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On the Bus

October 20, 2011

As I remember we were on a bus, the couple three guys I was with, all of us, for some reason, in dress blues, when we got our sermon.  This was in 1973 when everything, including my enlistment, was ending and I was in San Francisco waiting to be separated from active duty (not discharged, I still owed the man two years of reserve) and so these kids and their attack seemed badly timed, a little beside the point.

It wasn’t that bad, these guys didn’t seem to be mean enough to make it too bad, it wasn’t even discomforting.  The usual, you know, about being baby killers and hired killers and so on.  But I was coming off of four years military service, the last two in a horrid tour and these guys were real pikers when it came to trashing people.  I’d gotten much worse just for being too slow out of the rack in the morning.  It wasn’t just ineffective, it was laughable.

But the relevant point was that I agreed with them.  I thought they were absolutely correct.  I still think they were correct and that this post Vietnam distaste is the proper attitude for the society to view the military.

Not popular today, this view.  The current attitude of blind hero worship towards our troopers worries me.  So far the American public has accepted concentration camps, torture chambers, remote controlled murder, a Gestapo, bullying cops, arrogant security agents and a whole litany of sins we haven’t heard about yet, all because we got a good scare.  And we have proven what the world has suspected for so long, this being that our high-minded posturing and professed beliefs, when stressed, turn to dust and we turn bully boy.

The military, in its present glory, worries me too.  Generals have too much influence.  Civilian control is slipping.  I remember the post WWII school of literature and then film concerning the over powerful military and the dire threat this poses to freedom.  I’m not aware of any such literature today.

We should be suspicious of the military.  They have all the guns and missiles and bombs and a full complement of folks who think the country should be run like a rifle squad.  You’ve got to keep an eye on these guys and not love them overmuch.

But just the opposite is true and the lesson of Vietnam is this: we never learn.

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From → opinion

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