In 2002, my favorite TV show of all time, Combat Missions, debuted. It featured real warriors from the most elite squads–Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Army Special Forces and DELTA, SWAT–teaming up to compete in carrying out mock military missions. What I loved most about the show was the jibing, pranking and mock insulting that every warrior relished doing against their competitors, and even within their own team. It was just the kind of thing that, today, gets the PC crowd (I don’t even have to explain who I mean, you all know) worked up in a frenzy of high-minded, self-righteous offense, outrage, and whining. I have noticed that the most cohesive human working groups–military units, sports teams, law enforcement–thrive on insults and pranks. It’s a beautiful thing. Soldiers go into combat, chancing death or disfigurement, “not because they hate who is in front of them but because they love who is behind them” (Chesterton).
When I was in the Army in 1969-1970, I was exposed to a whole spectrum of ethnicities, religions and physical characteristics…. and insults. I was on the receiving end of kike, hebe, sheney, yid; Southern white boys got cracker, redneck, hillbilly; Hispanics * got greaser, spic, beaner; blacks * got sambo, nigger (but only from each other), spade; orientals * got chink, slope, nip. So what? We were a team, we helped each other, got yelled at and abused by the drill sergeants equally, consoled each other, did our jobs, and in Vietnam had each other’s back and saved each other’s lives. The insults and epithets were a form of friendly banter, and almost everyone gave as good as they got, without getting upset. Maybe that’s just a male thing, because you can even observe similar behavior in sports bars and male dorms. That’s how it was in my dorm rooms from 1964 to 1967. Yet I never saw a single fight or even the telltale signs of real anger, like reddened face, threats, bared teeth and other physiological signs. We got along and had fun with each other. No more, I guess. Outrage is in vogue. It must be Trump’s fault.
If this blog survives my death and you are reading this in about 50 years from now, you may have to look up “Trump” to find out who he was. If we are all in peace and harmony 50 years from now, as we might be because trends are a pendulum, you might wonder what all the fuss was about.
Social media, the internet and partisan news exist to tickle the ears and attract minions, by convincing us how much worse things are today. NOPE. I graduated college in 1968, and things were much worse. Some of the headlines: January 30, the Vietcong launched the Tet Offensive, the bloodiest of the war; February 8, University of South Carolina, police open fire on students protesting segregation (remember what that was?), killing 3 and wounding 27; April 4, Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down, touching off riots in over 100 cities, leaving 39 dead and 2,600 injured; June 4, Robert Kennedy was assassinated; June 8, Dr. King’s murderer arrested in London, extradited to the U.S.; July 18, Intel corporation formed, making both personal computers and the internet possible (so 50 years later we can assure each other how bad we have it); August 20, Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, slamming the Iron Curtain down on freedom; August 28, police and national guard in Chicago go on a rampage, clubbing and tear gassing hundreds of protesters, media and bystanders; October 2, police and soldiers fire on a student led protest in Mexico City, killing and wounding thousands; November 9, after 267 years, Yale University decides to admit female undergrads (Whatt? Yale is a hotbed of liberalism!–today that is). I could go on, and I left out a lot of bad stuff and a lot of achievements. To those who still think things are worse today and progress is stalled, I tender a humble suggestion: “Get your head out of your ass” (or at least out of the cellphone). My diagnosis is cranial rectumitis. Here we are, 50 years after upheavals that would have destroyed some nations, and one of our biggest conundrums is how to regulate the flow of people fleeing their own country to get into ours!! Grow up, perfect justice doesn’t exist and never will when humans govern; you’ll just have to settle for the next best thing, as well as people saying stuff you don’t like. Too bad, no one can make you take offense…..but you.
I went into the Army in February 1969. The only times and places I saw real anger in the army were when we had no mission and were idle, when the more ignorant and frustrated guys would segregate themselves into homogeneous groups by race, whites fueling their prejudices and blacks doing the same. Then a job or mission requiring teamwork would come along, and we’d function as a team again, the same whites who were inciting each other to racism risking their lives to pull a black comrade away from gunfire, and blacks doing the same. So maybe there’s a lesson here. When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I might add, idle minds are the devil’s playground.
* This edit took place on November 5. When I wrote the original post, I considered this disclaimer that I did not and never have taken part in the name calling, neither in the military or private life. Initially, I decided to leave it out, because I didn’t want to sound self serving or holier than thou. After days had elapsed, the thought kept coming up, “you know how things are today and how taking offense has become the true national sport. Someone will read this and decide you must be punished.” Therefore, I am adding the disclaimer. I have never said any of those derogatory terms used in the paragraph with the * to or about anyone, and never will. I will have to give an account of every word to God on the day I face him.