Sunday, October 09, 2011

Transforming received wisdom when it's wrong

Received Wisdom #1: We have to support the troops.

Received Wisdom #2: Soldiers were mistreated when they came back from Vietnam (debunked in The spitting image, by Jerry Lembcke) so we must honor our soldiers now, even if we don't agree with the wars in which they fight so bravely, with such honor and patriotism (never mind the Wikileaks videos).

Received Wisdom #3: While the reasons given to go to war may not have been accurate, we have done very good things for these people in Iraq and Afghanistan (and if Somalia and Yemen aren't careful, we'll do very good things to them too).

How many other myths are we dragging along in service of war and more war? In Arabic, the word for what we need to do with militarism is intifada, "shaking off."

Time for a nonviolent intifada of our national spirit, soul, economy, education, religion and politics. Time to shake off the burdens of militarism that are the anchor dragging down the chances for healing our nation. There is no time to waste.

Students come into my classes directly from the military. Some have parents in the military in the Middle East or Central Asia. Some have spouses or sisters or brothers or boyfriends or girlfriends in the military. We are saturated in our culture with a massive number of our fellow citizens who feel they are owed much more respect than anyone else and who impress it upon their family members. They are backed by the institutions, starting with the military and moving everywhere from there. Colleges and universities are set up to care for military members, to offer them special services, to shut up when they speak, and to default to obsequiousness in their presence. This is now an entitlement, with only some veterans uncomfortable with that sycophantic bowing and scraping--some of my veteran students are amongst the first to criticize the military and the civilian politicians who fund them and send them into unwinnable wars.

We are going to be dealing with these dynamics for a long time. My father was a therapist who did almost all his pro bono work at the VA. He was a vet of WWII in the Philippines and he had a special place for the Vietnam vets. In 1991, as Bush the Elder launched Gulf War I, he just shook his head. "I'm still dealing with the fallout from the last stupid, criminal war," he said. "We're going to see a lot more now and the VA is going to bog down even worse."

Our culture is going to damaged by the global war on terror, better known as Bush Junior's war, for more than a generation. Our economy is on the ropes thanks to the giant sucking sound emanating 24/7/365 from the military industrial complex. Wealth and income disparity is up, and we are the only industrialized nation without universal health care because we are the only industrialized modern nation that has decided to become the Global Land, Sea, and Space Hegemon. Mitt Romney is calling for that stridently.

It will take a long time to transform, so let's get going.

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