Twitter is a great help when it comes to not writing my memoir (or exercising, taking walks, doing chores, etc). Hella depressing though, especially the recent chorus of tweets from those who believe the military is rife with racism and Nazi worship. Yes, I know I’ve been out twenty years, but that wasn’t my experience at all, and I don’t believe things can have changed that much since I was in.
One of my lasting childhood memories is of going through sixth grade in a whites-only segregated school in Springfield, Virginia. I was not a politically-aware child, but even at twelve I knew something was wrong. From the third through fifth grades I’d been in an integrated Department of Defense school at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Many of my classmates there were black, and that was normalcy to me. Now, back in the States, black kids my age were nowhere to be seen. I knew it wasn’t right and I knew it would have to change.
I’m not naive about military resistance to President Truman’s 1948 executive order to end segregation in the military. Resist it the military did, but not for long. By the beginning of the Korean War in 1950 the fight was over and the military was way out ahead of the country in racial integration. Sure, racial tensions have disturbed the force from time to time since then, but never for long: military leaders are always quick to clamp down and IMHO the military remains the example for the rest of America to follow.
Military culture is the opposite of what we see with torch-carrying white supremacists (and, frankly, what we see in many police departments around the country). Sure, racists do join the military, recruit weak-minded followers while they’re there, and later use some of their military training once they’re out and terrorizing minorities in the streets of America. But that doesn’t originate in the military: it’s outsiders coming in, using the military for whatever they can get out of it, then returning to civilian life and the racist culture they originally came from.
Yesterday and today, I’m seeing headlines about military leaders condemning racism. Which is fine, except there’s something about the way the headlines are worded that makes me think the reporters and editors who wrote them believe the military is the source of the racism tearing the country apart, and that military leaders are just now beginning to realize it. What worries me is that people will read these headlines and come to the same conclusion. Considerably less than ten percent of living Americans have ever served in the military, so there are few of us able to counter this narrative, as I’m trying to do here.
My suggestion to military leaders is this: find the troops bringing white supremacism into the military and recruiting others, and show no mercy in drumming them out. How hard can it be? Any good noncom or company-grade officer knows who their shitbirds are, and the Aryan Brotherhood types must be the shitbirds of all time.
And that leads me to another suggestion, not to military leaders but to the president and congress: bring back the draft and stop creating a military caste in this country. Those assholes in khaki Dockers and white Polos we saw chanting “blood and soil” in Charlottesville? Had they spent a few years in the military, working alongside the rest of us, most of them wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
© 2017, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.