the country isn't behind the war effort. I thought it sure would be nice to live in the time of war bonds and rubber drives and maximum societal giving-a-crap. I wanted a new Why We Fight. I wanted people to care more about Iraq than American Idol, and I rued the fact that people didn't ask my husband about his deployment and that I often had to field asinine questions. I thought the grass was greener when everyone thought of the war as "ours."

Until I read Liberal Fascism.

The most shocking and heart-stopping chapter of this book, for me, was the chapter on Woodrow Wilson, specifically the section "Wilson's Fascist Police State" (pg 106). That changed everything for me, truly. I saw what happened when giving-a-crap became a top-down effort instead of a grassroots one. And I saw that most of what I had thought was sincere patriotism and caring about the war was actually manipulation and fearmongering by the Wilson administration and government agencies.

Sorry for the extensive quoting, but there are too many fascinating things in this chapter. Quotes such as:

More important than socializing industry was nationalizing the people for the war effort. "Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way, " Wilson threatened in June 1917. Harking back to his belief that "leaders of men" must manipulate the passions of the masses, he approved and supervised one of the first truly Orwellian propaganda efforts in Western history (109).

One of [George Creel, the head of the Committee on Public Information]'s greatest ideas [...] was the creation of an army of nearly a hundred thousand "Four Minute Men." Each was equipped and trained by the CPI to deliver a four-minute speech at town meetings, in restaurants, in theaters -- anyplace they could get an audience -- to spread the word that the "very future of democracy" was at stake (110).

[Clarence Darrow said], "Any man who refuses to back the President in this crisis is worse than a traitor." Darrow's expert legal opinion, it may surprise modern liberals to know, was that once Congress had decided on war, the right to question that decision evaporated entirely [...]. Once the bullets fly, citizens lose the right to even discuss the issue, publicly or privately; "acquiescence on the part of the citizen becomes a duty" (111).

But nothing that happened under the mad reign of Joe McCarthy remotely compares with what Wilson and his fellow progressives foisted on America. Under the Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918, any criticism of the government, even in your own home, could earn you a prison sentence [...]. In Wisconsin a state official got two and a half years for criticizing a Red Cross fund-raising drive. A Hollywood producer received a ten year stint in jail for making a film that depicted British troops committing atrocities during the American Revolution. One man was brought to trial for explaining in his own home why he didn't want to buy Liberty Bonds (114).

Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but it has been estimated that some 175,000 Americans were arrested for failing to demonstrate their patriotism in one way or another. All were punished, many went to jail (117).

In 1919, at a Victory Loan pageant, a man refused to stand for the national anthem. When "The Star-Spangled Banner" ended, a furious sailor shot the "disloyal" man three times in the back. When the man fell, the Washington Post reported, "the crowd burst into cheering and handclapping." Another man who refused to rise for the national anthem at a baseball game was beaten by the fans in the bleachers. In February 1919 a jury in Hammond, Indiana, took two minutes to acquit a man who had murdered an immigrant for yelling, "To Hell with the United States" (116).

The rationing and price-fixing of the "economic dictatorship" required Americans to make great sacrifices, including the various "meatless" and "wheatless" days common to all of the industrialized war economies in the first half of the twentieth century. [...] Americans were deluged with patriotic volunteers knocking on their doors to sign this pledge or that oath not only to be patriotic but to abstain from this or that "luxury." [...] "Supper, " [Herbert Hoover] complained, "is one of the worst pieces of extravagance that we have in this country."

And I could go on and on. That chapter blew my mind. The things that were done in the name of patriotism or supporting the war effort were incredible and, yes, fascistic. People cared about WWI at the point of a gun or under fear of retribution from their neighbors or government. I simply do not want to live in that kind of society.

After having read that book, I have completely changed my mind about how I previously faulted President Bush for not making the case to get the public behind the war effort. I am proud to live in a country where you're allowed to not give a hoot about the war. I'm glad there aren't organized men checking to make sure we all have that yellow ribbon on our SUVs, because then it loses all meaning. I'd rather have some airheaded people casually slap on on their own car than make it a question of your patriotism not to have one. Or get beaten at a baseball game for not having one.

I asked my husband about this, and he said that he doesn't want any tickertape parades or any recognition of any kind. If anything, he said, he'd simply like for Americans to recognize the progress that Iraq has made, not anything he's done.

I no longer worry one ounce whether other Americans think about the troops; I just relish the fact that they have the right and the freedom to not give a darn. And I think of the American Revolution and how a few men stood together and changed the entire course of human history, while everyone around them thought it would be easier to just stay British.

Let Americans watch their Rock of Love; my husband will do his job regardless. And if that means his death, he would give his life for his principles and his country whether anyone noticed or not.

Posted by Sarah at February 13, 2009 11:35 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I've read that in both the US and Britain during WWI, hysteria reached such a fever pitch that *daschunds* were stoned, and in some cases killed, for the crime of being "German."

Posted by: david foster at February 13, 2009 11:54 AM

My problem is not with the administration - ANY administration - for not "making" Americans care enough. That's propaganda.

My problem is with individual Americans who have no moral compass, apparently. People who live here, shop here, eat at restaurants here. People who are freee from the horrors and stresses that accompany living in places like Somalia, Columbia, and North Korea.

How can they live here and NOT CARE? How can they not bother to understand how truly blessed we are, and WHY we are so blessed? What is missing in them that American Idol matters more to them than the fact that other Americans are fighting and dying?

I don't get it. And it doesn't make me sad, or enrage me. It makes me despair.

Something is missing inside millions of our countrymen - something government should not (and really can't) provide. How did that happen?

Posted by: airforcewife at February 13, 2009 12:08 PM

for the record, I know how to spell "free". mu.nu would not let me publish the comment as originally spelled for some reason.

Is there a new ED medication being spammed out there that I haven't heard of?

Posted by: airforcewife at February 13, 2009 12:10 PM

AFW -- I remember Bunker wrote a post about how when he was young he had to take a class in school called American Civics. Nowadays, schools shy away from teaching anything that smacks of American exceptionalism.

I understand what you mean and think that it's terrible that more people aren't proud to be Americans and understand what that means. Hey, maybe since all those people are proud again now that Obama's president, they will...man, I don't even know how to finish that joke.

Posted by: Sarah at February 13, 2009 12:55 PM

But also, AFW, although I think it's probably gotten worse, I don't necessarily think that this is something new. The majority didn't want to fight the American Revolution. Plenty of people didn't think a Civil War was necessary. I'm pretty sure that hoopleheads throughout all of history have been ignorant of what makes America great and worth fighting for.

Posted by: Sarah at February 13, 2009 12:58 PM

I take a little offense that those who have the bumper stickers or magnetic ribbons are bumbling along not realizing what it means. I have two magnetic ribbons on my car, one for the troops and one for ovarian cancer and believe me I am making a statement I believe in. We have lost four men in Iraq in our small town, and I have lost a beloved niece to ovarian cancer. I also have a grandson in the USAF.
I do not believe that I or anyone else who is not invited has a right to view the ceremonies of the coffins arriving. This is apples and oranges of an argument. Although my sincerity is of one piece putting the bumper sticker argument of the great unfeeling is not part of the argument. With the divisions in our country I assume, and I think mainly rightly, that those who have them know exactly what they are saying and are sincere in their belief.

Posted by: Ruth H at February 13, 2009 01:05 PM

Ah, Ruth, I know, and I meant for this to be a completely different issue. I agree 100% with Sis B about the coffins and I think the press doesn't belong anywhere near Dover.

But in reading Sis B's blog, I was reminded again of how passionate she is about reminding the country that we're at war. And I recalled other similar expressions by other milspouses. I had thought about blogging about this after I finished Liberal Fascism but never felt properly motivated until today.

That chapter really made me think about the sanctity of freedom, even the freedom to remain ignorant or coarse or disrespectful.

Posted by: Sarah at February 13, 2009 01:22 PM

So itís either one extreme or the other? I think we can have a middle ground.

I think we can care about the war(s) and the people who fight them without going all fascist. Nor do I believe because one wants a person to care that that means they would like the government to force people to care.

I think Pres. Bush, a man who admire and respect tremendously, fell short rallying the nation concerning the war (and other issues), to stick it out and explain that a war worth fighting is sometimes a struggle that doesnít always go the way of a plan. Could he have not occasionally have went on TV and talked about things? How many times did he, three maybe four?

I donít think having the freedom or the right to not care is the issue but rather the not caring that is disturbing. This Ďnot caringí attitude extends beyond this issue and permeates in our society to a disturbing degree. We have citizens who simply donít care about anything other than themselves and it is detrimental to a healthy society in many ways. (And explains a large percentage of Obama voters but I digress).

While I disagreed, and have many times, with people over the Iraq war, at least they cared enough to be engaged about it. Some didnít know crap about the facts but at least they cared. I have more respect for people who care about an issued that is important to our nation than some slug who canít be bothered.

So no, no forcing people to care but should the fear of that override ones concern for societyís lack of caring about a war or for the very people marching off to it? Not at all.

Posted by: tim at February 13, 2009 01:59 PM

Good point, tim.

Posted by: Sarah at February 13, 2009 02:11 PM

Speaking of the Revolutionary War - I'm half way through reading Washington's Crossing about the events leading up to his crossing the Deleaware. If it's not on your list - check it out. I've learned so much about Washington and the armies Britain hired to help their side and tons of other things.

Posted by: Beth at February 13, 2009 03:30 PM

President Bush could have done more to explain the case for the war to the American people, and he should have done so. However, there is a significant subset of people--maybe 10% of the population, at a guess--who are so invested in hostility to their own society, and in "irony" and even nihilism, that not even the eloquence of a Churchill could have swayed them. Unfortunately, many of these people are in positions of great influence.

See my post an incident at the movies.

Posted by: david foster at February 13, 2009 04:27 PM

I have some anti Bush people in my immediate family and I am sure there is nothing he could have done or said to have changed their opinion on the war. It was Bush's war in their opinion. I, on the other hand, probably because I do remember Pearl Harbor, realized when the second plane hit the tower that we had been attacked and were at war. I remember rationing, everything was rationed. I doubt we would have had this downturn in the economy but only because we would have never had the upturn. It is strange to me to see such a large boom during a war. WWII got us out of the depression, not any stimulus or New Deal, simply the war that caused new jobs and equipment to be necessary. Did that happen in the last 5 years? I wonder.
I never heard of any dogs being stoned, in fact, it was common in those days to call them dash hounds, not daxhunds. (spelling intentional) My husbands father, whose ancestors came to central Texas in the mid 1800's, was no longer called Adolph but simply AD. And the schoolkids of his age, b 1912, stopped speaking German during WW I.
Yes, I know this is way off the topic but all these seem to have snuck into the comments.
And Sarah, I am not faulting you for any comments I may disagree with, I understand SisB's point of view but wanted to state my opinion on that. I really want her to know that many of us DO support our troops in a great many ways while knowing we are not going through what a wife, husband, child or parent is.

Posted by: Ruth H at February 13, 2009 05:06 PM
I asked my husband about this, and he said that he doesn't want any tickertape parades or any recognition of any kind ...

...[M]y husband will do his job regardless. And if that means his death, he would give his life for his principles and his country whether anyone noticed or not.

He's got his priorities straight. He knows that doing the right thing is more important than what others think. He fights for ideals, not approval. He's an American, not a collectivist.

Posted by: Amritas at February 13, 2009 09:06 PM

I'm tired and emotionally weary (unrelated to this topic or this post), so I will have to come back later to address the topic. Just wanted to leave a note for Ruth H:

I truly appreciate your support and I completely agree that there are many non-military related civilians who do care and get involved. I do believe you're in a slim minority, though. I hope that I haven't offended you by saying the things that I have. Thank you for caring.

Posted by: Sis B at February 14, 2009 12:34 AM

"How can they live here and NOT CARE?"

Because we've spent years teaching them that the only thing that matters is themselves. Even people who are old enough to know better, have been indoctrinated into this way of seeing everything through the prism of "me, me, me".

As for the rest of us, we may be in the minority, but we're here and we do care. Because, we know why we are free. We also know that those freedoms can be lost.

Posted by: Pamela at February 14, 2009 01:17 AM

"Let Americans watch their Rock of Love; my husband will do his job regardless. And if that means his death, he would give his life for his principles and his country whether anyone noticed or not."

That is the attitude that made America great and continues to do so, regardless of the apathetic throngs. Thank you to your husband for what he does, and thank you for your support of of him. Good luck to both you during his SERE training and next deployment.

Posted by: Mike at February 14, 2009 09:58 AM

I am guessing there is a little underestimating of the amount of caring going on in people who put the magnets on their cars. I don't have one, but I live in Portland, Oregon, and I still smile every time I see them, because they are rare and because they are vastly outnumbered by Endless War and Attack Iraq? NO and Buck Fush and Impeach Bush and the nauseating peace bromides.

Anybody who takes the effort to put a magnet on their car in this town is not expressing conformity or a token; they're actually kind of going out on a limb. I'm at a loss to see how people who put magnets on their car are airheads who apparently don't support the troops/war in an acceptable way while people who don't do this are lumped in with the masses who don't give a care. On that basis you would frankly have to be friends with everybody and have a conversation with them to find out how they really feel about the troops and the war, because so many people don't have military family members and thus are largely disconnected from the reality of it by our hostile press and etc.

I think perhaps there is more caring going on than it appears. They are not the loudest voices, clearly.

(This was about the antipathy to magnets, mainly. I don't have a formed opinion about the coffins.)

Posted by: Anwyn at February 15, 2009 12:49 AM

Anwyn -- I realized that I made it sound like I too disrespect those who put the magnets on their cars. I didn't mean to come off that way. I love those magnets and I too smile every time I see one, even in this military town where everyone has a horse in the race. And you're right that in some areas, it's a risk to openly support the war or the troops.

I have no problem whatsoever with the magnets. But I know that many people consider it a superficial show of support. I don't. Any show of support is fine by me. And my guess is that many of the people who bother to put the magnet on are people who help Soldiers' Angels or send care packages or read Blackfive. It isn't a meaningless token.

The point I made (poorly) in my post is that, even if it is a hollow gesture when some people do it, I am not offended by that at all.

Posted by: Sarah at February 15, 2009 07:48 AM

And, I should also have said, excellent post, thanks for excerpting Goldberg because I haven't read LF yet and now may need to, and I also think that a place where people are free to disagree about the war and free also to not care one way or the other is a place where a society like, say, Nazi Germany will never be able to flourish unless things are radically altered for the worse by any given administration.

Also I realized I may have sounded cavalier when I said "I don't have a formed opinion about the coffins." :( I meant, I don't have a formed opinion about the press/public viewing of the return of coffins to the U.S., but I realized just saying "coffins" may have seemed callous--if so it was unintentional.

Posted by: Anwyn at February 15, 2009 11:08 AM