Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Nowadays I'm working a lot with a guy who's about 15 years younger. Also, he's from a reasonably affluent suburban background with a liberal arts degree (with a subsequent MBA and computer science work) while I'm essentially small-town Midwest/Southern blue-collar with an engineering background. Needless to say, we see the world differently.

Usually I can depend on him to say liberal talking points. Not consciously - it's just what you get from the news environment as the implicit default political position. Bush lied, no WMDs, shouldn't have been a war, what honor killings?, Clinton was cool, etc. Whether I'm having any influence or not, I'm exposing him to stuff he's never seen in the news.

Yesterday it was the trope that people volunteer for the military because of a lack of opportunity at home. There was no analysis behind this that I could tell - just something that he'd heard that made sense to him. It certainly hadn't occurred to him to question it.

I pointed out a few things he didn't seem to acknowledge. He wasn't aware that military pay was so low - he seemed to think it was in the $30s or so. Maybe - if you were high enough rank and/or stuck around long enough. I snooped around and found this. Yeah, you get room, board and medical care such as it is too, but I'm thinking that he and I both would have problems with the working conditions, time off, hours and some other issues. You'll never get rich digging a ditch, but you won't in the service either.

He also didn't seem to realize that it wasn't WWII anymore when, as relatives tell me it was later in the war, the physical was "Can you see lightning? Can you hear thunder? You're 1A". He seemed to think that anybody with the gumption to show up at a recruiting center could sign up and see the world. Sorry, but the service doesn't want just anybody and doesn't take just anybody. It didn't take his fine education to join the military for sure, but even economic coercion wouldn't work for a significant number of people.

He seemed stumped. Then WTF would anyone sign up?

Now we finally had it. There couldn't be any non-economic reason to sign up. Patriotism? A sense of obligation? Recognition of need and willingness to stand up? Respect for a grand tradition? Pride in meeting the standards? Whatever the reasons, thank God they exist and for the people who share them, who make it possible for us to have these discussions from the air-conditioned safety of an anonymous suburban office building. (Oh, he's got issues with the God business too).

Not to slam the guy - he's the product of his environment. He was born privileged, that's all. He just doesn't realize that the greatest privilege he was born with was the same as mine - we were born in the USA.

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