Monday, November 11, 2013

An Armistice Day Meditation

Once again I've been away from the blog for far too long. I don't know how I stay so busy, but I do. Perhaps part of the problem is spending time on' Fakebook', which is graphically oriented. A bit of text overwhelms the senses and one moves on quickly. I am rather visually oriented and get a kick out of all the graphics there. At least most of the time. Which means that there is something going on that is bothering me.

Back during this past summer, I metaphorically unplugged for a couple of weeks. At the time, I was starting a new course of medication for my rather painful skin condition. A medication with which I've had a fair amount of experience was involved. It has side effects; I gain weight and I become short tempered and angry. I warned everyone that I was going into a two week hibernation and that it would be best not to poke the bear. Of course, a couple of days in someone did. A Board member of the radio station insisted I change a Board decision or he would quit. I'd had enough of such games and I quit instead. I was the Board President, the Station Manager and the Program Director. I have to admit it was a good thing to do for my own sanity, but that is a story for another time. The break from the station, internet - and Fakebook - was, quite frankly, a little bit of wonderful. I had no intercourse with stupid posts which would raise my frustration level with my fellow human beings.

You see, I actually know people who rail against government programs, and who support and post the ravings of right wing provocateurs like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. They'd probably post the pithier comments of Ayn Rand except she is beyond their reading level. I've waited on these folks as a cashier in a local supermarket. They are conservative Christians. They utilize foodstamps. They live in subsidized housing. They have low paying jobs yet can afford payments on new cars. And they hate a "socialized" United States. They also give full support to the military.

The FB caption read "Don't forget our four legged veterans".
It was an oddity of U.S. history that Richard Nixon, who escalated the Vietnam War, proposed a volunteer army. Although a form of the draft (i.e. conscription) has returned in the necessity to register for "Selective Service", we've now had a volunteer army for forty years. We now have 'army families' in which generations of the otherwise economically challenged have gained employment in our standing armies.

When I unplugged, I watched a good bit of television. I quickly discovered that I had
stopped watching the shows I liked - I merely had them on as background music, paying attention at some moments, ignoring much of the program while I surfed graphics and read articles on the internet.

After a fight with Comcast over their/my bills, I didn't have tv service for over a year. I only recently returned to the fold. So I used my "unplugged" time to catch up on missed episodes of a few favorite shows. Watching shows, even without simultaneous internet grazing, is one thing. Realizing what I was watching was another. I discovered that I approach most television as disposable entertainment. I watch, I am entertained, I do not retain. In watching commercial cable channels (as opposed to subscription channels whose shows tend to be of higher quality) I began to notice a few trends. Most of the action type shows I used to watch had undergone interesting thematic changes.

Somewhere along the line I became a fan of NCIS. It is about a team of Navy investigators who delve into crimes involving those in military service. Their stories contained a mix of crimes; drugs, theft, romantic affairs, etc. Some episodes tackled "sensitive" topics - harassment of gays in the military, rape culture, the status of women in the services, etc. But there was a change over the last couple of years. It wasn't noticeable at first, but became inescapable with immersive viewing. Most of their story lines now revolved around terrorism - terrorists in war curtailing the rights of women, terrorists bombing military installations, terrorists attempting to harm the homeland, terrorists targeting our civilians. And our brave men and women responded by utilizing methods in which the corners of civil and human rights may be cut a little in order to preserve the greater good. Even the commercials had changed. There were now pitches which directly involved, and marketed to, military families. Financial services. Insurance. For our brave men and women, whom we honor.

This change wasn't reserved for just the two NCIS shows. Many of the detective/crime solving programs featured story lines which involved foiling terrorists here at home. Other shows just weren't as obsessed with such plotlines - but they were there. And so were the commercials.

News programming has also reflected what seems to be an obsession with our military. During the Bush years only the local channels would cover things like departure ceremonies for our National Guard being sent off to Iraq, Afghanistan and etc. Now even the networks spend a fair amount of time "honoring" our military families. It seems like it is impossible to watch a news program these days without someone giving thanks to our soldiers for their service. They also air the ads aimed at military families.

I find this all a little disturbing, particularly coming at a time when as a country we have more or less withdrawn from Iraq and are in the process of getting out of Afghanistan. At a time when a large portion of what had been the lower and middle portion of the middle class have been reduced to poverty levels, it's as though the corporations are pushing a military lifestyle. It is to be honored, to be envied. Patriotism. Service. Cue the Rousing Music and the Waving of flags. We are thankful. By the way, we now have an insurance program just for you.

I need to make it clear that I'm trying to keep my personal beliefs out of these observations and commentary. I am against conscription. I fail to understand why anyone should automatically owe a few years of their life to the government of a geographic area in which they were born. This includes the concept of non-military "national service". Armies are, in my view, a necessary evil. The world would be better off without standing armies. After the recent military exploits of my country, I have grave concerns about the "National Guard". The Guard, while a branch of the military services, was intended as a reserve to be called up in times of emergency. The idea is that the Guard serves only a couple of weeks per year to maintain training levels. They are not a professional army. Many Guard members joined for the financial help they received for college or vocational education. The Guard isn't really National - unless the Federal Government deems it necessary to take control, the Guard is supposed to be under the control of the various states. It was never intended to be used to fight foreign wars. That was supposed to be the job of the 'professional' army.

Today is Veterans Day. Originally, it was "Armistice Day", which celebrated the end of the War to End All Wars. In other words, a transition to Peace. Somewhere along the way it became a tribute to those who served in war. After the Second World War, it became a day to honor those who served or are serving in the militaries, period. (Memorial Day is a different day which honors those who gave their lives, or to be more precise had their lives taken from them, during our wars.)

Fakebook is awash in postings honoring the men (and sometimes, on rare occasions, honoring the women) who "serve". Everyone is dared to "repost" the particular images to PROVE that they also share in the honoring. This has been going on for awhile now as a regular matter of course. These "memes" (images with messages) appear as often as pictures of cute cats or extortions, oops I mean exhortations, to repost memes which pledge to welcome God and Jesus H. Christ into one's home. With Veteran's Day upon us, the normally sane are also partaking of this hero worship. Everyone, of every political persuasion, is posting some sort of Thanks to our Servicemen (servicemen more than women in the service).


Clipped from a Veteran's Day post on Homelessness. Right click and open in new window to enlarge.
Now look, I do honor and admire the people who go into the military. I also honor and admire the
people who don't, who go into any kind of service helping their fellow humans, and those who go to jail or who went to Canada rather than join in the Vietnam War, or any war, as well as the soldiers of the common people who fought for the 40 hour workday, who continue the fight for fairness, for feeding and housing those without, for healthcare for all and so forth. There are many kinds of war.

It's just that I can't help but feel that there is a confluence of phony honoring that goes beyond a trendy patriotism. When mixed with the marketability of a new class, the 'service families', I begin to wonder. When little suspensions of our Constitutionally protected rights are thrown in during entertainment programs as our military heroes save us from the terrorists, I become slightly concerned. When I see corporations pushing these ideas and images in news programming, I become moderately concerned. When I read news analysis which makes it clear how many of us have been reduced to poverty, I become alarmed with the juxtaposition of a proffered military employment opportunity. At the same time that these stories and advertisements become omnipresent,  news stories also appear telling of people (and Veterans!) whose homes have been swindled away by the banks over unpaid bills of little more than a hundred dollars. Food stamps assistance has been cut, and the bloodhounds are sniffing for more reductions. The current cuts will result in the corporate food stores getting Billions less in income. This will translate into higher prices and layoffs. The bloodhounds bark at the heels of Unemployment assistance, at Social Security, at healthcare. In the meantime, the corporations poison our food and water - and make certain that government inspection supposed to protect the populace is lax. There is a storm brewing as more and more of us become have nots. How long it will take until the storm hits, I don't know. But I begin to understand why I'm seeing so many images of the honored military, a new class to whom benefits flow, a professional military. No longer engaged overseas, they and the National Guard will be available to keep control at home.


Bless our Veterans, and give Thanks to those who serve.


Anonymous said...

I'm seeing minor signs of it here as well.

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

Delores, I'm a little relieved (and concerned) to hear that. At least now I know that I haven't joined the ranks of the conspiracy theorists. Well, the nutjob kind anyway.

Anonymous said...

It's been a while since you've been active here....hope everything is okay with you.