Monday, August 17, 2015

There Are Atheists in Foxholes: But they don't watch Fox News.

Firing on the 300-meter pop-up target range


On the morning we fired the M16, we arrived at drill an hour early.  At morning formation the first sergeant reminded us, loudly, that safety is the most important thing we do in the Army.  

Fifteen minutes later, we lined up at the supply room to get our weapons.  The supply clerk handed out the weapons one at a time, verifying the serial number on each weapon.  While we waited in line, the First Sergeant walked up and down checking soldiers to be sure they had all their gear for the range.

“Eye-Pro” he barked at one soldier.  The soldier quickly showed him his sunglass.  Eye-Pro is short for eye protection, the pretentious Army label for sunglasses.  To another he said, “Hydration.”  The soldier held up a camouflage Camel-Back and sloshed it.  We do not drink water, we hydrate.

He stopped opposite me and said, “One word, Benghazi.” By simply saying that word, this rabid Republican was telling me his party was going to win and the likely Democratic nominee would be defeated.  “President Trump.” he added, indicating his current preference for the 2016 election.

I said, “Trump said he is going to put Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter in his cabinet.  I can’t wait.”

He said, “I didn’t hear that.”  He walked away.  We were done. 

He is among the many soldiers who have asked me in the past eight years, “How can you be in the Army and be a Democrat?”

As he walked away, the woman in line behind me said, “You’re a Democrat!” For the next 15 minutes while we waited in line, the lieutenant and I talked about the how strange it is to be in the Army and be a Democrat.  She is an atheist so she is one step further outside the military norm. 

We talked about how much religion melts into politics for Conservatives and how faith, right-wing politics, and gun rights is the norm, especially in a central Pennsylvania National Guard unit.  We quickly covered fundamentalist views of the U.S. Constitution, the faith (or not) of the founders and voting rights.

Her face lit up when we talked about Young Earth Creationists, the people who believe the earth is 6,000 years old. 

“How can anyone believe that?” she said.  “I talked to a guy who was studying radiation and radioactivity.  The half-lives of many elements are in the millions of years.  I asked him, ‘How can you believe the earth is 6,000 years old?’”

She is a medical officer so she also talked about the anti-vaccination movement.  She said she liked the idea of people having control of medical care for themselves and their children, but she also knows the risks of not vaccinating.  And the Army does not ask about vaccination.  It works.  It is mandatory.

Then I was next in line and it was time to grab my weapon, so our conversation ended.

The Army puts people close together with time to talk.  Most of the conversations are ordinary.  Sometimes they are unexpected fun.  Today was definitely fun!