You all know that I like the American military. It really doesn’t make sense, given that I’m a petite woman raised in a pretty darn Left -wing Jewish environment in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s (i.e., the Vietnam and post-Vietnam era). My daughter made me realize, however, that my interest in and admiration for our military isn’t anything new.
Although she’s still far too young fro college, my daughter is starting to think about. She therefore asked me, “Where did you want to go to college, Mommy?” (She knows that, tho’ I attended Berkeley for economic reasons, I truly and deeply hated the place.) I thought a minute and realized that, of all the college materials I reviewed when I was in high school, the only one that really called to me was . . . are you ready for this? . . . West Point.
I thought West Point sounded wonderful. It looked lovely, and so well-ordered. I liked the sense of purpose and the deep discipline. I realized quickly, though, that I didn’t have what it takes. I’m extremely small and extremely nearsighted, which made the physical requirements intimidating, if not impossible. Add to that a public-school bred inability to do math and science, and the clingy personality of a child raised by one concentration camp survivor and one Nazi refugee/”RAF in North Africa combat” survivor, and you’ve got someone who wouldn’t have lasted one day (or, at least, didn’t think she would, which came out to the same result in the end).
Running against upbringing and type, though, I always thought that the military was a good thing, especially for young men. We live in an increasingly feminized culture. Part of this is simply due to industrialization and technology. You don’t have to run around with a gun and spear, outracing animals and other hunters, to feed your family. Men, like women, sit and drive most of the time in our modern world. However, we also live in a feminized culture in that, as I’ve said before, male virtues are consistently regarded as vices. Boys are forced to be less physical, to be more emotional, and to view themselves as dangerous predators. The positive spin of being strong, manly, and living to protect the small and weak is gone. It’s all “boys are bad” stuff around here.
I’ve already bored you with stories of the young men I know who have found themselves in the military. Adrift in a world that makes the wrong demands on them, and castigates their vices instead of encouraging their virtues, the military is a place where they can be men in the best possible sense of the world. As someone who loves reading about transformative experiences (whether in fact or fiction), learning about young men who have been all that they could be is deeply satisfying to me. (I actually call “transformative” fiction “getting it right” books, or movies. Pride and Prejudice is one example, as two headstrong people figure it out. Groundhog Day is another example, as a jerk becomes a mensch.)
If you want an example of someone who didn’t have to get it wrong before he got it right, read this 2009 article, about a young man whose commitment to the Marines transcended injuries and prosthetics. (Believe it or not, this entire post, which I wrote from the heart, was a lead-in to this old article, which really amazed me.)
As always, if you want to support the military, considering joining the Navy League, “a non-profit organization dedicated to educating our citizens about the importance of sea power to U.S. national security and supporting the men and women of the sea services and their families.” My feeling is that the more the American public knows about the American military, the more they will like, respect and support it, as I do.