I wrote this on the weekend as a response to a posting on Craig's List. I won't hold it up as my finest work because it really is sarcasm and doesn't really answer the woman's question (I wasn't really attempting to, but such is the nature of the rants and raves section of CL—anonymous polemics), but it does get to the heart of the matter as I see it. There was one response that said it was the finest piece of anti-war writing that s/he has seen. Dunno bout that, but it comes from a real place in me. The initial post goes like so:
I'm embarassed to say, but as an adult woman, I have no idea the different parts of the military. I don't know which group has admirals and which has generals. I can't look at a man in uniform and distinguish if he's a Marine, Navy or Army. I don't know what those Lego-looking buttons mean or their symbolic meaning. I know they aren't Legos, but they are small, colorful and square. I am totally ignorant. No, I am not from San Diego, but I am a Californian. There are no bases where I live or they were closed by the time I was born. I know dates in history of various wars and battles, but have no idea seeing men in uniform which branch they represent in the military.
Well, as a rule of thumb, the guys with lots of "fruit salad" (as I've heard the so-called Legos called) are the ones who send guys off to war because they themselves have aged out of war, and wanted to share the joy of being shot at and maimed with the younger generation. How benevolent. You can be sure it does not work in the opposite direction: the guys with no fruit salad do not send the old men to war.
Sometimes there is no war to actually fight. So then the services need to look busy until elite and powerful men from Ivy League schools and secret societies and corporations get together and decide to make a new war to keep society arranged in just the right pyramidal form. Between wars is a good time to dream up solutions to the last war that was fought (we still invest in massive aircraft carriers and fighter jets but can't seem to keep a Hummer safe in Iraq). All the while, those soldiers not blessed with a chest of fruit salad are trained to protect the pyramid of social structure (that primarily is upon their shoulders), and the best way they can do it is to work for too little money while mostly not being able to go home for the night to their wives, kids, and whatever else they would do if they worked a "regular job" at KFC or Best Buy. The difference between their roles at such jobs and their role in the military is that they serve different components of the corporate-military complex in the nation. The guy or gal at Best Buy has a shitty job that they can quit at will, then can mooch off the public dole as a "loser". The soldier does not, despite having one of the most truly shitty jobs out there. However, if he does suffer with the program, or get sufficiently hacked to pieces, he can leave service as a "hero" while being paid once again, on the public dole. Either way, they are rewarded in a grossly unfair way, and the taxpayer still foots the bill somehow. Some will lose arms or legs, and the guy at Best Buy or Wal Mart will have his soul sucked out of him.
As a rule, our military has some of the finest young people around, in that they have some physical prowess and some wild belief they are doing something noble. But you see, the guys with lots of fruit salad are ready to throw them away first. They are so-called heroes, as Gore Vidal would say. Or, as Vidal would elaborate, they are heroes because they are dead. If they were alive, their combat pay would be cut, and their medical support would be lacking were they to need it. And need it they do now. See, more and more soldiers are surviving the sorts of injuries that used to kill men in the field. Now we can somehow get these men saved enough so that they can carry on life as partial-humans who are somehow supposed to feel good that suburban moms put a yellow ribbon magnet on their SUVs to show support for the troops. Somehow its okay that while we can save lives, we can actually return more partially functioning men and women back to the civilian life. More amputees, more brain damage, more of everything that robs young people of a quality of life that they would have coming to them were they not ever taken off to war.
So does it really matter what all the fruit salad means? Does a soldier with half a leg really make a hero? Or just a guy who took the Kool-aid from some higherups on the pyramid who need a war fought by the poor eschelons of society? Oh, sure, liberty, democracy, and freedom, blah, blah, blah. It's all bullshit in this country. Maybe my grandfather fought for such a thing, but even on the eve of his war (WW2), Dalton Trumbo had already called the score—it's all a bunch of abstract nonsense that is used to get people to fight wars that will gain them nothing, and lose them most everything. Dead men don't know freedom, liberty, nor can they vote assholes like Bush (and company) out of office. Dead men don't enjoy the love from their wives and kids. They don't do much for us except give us some sorry sentimentality for their loss, but never enough to drive us to demand that war become a thing of the past, and that the systems of war be dismantled forever.
"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." —Dwight Eisenhower