You're in the Army Now

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Because
of TV and movies, more Americans actually spend much of their time
“in the military” whether they know it or not.

Recently
I have been corresponding with a few friends who seem to have come
to some of the same conclusions about American society that I have:
Simply put, America and Americans are very militaristic.

Nonsense!
You say? I don’t think so. I have lived in Japan for nearly 20 years
now and have never once seen a TV commercial or heard a radio commercial
that promoted joining the military. Perhaps Japan is not “normal.”
No Japanese has died in combat in a foreign country for 60 years.
I guess, compared to the USA, that’s not normal. I asked my wife
about this and she told me that it was against the law in Japan
for the military to advertise on TV, radio, or newspapers and magazines.
(Kind of like how in America it’s illegal to broadcast cigarette
commercials – cigarettes will kill you!) Perhaps that’s all
going to change someday soon considering that the current Prime
Minister of Japan is dead-set on breaking Japanese law and sending
Japanese troops to Iraq.

A
year or two ago, I was talking to another American friend at work.
He is black. I mention this because I have found that many black
Americans I have met have a much better understanding of the social
problems in America than Caucasians do. I suppose, when you consider
the circumstances, that is obvious; of course a minority person
would have a deeper understanding of these types of issues than
middle class white America.

It’s
kind of like the time I met a Japanese man who once told me that
there was no racism in Japan. He said; “I have lived in Japan all
my life and have never been discriminated against even once.” I’m
not making this up. He was dead serious. I’m sure if he were a Korean
born in Japan, he wouldn’t think so.

My
black friend asked me why I was so interested in World War II. I
had always thought that guys my age, born in the mid-late 1950′s,
were all fascinated by the Second World War. And I thought that
the rationale for this was that war ended just ten or twelve years
before we were born. But I am now questioning my own beliefs. I
grew up in the “Golden” sixties. It was hard to imagine all the
hell that broke loose just a decade before I was born.

This
morning, my daughter was watching some movie on satellite TV. It
was an
American movie starring Danny DeVito
. I didn’t pay much attention
to it, but, DeVito played the part of some teacher for a group of
soldiers. I gather he was trying to teach them “humanity” while
staying in top fighting shape. “Typical American war movie,” I thought.

I’ve
also noticed on satellite TV from America recently, a lot of TV
shows about the US military and the fantastic super-duper weaponry
the USA possesses. And all of the destructive power that weaponry
has.

Perhaps
it is just because of the war in Iraq that I have come to be more
aware of this “military broadcasting," but then I thought about
it for a while….

Right
after the 9-11 incident I noticed that all the American baseball
teams started having US flags on their uniforms as a sort of “show
of solidarity." Sorry to seem cynical, but I think that it was just
another good way to cash in on other people’s misery.

One
of my friends tells me that in America now, even dog food cans have
the American flag on them. What utter and complete non-sense! What
utter and complete blatant propaganda! Joseph Goebbels would have
been proud! “Show your neighbors and the world that terrorists will
never destroy the Homeland spirit by feeding your dog Homeland made
dog food!” I’d hate to hear what the neighbors are whispering about
you if you were seen buying foreign dog food for your stupid mutt.
God forbid that your dog has a palate for French Cuisine!

Has
it always been this way? Has America always been so paranoid; so
ignorant of how they are being manipulated by the Military-Industrial
complex? And what does the Military-Industrial complex have to do
with your dog’s diet?

Laugh
now. But bear with me while I take you on a little trip down memory
lane; a trip through some of the famous TV shows and movies that
I (and perhaps you too?) have fond childhood memories of. I’m going
to go through some really famous ones and you tell me what they
all have in common….

The
Phil Silvers Show
(also affectionately known as Sgt. Bilko)

Sgt.
Bilko was played by a very famous TV comedian named Phil Silvers.
This show ran from 1955 to 1957 and was one of the very first hit
“sitcoms." Lots of laughs as Sgt. Bilko shows what fun can
be had with the boys in uniform! One memorable episode was when
Bilko, acting as master of ceremonies, tries to book Bing Crosby
(Probably the greatest “crooner” during World War II) for a performance
at Fort Baxter in “Sgt. Bilko Presents Bing Crosby,” but if the
songster doesn’t show up, the sergeant might have to employ an impersonator.
Being in the military is fun. Memories to last a lifetime! The best
years of your life.

Combat!

Combat!
was TV’s longest running W.W.II drama, honoring the frontline U.S.
infantryman. On ABC from 1962 through 1967, Combat! starred Vic
Morrow as Sergeant Saunders and Rick Jason as Lieutenant Hanley.
Combat! was even on TV in Japan I hear. I guess killing Nazis was
okay for Occupied Japan. Years later Hollywood would try to remake
this movie only to have it turn into a disaster which killed the
original star of the show, Vic Morrow. I wonder if he got a Congressional
Medal of Honor or an Academy Award? Either way, he died fighting
“the good war."

Gomer
Pyle U.S.M.C.

Gomer
Pyle U.S.M.C. ran from September 25, 1964 – September 19, 1969
on CBS. It was one of classic TV’s earliest spin-off series, Gomer
Pyle, U.S.M.C. was the military cousin to The Andy Griffith Show.
Originally introduced in the third season of Andy Griffith, Gomer
was the local
mechanic with an uncanny aptitude for annoyance. And since all these
military shows were doing so well, CBS decided that the Marine Corps
needed a promotional boost too! Heck, the Marines wiped all those
Japs off Iwo Jima, right? A nice guy but stupid as hell, Gomer was
everyone’s favorite lovable son. And if Gomer could make it in the
Corps, than anyone could. Gomer decides to enlist in the U.S. Marine
Corps. Sure things were tough in the Marines. But hey, life is tough.
And the Sarge was actually a big, lovable, softie in his heart.
The best years of your life are spent in the military.

Hogan’s
Heroes

Hogan’s
Heroes was one of my personal favorites. Nazi’s may be really bad
guys, but not all of them are so bad! And they are funny too! What
with all that goosestepping and stuff! And, hey! If you are captured
and sent to the cooler, you’ll still have your buddies with you,
spending the best years of your life, disrupting the bumbling German
back lines. Because, well, Germans are only good at war. They aren’t
really all that bad (or that smart.) This show ran an amazing six
years from Sep 1965 to: Apr 1971.

By
about this time, people began “waking up” about the Vietnam War
and the lies of the US government. An interesting bit of trivia;
The Vietnam War was not called the Vietnam War until after it was
over. It was initially called the Vietnam Conflict. Anyhow, the
American public had lost its taste for war and, sadly, military
TV shows. But what’s a TV producer who has Corporate American sponsors
to satisfy to do? Well, here comes a military show with a different
slant:

M.A.S.H.

M.A.S.H.
ran from September 1972- February 1983. It was originally a hit
movie. The movie was released in the fall of 1970 when anti-Vietnam
sentiment was high, and was an instant hit. Ring Lardner Jr. won
the Oscar for Best Screenplay and the film was nominated for Best
Movie. Sally Kellerman also received a Best Actress nomination for
her role as Hotlips. MASH, while being funny and showing how dedicated
the medical corps are in the military, it also showed that war is
hell and people actually bleed and die,…. Sometimes. Besides that,
the MASH TV show gave average America some great memories of the
military. Probably some of the best years they’ve never spent in
their entire life.

Stripes

Okay,
this is not a TV show, it’s a movie. A movie by one of America’s
hottest comedians at that time; Bill Murray. Bill has a really bad
day (He is ripped off, he abandons his cab on a bridge, has his
car repossessed, and his hot model girl friend walks out on him.),
sees an Army commercial and decides to be all he can be. Because
this is a buddy movie and he had nothing else better going on that
day pal Harold Ramis joins too. When they come to their senses,
they realize the Army is actually no fun. Who knew? Still the military
is a good way to do something important with your life. Sure it’s
tough, but living life is living without regret…. This movie is
funny too (well, kinda).

Apocalypse
Now
(1979) re-release in 2002

Okay,
so maybe Vietnam was bad. But we never lost a battle. Guys listened
to the Rolling Stones, smoked dope, dropped napalm, surfed and other
cool stuff too!

Top
Gun
, Saving
Private Ryan
, Pearl
Harbor
, and a myriad of other Hollywood blockbusters in the
last 15 years.

Tom
Cruise, America’s newest heart-throb flies a jet, gets the babes.
Private Ryan, Pearl Harbor, etc. etc. Americans shoot things and
blow stuff up – all the while getting the hot babes! Hey this military
thing is pretty cool after all! And it’s all “towel heads” (or Japs – who are now our friends) that we’re killing anyway, so who cares?
And, if by some slim chance it’s you who gets killed, well then
it’s for a higher cause; because America never forgets.

Well,
you get the picture (no pun intended). I’d tell you about more TV
shows and movies but I have started to feel like I am a TV/cinema
critic reviewing the DVD/Video hit parade of hell. American society
glorifies the military. No doubt about it. If you don’t think so,
then you have never lived outside of the USA. I have never once
seen a Japanese made movie that glorified the military (okay you
got me there, consider Tom Cruise as the Last Samurai…. No, that’s
an American movie!) Never mind. I think I’ve made my point.

The
military is great and it makes great viewing. It’s fun and exciting.
We always win. And after all, that’s what counts, right? Have a
good holiday season! And don’t forget to watch the Super Bowl or
whatever sports TV event that’s on this holiday season.

Watch
carefully too! Cause I won’t need to be reminding you about what
you actually should be doing while watching the big game. The TV
commercials will be reminding you constantly: Do something useful
with your life. Don’t just sit there; Hell, be all you can be!…
And while you are doing it, get the babes too!

December
23, 2003

Mike
Rogers [send him mail]
was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has
worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the
mass media for nearly 30 years.


        
        

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