Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who We Fight For--Everybody

Everyone who deploys to Iraq and Afghanistan, or fights pirates off the coast of Somalia, or goes to any of the outposts of the War on Terror fights for all Americans. Even though I am a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, I am a soldier in the Army of all America.

Sometimes, I admit, I wish it were otherwise. When I travel I pay more attention to the news than when I am home and the news during the last week has been sad for me. White people yelling the N-word at a congressman who fought for civil rights in the 60s, bricks thrown through windows of Democratic Party offices, a gas line cut at what was believed (mistakenly) to be a US Congressman’s home that could have killed kids, and on April 19 there will be a gun rights march on the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh killing kids in a Day Care Center and more than 150 other innocent victims. I don't want to defend those people.

But "those people" are Americans, so the American military stands for all of us whatever we believe. And I really do believe that America is all of us, not us and them. In many previous posts I wrote about soldiers I served with in Iraq under the collective title "Who Fights This War?" I will continue those stories when I go back to drilling and catch up with what my fellow soldiers are doing now.

In future posts I decided to also write about some of the people in my life that TEA Party activists, militia members, and right-wing talk show hosts call the enemy. They are people like me. People with graduate degrees who live and work in major cities, who read dead poets, who do all of the research that preserves our past and defines our future, and are dismissed by Conservative leaders as elitists as if six to twelve years of education after high school was a curse. Many of their listeners don’t know anyone with a PhD.

It is clear from email and comments I received in the last year, that some of the people who read my blog don’t know many soldiers. Since I have one foot in each world—the Army and the Academy—I will occasionally write about people in my everyday civilian life.

Just as with the soldiers I wrote about, the profiles are simply my view of people who have chosen to live the life of the mind whether in research or teaching or preserving history in the form of books, documents, art, and artifacts. I like to talk with people who excel. To me, an excellent marksmen, pilot, racer, point guard, goalkeeper, or runner has a kinship with the most inspiring teachers, brilliant writers, innovators and researchers.

I’ve mentioned before that all US military personnel taken together, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Active, Reserve, and National Guard add up to about two million men and women or about 2/3 of one percent of the population of America. Two million is also the number of people in America who have PhD degrees. Two of the most influential groups in America have very separate worlds. But in my experience, the best soldiers and the best researchers share a devotion and passion that people who just bitch and whine will never know. I admire people in both groups. I hope you will too.