Color Me UnPatriotic

If I was to run for public office, I would be accused of being unpatriotic.

No flag pins for me, and certainly no waving of same. I detest “American exceptionalism” claims, and the Fourth, well, it’s just a day for making a picnic meal.

If I ever was left all tingly by the militaristic fervor, it ended when I read Norman Mailer’s, The Naked and the Dead. Nothing noble about foot rot and malaria and dying in dirt and swamps.

Of course the first proclamation to this kind of analysis, is “well, where would we be if somebody didn’t agree to man up and join up and gung-ho it to Hanoi, or Baghdad, or Berlin?”

My response is, “Peace, you damn fool.”

They say I am unrealistic, and I suppose I am.

I listen to Medal of Honor winners (winners?), and I cringe. I hear the same story of valour, risking of life and limb, against the odds, furiously defying logic and common sense to effect usually a good end I guess–the saving of some of ours at the expense of some of theirs.

The cringing part comes from the same explanation for deliberately ignoring man’s first basic instinct–survival. The explanation is always said in a voice that suggests that this should all be self-evident. “Why, because we are brothers, and you don’t leave a brother,” or words to that effect.

I have no doubt that this little gem of military “truth” is drummed into raw recruits from day one, and continues in an unrelenting barrage until the unfortunate soldier hears the first bullet flying in his direction. Nothing matters in all the world, not mothers or husbands, children or dreams; it’s all reduced to sacrifice for the other poor slob in the foxhole no matter what.

I understand why the military does it, but I wonder how it is that grown adults buy it. Do they not see the manipulation? I mean the military can’t have everyone out there putting self first. And guess what? The other side does the same.

And wars are made, practiced, and as I always say, they set the tone, and foundations for the next one down the road. And good men and women die, and lousy men and women get rich, and mostly average folks, cheer our “brave fighting forces” from the sidelines, doing their “patriotic duty.”

And I just refuse to play.

This all came about by catching an article written about the enduring book Catch 22. Heller wrote it and published it in 61, after Korea and before Vietnam had really lit up. It no doubt was the book of the Vietnam protestor. It summed up the futility, the inanity, and the basic dishonesty of war.

I remember well the play by Aristophanes, Lysistrata, written in 411 BCE. The women, in an attempt to stop the wars that were killing their men, go on sexual strike. I remember seeing that play performed at an anti-war demonstration in  ’69 or ’70.

I was a child of the ’50′s and early to mid ’60;s, when we in our infancy never knew when the world might just go kablooey. We literally learned to duck and tuck and cover and wait for mushroom clouds. We lived for a few days with a knot in our stomachs as Kennedy and Khrushchev decided who would blink first, or if it was easier to end it all with a push of the button.

At least the Cold War seemed to my naive eyes, a noble cause. We wanted no part of the dark, cold, and soulless life under Soviet tyranny. But then Vietnam came along with silly domino theories and fighting in rice paddies when who was enemy and who was not, was not very easy.

It was far away, and the people seemed not like us, and not wanting to be like us, and people were dying by droves, and busloads, and it was all awful. And we began to see Heller as having explained it all, and war was well, hell.

And the more we read, and the more we saw, the more we knew he was right. It was all stupid, and it was the every-day kinda kid who was yanked from his bed in Iowa, where the breeze carried the smell of hay and humid soil, and the sounds of crickets and bees, and the views of rabbits and does leading fawns along the skirts of fields.

 He was yanked from life and thrust into death, and told to shoot other people because (fill in the blank with your favorite stupid reason), and he was scared, and dirty, and missed his 67 Ford truck, and his girl, and his mother’s cherry pie.

And he was told to forget all that and offer his not-yet-lived life for the poor kid next to him, who was fearing and missing the same things. And they barely knew each other, and they came back in boxes to be cried over by towns and families and it all just sucked.

At it’s been that way since recorded history.

And the candidates, and the politicians all wave the flag, their stupid pins, and “honor the dead” and demand that our vets (who are so fucked up most of them never are really sane again) get whatever they need, and they feel great about all that, and go on with their miserable sanctimonious lives.

And I’m the one who is unpatriotic.