02 September 2004

Good Soldier Outlier: Introduction

So many people these days seem to be fighting the Vietnam War all over again, and so few politicians, journalists, and pundits--and fewer and fewer academics--have any military experience at all. So I thought I'd seize the opportunity to share a few of my own impressions about what it was like to be in the Vietnam Era military. There are far more Vietnam Era Vets than there are Vietnam Vets. I'm one of the former. I never got close to combat. Never even left the States. True war heroes may be reluctant to talk about their experiences, but a bookish clerical soldier like me should be able to prattle on and on.

If you get nothing else out of it, I hope at least you come away with a feeling that people in the military are just people, in all their diversity, and not some strange subspecies of robotic sociopaths, as so many antiwar protestors seem to assume.

The thing that most disturbs me about so many of my politically active colleagues in academia is their visceral revulsion at all things military, and their tendency to demonize anyone connected with the military. It's even worse than the casual bigotry one finds on American campuses toward anyone with a marked Southern accent, or anyone who openly professes Christianity.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive. I was raised among expatriate Southerners in Japan, but consciously worked to erase any traces of a Southern accent, while teasing friends who kept theirs. Now my daughter teases me for the traces her finely tuned ear picks up, while I get defensive about the South. I was also raised among Christian missionaries, although I abandoned the faith during adolescence. By now I've also abandoned my old resentment toward the church.

My lofty rationale for indulging a story-telling whim, then, is to help counter one kind of antimilitary bigotry that seems so widespread among those inclined toward pacifism. Perhaps I might also help counter a bit of the promilitary mythologizing that seems so widespread among hawks.

The first installment will follow this evening.

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