Thinking About Election In Relationship To the Troops

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I don’t like to make this blog overtly political.  I am always concerned that my words will have more power to alienate than to persuade.

But one issue feels important enough to me today to take the risk of speaking out; this relates to the effect of the upcoming election upon the lives of our servicemen and women.

Here’s my concern  – current Republican candidates are very keen on heightening military spending, but they seem to focus on spending on the “military” as a machine – an amorphous weapons complex – rather than upon the men and women who actually make up  the armed forces.

Although the GOP has touted itself as the party of the military in this past, this election feels quite different. Romney rarely mentions servicemen and women, not even to give a token mumble of gratitude.  In the meantime, Republicans in the Senate recently killed a bill that would have promoted jobs for veterans as policemen, fire fighters and in the national parks.

Sure, there are politicians in both parties who ducked military service and who have also kept their sons and daughters out of service.  (Joe Biden, whose son has served in Iraq, is a notable exception.)

But Romney seems particularly detached from military service.  There’s a pretty well-known video on youtube in which Romney is confronted by a gay Vietnam veteran.  What is especially striking to me about the video is Romney’s initial greeting to the man (who is the same age) in which Romney implies some equation between his own year of service to his church (in France) with the man’s service in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but a year in France, even doing the undoubtedly unpopular work of trying to convert Frenchmen to Mormonism, does not compare with service in the Vietnam War.  (Military service is not like income tax; reducible by a decision to tithe to your church.)

Romney’s closeness to Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish prime minister of Israel, and Romney and Ryan’s tough talk on Iran, makes this detachment from the actual men and women who serve particularly worrisome.  Our troops should not be pawns in a global strategy game; especially one in which decisions affecting their fate seem so explicitly linked to the decisions of politicians in other nations.

Obama looks tired.  His hair has significantly greyed in the last four years.  Perhaps I’m naive (and those of you who disagree with me will say that I am.)  But I can’t help feeling that some of this aging directly arises from an intense consciousness of his responsibilities as commander in chief.  Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have made the families of servicemen and women their particular cause.  Obama also seems to have taken an active interest in the personal aspects of military affairs = going to Dover to meet returning coffins and repeatedly sharing condolences with families of the fallen.

Is it possible that Obama’s views are affected by the fact that so many in military service are people of color, people who do not have substantial financial means?

I don’t know.   (I don’t even want to get in the subject of a draft here.)

Has Obama handled military matters perfectly?  No.  (The question of why we are in Afghanistan even through 2014 is immensely troubling.)

But for all of that, I am convinced  that Obama feels deeply and personally his responsibility for these young men and women.  They are not alien beings to him, part of the 47% (who do not pay income tax) or even part of the 1% (the very small number who serve.)  This awareness seems to be me to be supremely important in a commander-in-chief.

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11 Comments on “Thinking About Election In Relationship To the Troops”

  1. sonofwalt Says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. David King Says:

    I don’t know the truth of this, but I do not think you’re making the blog too political. It’s difficult: a few years ago our government was definitely letting the troops down by cutting back on the equipment. They were inadequately and inappropriately kitted out: everything from light arms to jeeps and helicopters. Men were being wounded and dying for lack of the right equipment.

  3. brian miller Says:

    i imagine this pours out of your own weekend and the thoughts of sending one to afghanistan…thought about you a few times after reading that a couple days ago…my nephew leaves first of the year as well…we need a commander in chief that def at least has respect for the lives he risks daily…

  4. hedgewitch Says:

    My husband is a Viet Nam vet who also served in Korea, and a registered Republican–but he finds Romney (and the House Republicans as represented by Paul Ryan who voted down the veteran’s jobs bill you spoke of on a procedural technicality) detestable in his open disregard of veterans, not to mention his ignorance of the realities of combat, his intense dedication to Israel’s prominence in our Middle East policy at all costs, and his saber-rattling for ‘the next war’ (Iran)The sacrifices and service of those now in uniform are even greater, he feels, than his own generation’s, as this is an all volunteer army, fighting multiple tours of duty and suffering horrific losses of limb, traumatic brain injury, etc, and coming home to a country with no jobs and where they are often tainted with a false stigmata of mental instability. It’s obvious if Romney were elected, all the funding for the pentagon he proposes would go to defense contractors and dubious weapons programs, ie, the war machine and not the really glaring needs of the human beings who in his mind are just the tools of the neo-cons’ drive for American world domination. (There is a reason John Bolton is on Romney’s advisory staff.) Anyway, I’ll shut up, least I end up alienating people *for* you, ;_) but thanks, as always for speaking out, k.

  5. PJF Sayers Says:

    Karin, I am glad you spoke about this. I am truly worried for the state of the world, not just the US, if Romney gets elected. It seems there are a lot of low-information people, who may actually vote him in. I shudder at the thought … the man is pure evil.

    Pamela

  6. Zouxzoux Says:

    I wish more people were as thoughful as you in all areas but specifically in this. I do believe Obama will always do his best to keep us out of another war by utilizing diplomacy and intellect whereas the Republicans seem to be determined to get into it with Syria, Iran and who knows who else. Our military is still fighting the longest war in our history which was started by a Republican president. I used to often vote Republican (I’m a registered Independent) but that part has gone ape-shit crazy and I want no part of them.

  7. Sabio Lantz Says:

    I’d wager that the demographics of poetry writers is largely skewed toward Democrats, so I am sure this is safe on your readership.

    I am a fan of neither candidate. But I agree with your analysis on the whole. I have worked many years with the military (providing medical care) and I see the situation as complex. But the America-must-carry-a-big-stick mentality is dangerous (even if it is important to have big sticks). I watch kids go into the military for lack of better jobs, lack of education, lack of ambition and then used as cannon foder for oil and gas policy disguised as patriotism, freedom and such.

    I have met many brave, nobel, fine soldiers — many! And most soldiers don’t imagine all the harm war can do to them — until they sign up a second time, but often, by then they have already been harmed. Others, have no better options in civilian life. One of my jobs was screening for suicide tendencies on the returns after a ‘tour of duty’ [what a weird expression]. It is tough to go through bloody trauma like that. Or even just the fear of death in a land where you are the alien.

    Yet, your above video shows the fate of those at the hands of radical islam — moderates are easily converted to this. 1/2 the population horribly abused (women). But should American or Brits or French … fight for this. I wouldn’t — and I’d fight to stop my children from making a decision to go over and fight America’s wars — Democrat or Republican. I feel sorry for those that have.

    Sorry, rambled, no answers.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Sabio, Thanks for your very thoughtful and well-informed comments. I have to confess that my fears of alienating people really do not involve poets that much. (You are probably right about the demographics.) But I have a professional life far outside of poetry, and I do not think politics mixes terribly well with that, in part because it can make people put you in a box (of the other side), or feel that you are in turn unsympathetic with their views.

      (Of course, it can also be a bit odd to mix poetry with a professional life! Always a quandary for me!)

      In terms of the Swat Valley video and our on troops – I agree with you. I did not mean to suggest that our soldiers should be used to try to change attitudes towards women. I don’t think that they can even stamp out the Taliban. Really that type of change probably has to happen from within somehow. Not an easy matter. (All that money for the war may have perhaps been used far better in different ways.)

      In terms of the re-enlistment – I don’t know why people do what they do – but I think that once someone has been in the military, there is a great sense of loyalty to other soldiers (if not belief in the mission or even necessarily the institution.) Also, re-integration into society seems terribly difficult–not even just in terms of jobs, but of course, experience, pace, lack of a sense of importance or excitement, and lack of that camaraderie. The whole situation is terribly complex I think. I really do appreciate your thoughtful views. k.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        @ k:
        Indeed, that is why I use a pen name — much easier.
        Concerning “re-enlistment”: agreed!
        I had entertained being in the military a few times in my life. I would think I’d be a very different person today, had I. Not sure who, though.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Pen names complicated too. I have books I’d like to make more popular! (Crazy!)


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