Monday :: Apr 18, 2005

"We don't fight our own battles anymore"


by pessimist

Fighting has become big entertainment in America. Boxing has made a comeback in popularity, wrestling never really went away, and Jerry Springer is growing rich providing an arena for people to 'settle' their differences as the electronic nation gapes in front of their televisions.

But even actual fighting in war zones is considered entertainment, It's as if we in America get some vicarious thrill watching two (or more) people get into an altercation of some kind, especially if one or more are graphically injured or killed while we watch.

It strikes me that something has gone terribly wrong with us as a society and as individuals.

I think we have forgotten what kind of pain and misery war causes.

We are almost 60 years away from the issuance of the last World War II Gold Star to a grieving widow or mother, a visible notice to the neighborhood that another young man wasn't ever going to come home.

Some homes had more than one. In at least one instance - five. The entire nation - over 400,000.

Everyone knew what each one of those Stars meant, for everyone knew someone each of those stars represented. They might have only known the deceased by sight, but he was known. Whatever memories they had of this person merely amplified the meaning of the Star and the sacrifice it represented.

I know of those sacrifices because that period has been one of study for me. In an effort to understand the world in which I live, I've gone back and read about the modern war era - not just the glorification of the victors as they re-fight the battles, but the political, economic, and social issues that were both cause and effect of the most momentous decision mankind can make.

Maybe it was because in my world, while growing up, my life could end in an intensely bright flash and searing, vaporizing heat. Maybe it was because I knew I was at risk that I was inspired to try to understand why it is that mankind is so ready to commit war upon each other. I was shocked to learn that, according to historians Will and Ariel Durant: "In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war." [The Lessons of History (1968), by Will and Ariel Durant, page 81]

But this, I am sure, is known only by the few who have bothered, as I have, to attempt to understand why we as a race of sentient beings are so slow to create and so quick - and so ready and oh so willing - to destroy.

Someone else is on a similar path of ponderance. I don't fully buy into his line of reasoning, as it appears to me to be glorifying violence as a 'manly-man' attribute, but he does ask some pointed questions that I do think apply to us as a nation:


We don't fight our own battles anymore

I had a friend who was a real tough kid. Nice, too. But not the sort of boy you'd mess with because he wouldn't hesitate to put you on your butt. One day, when my friend was about 12, he was walking home from school and got jumped by three older boys.

Maybe they were tired of being attacked by this kid who 'wouldn't hesitate to put you on your butt'?

But I digress.

They beat him pretty good, and my friend stumbled home crying.

This part is significant, because the subsequent actions of this father are a direct result of seeing his tough-guy son crying like a 'girly-man'.

It's what happened next that made me remember this, and why I think about it more today that I ever have.

When my friend got home, he told his dad what happened, and his dad said to him, "Let's take a little walk." They stopped at the home of one of those older boys. His dad tapped on the door, and when the kid's father came out he was given a choice: Either send your kid out to fight my son one-on-one, or it's going to be father versus father.

The kid was sent out (if you'd met my friend's horse of a dad, you'd know this was the only real option), and my friend proceeded to knock him into next week.

Next house, same story, same result. And a third time. Each of the dads told their kids to face the music and the fist.

Because these fathers wouldn't face up to their own responsibilities for fear of being beaten themselves? Might makes Right? 'Better you fight than me?'

I still think about that story because it's so different than my world today. My friend didn't live in a slum. Not even close. It was a blue-collar Cincinnati street with two-parent households and kids playing whiffleball.

Today? I live in a subdivision where that story is unthinkable. The police would be called and lawsuits would likely follow, from both sides. I suspect you'd say the same about your neighborhood.

Is that a good thing? Are we better off now? I don't know.

The fact that he even has to ask these questions indicates his own set of moral principles. Might does make Right in his mind, and the ends of the mighty justify the means they take toward achieving their goals - no matter who gets hurt in the process:

My friend became sort of a local legend after his adventure in street justice. No one messed with him again. But I always thought his dad was the real hero. Putting everything on the line for something he believed in. Taking the hard way out. I think about how much easier it would have been to give his son some ice cream, cry about the injustice, call a lawyer and let someone else fight the battle.

Let's look at these points for a moment:

Dad was the real hero by 'putting everything on the line for something he believed in'? Just what did this father put on the line? His ego? Over the fact that his kid was the street bully, and the only way the other kids could put him in his place - and save themselves from further attack - was to form an alliance against him and improve their odds of victory?

That the only 'fair' fight - and a sure loss for these other kids - was a mano a mano contest?

Isn't forming an alliance what King George did in his 'War on Terra' because the fight was too big for fat, dumb, and happy 'Mur'ka' to fight alone?

But I digress.

Suppose this father took a course that isn't even brought up in this 'either-or' scenario. Suppose that this father learned the facts about why these kids acted as they did. Suppose he decided to take responsibility for his kid's actions and teach the kid how to be a good neighbor and get along with the other kids on the street. Would not everyone be better off?

But no - the only other action our author, Rob Daumeyer, editor of the Cincinnati Business Courier, allows is retribution: "I'll get you for not submitting to my superior pugilistic physicality, you SOB!"

But at this point - in spite of his panting and drooling over tough-guy behaviors, Daumeyer begins asking some pertinent questions about Americans today:

It's stunning how insulated many of us are from this sort of sacrifice and personal responsibility. The more I look around, the more I believe we've become a nation of complainers and busybodies, wailing about traffic jams or some stranger's feeding tube. These are not earth-shattering problems. Something's happened over the past couple decades. Somewhere along the way, we became wimps, pure and simple.

I'm teaching a journalism class at Miami University this semester, and I guarantee there will be at least three kids who will complain and fight me about their final grade. Doesn't matter what they deserve, it's what they want that counts. And they're used to getting what they want.

I've mentioned it before in this space, but these "Support Our Troops" car magnets make me crazy. Especially on gas guzzlers.

Who are these messages meant for? Other motorists? The driver? And how exactly is he supporting our troops? By buying the magnet? Driving an SUV?

Support our troops? Who's doing that? What sacrifices are we making as a country? What are we going without?

Nothing that I can see.

For those of us lucky enough not to have a loved one in Iraq, this war has exactly zero impact on our lives.

Zero.

We haven't been asked to sacrifice anything.

Europeans wonder how Americans can so easily support the war in Iraq, and people here can't understand why Europeans are so vocal in their opposition. We see them as soft.

But it's all about sacrifice.

* France had 6 million casualties in World War I. That was 15 percent of its population.

* Germany had 5.7 million casualties in WWI and another 7 million in World War II. Pretty much, every male in Germany born between 1895 and 1930 was either wounded or died as the result of war.

No, Europe's been there, done that.


The more you suffer, the more you sacrifice, the more life means.


Would Americans still support the war in Iraq if there was a draft? If we had to stop buying cars and milk, like in WWII? If our taxes went up? I'm not optimistic.


To do without has become un-American.


Rob Daumeyer has presented in his article a thumbnail sketch of why America is blindly taking a road that the rest of the world has already travelled, and he at least is wise enough to recognize this fact. We Americans don't know what it's like not to have our every desire immediately gratified, nor do we know what it's like to live in fear of an oppressor all the time. But we will. Our time is coming.

Time and pressing obligations don't allow me at this moment to present all of the data I've been collecting, but there are reports coming out from sources who would know that the world is reaching a crisis stage concerning energy sources.

There are also reports that indicate the economic 'boom' that King George is so proud of is actually in the first stages of collapse. The last three trading days of the last week are baffling the 'experts' while the investors are running for the exits, and the corporate earnings news due out this week is expected not to help things any.

There are reports that several countries, including King George's Saudi relatives, are quietly dumping their dollar holdings in favor of the Euro.

There is even a Pentagon report that states that China will be able to militarily stand up to American might in the next few years.

I hope to bring these items out over the course of the next week or so, but I hope that what I have presented here makes one point perfectly clear: I think we have forgotten what kind of pain and misery war causes, but we are soon going to be reminded.

No matter how much it hurts.

Because our 'Dad' doesn't want to get beaten up by the other kid's 'Dad'.


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