Saturday, November 04, 2006

Kerry on, men

The most interesting aspect of the Kerry flap has been the outrage, some of it presumably authentic, some dismally fake. But the notion that armies draw disproportionately from the ranks of the poor and uneducated is hardly a novel assertion, least of all among soldiers themselves.

An old Chinese proverb said, "Just as one does not use good metal to make nails, one does not use good men to make soldiers." When I was a soldier in 1970, I kept that slogan on the wall of my room in the barracks in Monterey, Calif. If anyone ever took offense, I never heard about it. I remember riding in a car full of soldiers as it drove by a hitchhiking soldier thumbing for a ride. "Suck out, GI," the driver said as we roared past.

The notion that most of us were serving because we were too poor, too dumb or too politically naive to manage to stay out was such a given that suggesting otherwise rarely raised an eyebrow, much less anyone's ire. And the notion persisted despite the obvious fact that it simply wasn't true for lots of soldiers. It was more of a grim, ongoing joke than a statement of reality.

Those were draftee days, of course, and I have no doubt that the Army has changed. It already was changing by the time I was discharged in 1973. But things haven't changed entirely. I heard a soldier on NPR talk about seeing "Forrest Gump" at a military base with an audience full of soldiers. In the scene where Gump met the military recruiter, someone in the audience shouted out, "Run, Forrest, run."

And there's this, which suggests that the old tradition still hasn't died. Some have seen this as an angry attack on Kerry; others have suggested that it actually defends Kerry. I can't know the soldiers' motives, but I suspect that it may not really convey any particular political message at all. It may just be new soldiers picking up on an old riff and turning it into a laugh, the way soldiers have done for centuries. Too bad Kerry couldn't have told his joke this well.

13 comments:

Eric said...

David, the problem is that Kerry wasn't joking. He just let his guard down and showed you who he really is.

David said...

Sorry, Eric, I just think that's nonsense. The context was pretty clear, and, as even the National Review Online said, Kerry ain't that dumb.

Dave Rye said...

The remark does point out the two extremes of the base of the Democratic Party: those with graduate degrees and those who never finished high school. Republicans tend to draw the in-betweeners. Kerry types are contemptuous of the people who aren't as allegedly brilliant as they are (i.e., practically the entire human race), and incensed that only the dummies agree that they, the brilliant ones, ought to be the ones running the country.

David said...

What are "Kerry types"?

Randy said...

"Kerry types are contemptuous of the people who aren't as allegedly brilliant as they are (i.e., practically the entire human race), and incensed that only the dummies agree that they, the brilliant ones, ought to be the ones running the country."

That has to be the silliest thing I have ever read. Sadly, I fear you actually believe it.

Dave Rye said...

Saying it's the silliest thing you ever read doesn't quite qualify as refuting it, Randy. And, yes, I do believe it. (Great "traffic sign," by the way.)

Sorry the "Kerry types" was a little vague, David, but I was trying to be succinct. How about "Set from birth to attend an exclusive prep school and an Ivy League college, with no need later on ever to hold a private-sector job because of advantageous conditions of both birth and marriage(s)?"

Or, more succinctly again, hypocritically non-egalitarian: claiming to be the champion of societal groups to which he or she can't personally relate, and has no intention of joining.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you get sillier with each post! But speaking as one who HAS ACTUALLY BEEN THERE, DONE THAT!, Kerry was right on. But don't take my word for it. Let me bring back everyone just a wee bit closer to reality. No, on seccond thought, let my neighbor do it for me. For you see, he retired after thirty years in the Air Guard, and HE CAN'T STAND BUSH! Guess that makes him a bad American, kind of a Dixie Chick military man! But actually, the reason that he hates bush so much is that he believes that the Guard and Reserves were NEVER designed to fight overseas. And of course he's right. The NG and Reserves are simply weekend warriors intent upon saving a little money up. They did NOT sign up to get killed in Iraq. Yet that is exactly what they're doing. If these guys would have been more monetarily secure, they wouldn't have had to join even the reserves. Hence, they are poor. Hence, the are cannon fodder of the highest order. Now, I would not be like Kerry. I would not advise poor kids to stay in school. I would advise ALL OF THEM to head for Canada until the sicko is outta the white house and behind bars! NO ONE should die for an idiot without a cause!!!


Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

Mark T said...

"The remark does point out the two extremes of the base of the Democratic Party: those with graduate degrees and those who never finished high school. Republicans tend to draw the in-betweeners."

That is one grand sweeping generalization, probably unsuportable.

Dave Rye said...

I only intended to do one post on this subject, and now it's the third, so I promise to shut up after this one. Larry, I did 14 months in Vietnam, as a draftee, and later because I needed the money was voluntarily an Army Reservist in Great Falls for four years. You're right that additional income was my prime motivator for being a part-time military guy, but a clear implicit understanding for any Guard or Reserve member is the knowledge that he or she might be activated in the event of war or national emergency, at the expense of the Reservist's professional and personal life. The possibility of war or national emergency is why we HAVE Guard and Reserve units. You seem to think that they exist merely to provide paychecks. And what would be the point of all the training if the possibility didn't exist that the training might someday be USED?

Mark, of course it was a sweeping generalization, and I'm sure there are thousands of exceptions in both major parties, but it's true far more often than not. ("All generalizations are false, including this one.")

Eric said...

I'd define 'Kerry-types' as the liberal elite, who feel that power is their birthright, and that they are so much more intelligent than everybody else that we should simply let them run our lives for us.

Kerry has a visible disdain for the military, and he truly believes that only a idiot, or a sucker would choose to serve, and then only if coerced.

David said...

Eric,
Except, of course, that Kerry did actually serve, and he was a volunteer. Doesn't that blow your interpretation to pieces? Or is Kerry your evidence that only idiots and suckers serve?

Anonymous said...

Dave, are we at "war"?? I didn't realize that. Oh, you must be talking about Bush's private "war on terror". Sorry, I don't consider a private "war" a real war.


LK

Rocky Smith said...

Well- Kerry can't seem to even pull off a weak joke. I know several members of the military who'd as soon punch him as shake his hand. Bush mis-speaks occasionally, but I'm with Eric on this one. He accidentally let his true inner thoughts slip out. So which is he David- An idiot (got lower grades than Bush did) or a sucker?