Military Veneration in America

This is a portion of an e-mail, edited only for small matters of punctuation and such to improve readability:

“I’m 78 and not ever a John Joiner type, so it’s been very difficult to grow up in this propagandized environment. But to get to the point, I attend cars shows every weekend during the summer [and] early fall, and at every one the announcer blares out ATTENTION PLEASE AS WE PLAY THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AND FACE THE FLAG. Then comes the color guard and prayer for OUR HEROES AND VETERANS. And on 9/11 which was a Sunday they had a huge ladder firetruck with a flag as large as the truck raised in the air about 80ft and then a piper played the Irish song they use at funerals. It was excruciating to me. And, to a person, at every one of these shows the American propagandized uneducated fools doff their hats or stand at attention depending on military service. To the person, they are like little-trained rats. We will never ever be able to change this psyche. It has been a part of American culture since its inception. Just look to the wars starting with the Revolution, then 1812, many native American battles, Civil War, Spanish [American], WW 1, WW 2, Korea Vietnam, the entire M.E. [Middle East] and soon Russia and China.”

The writer went on to mention the Black Hawk War of 1832 as an example of war-making embedded in American culture. In this case, fear doesn’t stand out as a prime component of the American psyche as it may in the contemporary case. A large number of other elements appear land hunger, greed, the breaking of treaties, misunderstandings, mistrust, ill-will, the making of political and military careers, Indian rivalries and outright brutality when this war ended in a large-scale massacre of Indians including women and children by the American military.

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The veneration of military forces in American culture can be explained in part as appreciation for the forces of coercion that enabled settlers to homestead disputed territories and lands. The military has been a necessary means of expansion and Manifest Destiny, and its veneration became a tradition. This approval was widespread geographically because in many cases the military drew upon militia and upon volunteers. The local support was not for a distant professional armed force but for local people. A dead soldier was not a number but a known and real person; and coming to terms with such deaths included seeing them as heroic. Later on, the draft boards were likewise local.

The late 19th and 20th centuries saw the general approval of American military force extended to wars across the Pacific and then the Atlantic. The disapproving voices were stilled by Pearl Harbor. The voices against these extensions and recent ones in the Middle East and nearby regions in Asia and Africa have also not succeeded in halting this worldwide expansion of American military might.

The settling of land is not now at stake. An important rationale for the expansion has been for American leaders and their followers to transfer the epithets of SAVAGES, HOSTILES, and ENEMIES to foreign targets. Nowadays, it’s almost enough to label some country a THREAT, or a supporter of TERRORISM, or a HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATOR, or an irresponsible holder of WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, or a potential user of CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS, or a LEADER WHO HAS LOST LEGITIMACY, in order to rally American support to impose sanctions, support a revolution, infuse weapons into the country, send in the CIA or augment it, and introduce U.S. special forces.

The saying is that violence is as American as apple pie. I’d say that militarism is as American as apple pie, and it’s militarism used in support of American expansionism.