The pawn of American imperialism – the humble patriot – has become a sanctified figure, alongside George Washington, Paul Revere and that guy who loved his electric shaver so much he bought the company.
In North Korea, any reference to the leader, Kim Jong-un, must be prefaced by the words ‘Respected Comrade and supreme leader’. It is well documented that any public official who omits to do this is taken out into the woods, stripped to their standard-issue KJU boxer shorts and slapped about the face with a wet sturgeon. I swear I am not making this up.
Such ridiculousness would never prevail in a Western democracy, where expression of free will is defended to the death, right? Think again, comrades. It was the post-2001, McCarthy-like rhetoric of George W Bush, with its ‘with us or against us’ battle-cry, that ushered into American life a new era of linguistic straight-jacketing, to rival the most repressive of fascist regimes. Even after the Iraq war was recognised as illegal – the most embarrassing foreign policy screw-up since the war in Vietnam – Americans continued to assert that, despite the incompetence of the corporate neo-cons in charge, the honest men and women of the military – the boots on the ground – were forever beyond reproach.
‘Thank you for your service’ became the obligatory mantra of the American talk-show host and practically anyone in public life, on the occasion of meeting a member of the armed forces. Despite the dubious reputation of American military aggressions around the globe, the pawn of American imperialism – the humble patriot – has become a sanctified figure, alongside George Washington, Paul Revere and that guy who loved his electric shaver so much he bought the company.
But let’s be honest, your average twelve-year-old boy is not called to a life of military service by an innate commitment to the defense of liberty against the threat of fascism. Surely, it’s got a little more to do with riding around in a big tank with his buddies, wearing cool camo gear and randomly shooting at stuff. It’s a 12-year-old boy’s wet dream! And – check this out – they freakin’ pay you for this shit, too, man! I am totally not bullshitting you.
I’m not suggesting that there are not those whose contribution to their nation’s military is motivated by true aspirations of making the world a better place for us all, but surely there are other options, which don’t involve charging into sovereign lands with a loaded automatic weapon. Ideas that come to mind: Joining Peace Corps, volunteering at your local thrift store, helping an old lady across the road and being slightly less of an arse-hole to Afzul, father of three, who asks you how your day has been as he flicks the meter to ‘on’ at the tail-end of another twelve-hour shift. Ok, he’s not one of the beatified saints of your national defense, but he’s doing his bit for American capitalism all the same. Thank you for your service, Afzul.