Falling Awake

Just Darts Since 2009

Veteran’s Day

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” pointed me towards this opinion piece  (reg. req.) in the Providence (RI) Journal.

 Its author, Providence resident Charles Pinning, has this to say about our soldiers:

 “Today…[a] false truth is being spread: that most of our military personnel and our troops in Iraq are bright, motivated young people, who, with eyes wide open are defending our country from terrorists and spreading democracy.

This falsehood was publicly challenged last week by Sen. John Kerry, who urged college students to study hard, or they could “get stuck in Iraq.”

What an outcry! Republicans jumped on Kerry for suggesting that U.S. soldiers are uneducated, and Kerry scurried for cover, claiming he didn’t mean that at all, but that he’d botched a joke.

Cowards and liars all. Most of our military personnel in Iraq are kids who come from socio-economic backgrounds that weren’t putting them on a path to college. As a result, they opted for military service because it offers a steady salary, three square meals a day, health coverage and other benefits, including technology training. For many, it offers something to do with their lives and a family.


The sticky part comes when they are called upon to go into battle. Then, they pay the highest price. Absent a draft, kids who are college-bound and kids from affluent families aren’t going to be “dumb enough” to enlist in the military.

When I was growing up in the ’60s, I watched the Vietnam War on television. Every night the news had rat-a-tat-tat film clips of soldiers marching through the jungle getting pegged off. And for what? By the late ’60s, it was obvious to most bright, educated kids that Vietnam was a total disaster and if you went, you stood a good chance of merely becoming a back stop for a bullet. Most who enlisted to fight that war either needed a job or weren’t too bright, probably both.

I went to college, made damn sure I kept my GPA above 2.0 (the cut-off mark, below which you could be yanked out of school and thrown into the Army), and when the lottery came along (and no, kiddies, it’s not the lottery you think of today) my birthday pulled a 350 — Yippee! My buttocks were golden!

World War II was the last “good” war this country has fought. It was obvious we had to fight it to save our country. Rich people enlisted. Celebrities and movie stars enlisted. That would never happen today. It stopped with Vietnam. During a recent debate in the U.S. senatorial race in Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse and Lincoln Chafee were asked if they’d served in the military. Both said no. Of course they didn’t; they’re not stupid. Nor did they need the work.’

I don’t know where to start with this.  What do you think is most offensive about it?  He calls soldiers “dumb,” “not too bright,” and “stupid”–all in the space of three paragraphs.  (By the way, why do you suppose he included scare quotes around that ‘dumb enough?’  Is he pretending that’s not his personal belief?)

 How about his apparent belief that the way to discern whether a war is a just one is to count the celebrities and movie stars who’ve enlisted to fight?  Why does he believe that celebrities are somehow more enlightened than our soldiers?  Does “Entertainment Weekly” require actors to pass some sort of written exam before they can be featured on the cover?

Mr. Charles Pinning, you may be bright and you may be educated, but anyone who reads your words can see right through you.  You’re envious.  You know that you’ve never been one-tenth the man the average soldier is.  I’m not talking about physical courage–not everyone has that gift and I would never mock anyone for simply not having the guts to go and fight.  I’m talking about your inability to put something–anything–ahead of yourself.  You cannot understand how anyone could ever risk his life for his country and so you call it stupidity.

I pity you because you lack something more important than courage, Mr. Pinning.  You lack honor.

 UPDATE: I’m reminded of Kipling’s line: “…makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep.”  Nothing new under the sun.


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