last night I watched a movie about world war II and I was thinking about how it's usually innocent kids that suffer from war. whether because their families get killed, or because half of them, seeking little more than a means to live, got stuck on the wrong side.
as usual my thoughts turned to my own lack of military experience and I once again pondered joining the army (which now accepts people up to 5 years older than I am). I thought of my failure to serve my country. admittedly, it's a country which I now very much disagree with -- as we become more religious and more tied to control of people and more and more trade away rights for "security"... but then I think about something Heinlein wrote which until this morning I very much believed.
Heinlein, in at least one of his future societies, had this idea that military service earns you the right to vote. I often thought of it when I felt guilty about our country. I thought, "well, who am I to decide, who was unwilling to lay my life on the line for these principles?" that was Heinlein's point - that people unwilling to sacrifice for their future should have no say in other people's futures. I thought I had to serve my time to have the right to decide. I've often chided our leaders for dodging military experience, and when I think about joining politics, I often think about how my own failure to have any would work against me (and I thought rightfully so)...
so, yah, I used to think he was right, but this morning I thought of another thing that once touched my life. there was a PBS series in the 80's called "War" by a historian named Gwen Dyer. the thing that stuck with me in remembering that series was always the chapter "Anyone's Son Will Do" about how the military has taken thousands of years of experience to become freaking amazing at mind control. a modern boot camp will turn anyone into a soldier - save only those the military themselves choose to reject (a class which shrinks in times of war, of course).
so then I connected them, finally, and realized that Heinlein's society would be controlled by people whose very purpose was to be controlled by others -- in essence, a couple generals would decide all elections. great as long as they're the benevolent dictators chosen despite their resistance to leadership... but that's not who our generals are. our generals have their agenda, too, and it's mostly about keeping the military in power.
the thoughts are still mixing around in my head, so I'm not sure where I'll end up. certainly, if everyone in the military were one of Clancy's heroes, we'd be lucky to be led by them. but many of them are just drones, who'd be equally comfortable in Hitler's armies as our own. though I can't really fault them for it, I can't really say "oh, they alone have the right to lead us", either...
mixing. mixing. it's so hard to balance the contradictions when various childhood heroes and experiences turn out to collide. okay, enough rambling.