They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...

These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Aug 20, 2008

The Separation of Soldier And Self...

Now this is one of those little diatribes that I probably should have thought about a lot more prior to writing it. But I didn't, and I am not going to, so what the hell here goes...

I have been posting a lot lately on the complete and utter idiocy of war, and all the bullshit that comes along with it. So I am sure that it has become abundantly clear that I am anti-war. If it hasn't you should probably think about getting tested for a learning disability.

My anti-war feelings stem from a very deep seated affinity for life. Particularly my own life. I like being alive, war threatens that, so by default I am against war. I mean that is the whole secret of life...NOT DYING. Simple.

But I am also a soldier on his way to Afghanistan. I am going to fight a war. I am going to do exactly as I am told, I am going to follow my orders, I am going to serve honorably in the face of whatever.

Two ideas that are diametrically opposed. Another contradiction in the never ending stream of contradictions that make up the majority of my life. I don't know how anyone can deal with me for more than a few minutes without beginning to feel their sanity leaving them.

Regardless of all of that, I am able to separate the soldier from the self. I have a duty as a soldier that I will do. However, I also have thoughts and ideas myself and I will preserve them in spite of what I have to do as a soldier.

How can I do this, or a better question would be why would I think this way? I mean I did volunteer so I have no ground on which to stand to question the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You hear that bullshit a lot lately. Soldiers in todays all volunteer military have no room to bitch and complain about their lot in life. They signed the fucking contract let them deal with what it has wrought.

Well allow me to retort. If you have a job, you have reached an agreement, dare I say a verbal contract, with your employer. You have agreed that between the hours of 9 and 5 or whatever, you will trade them you labor for a pre-determined amount of pay. Now your boss asks you to do something you do not want to do, maybe something you find repulsive, maybe something you think is immoral, possibly something that could get you killed. What do you do? Well either you try to convince your boss that you should not have to do that, or you quit. Then you go and find a new job. Legally speaking for the most part, all your employer can do to you is give you a bad reference. A lot of states they can't even do that, all they can do is verify dates of employment, otherwise risking exposing themselves to lawsuits. But as soon as you find a new job whatever happened between you and your employer matters, not at all.

Now what happens if you have the same exchange with the military? You are dishonorably or some other BCD (bad conduct discharge) from the military which you will have to staple to every job application you ever fill out in your life. You are completely stripped of all benefits that you earned while serving regardless of length of service, and regardless of whether you paid for them or not. You will never be able to find employment with any government agency, you will never get any of the college benefits for which you worked so hard and on and on and on.

Little bit of a difference there! When my drill sergeant told me, when I first questioned my decision to join the military, "No one held a gun to your head and made you join, boy!" Well that's very true, but they are certainly holding a gun to our heads in order to keep us in and in line.

I wonder what would happen if for one day, just one day, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were allowed to quit. What do you think would happen?

We get backdoored by the contract in that we have to spend all those years on the IRR, (Individual Ready Reserve, the list they call all the soldiers back from) and I swear to Christ if anyone says, you should've read the contract, I will find you and beat you to death with a rolled up newspaper. C'mon, these are 18, 19, 20 year old kids signing these contracts. They are lucky they can understand the oath they are taking, much less the fine print of an enlistment contract. Take a poll of soldiers in the Army prior to 9/11 and ask how many of them knew they would be in the Army for 8 years instead of the 2 or 3 or 4 or in my case 5 they signed up for, and you'll find that a good 2/3 to 3/4 of them had no idea. You think that maybe the Army wasn't really vocalizing that part of the contract?

But I digress. I just felt my plaque start flowing again.

This conundrum presents me with an interesting and thoroughly unenviable position from which to act. The only way that I can do it is to separate who I am as a soldier from who I am as an individual. Which I know, is exactly what the Army wants, but they don't want you to maintain the self, just the soldier. 1984 anyone?

So I can be a good soldier, well maybe an average soldier, and I can also maintain some sense of myself. I can maintain my ideals and still do what is demanded and commanded of me as a soldier.

The question that bothers me, keeps me up nights is this: When the time comes when I am asked to do something as a soldier that will destroy the self or when the maintenance of the self demands that I do something that would destroy the soldier, which side of me will win?

God, I can only pray that never happens...

1 comment:

  1. For the love of God, never volunteer for the 82nd Airborne Division! All of your worries will come true!