Sunday, August 12, 2007

Prof. Charles Moskos Joins Operation Yellow Elephant

From National Public Radio's Morning Edition, July 10, 2007:

RENEE MONTAGNE (host): Every day, as people in Washington talk about how to end the war in Iraq, military men and women continue to pack up their gear and go there. Some line up at Baltimore/ Washington International Airport with their rifles in long metal cases. [ . . . ]

MONTAGNE: At this airport, some civilians reach out to shake a soldier's hand or offer a quick thanks. It's a good place to start a conversation about service, sacrifice and support at this stage of the war.

NPR's Neva Grant spoke to servicemembers headed for Iraq and also civilians traveling elsewhere.

Ms. JOAN MASON BAINES(ph): I think it’s because I don’t have any family members or know anyone in the military that I probably don’t support as much as I should.

NEVA GRANT: May I take your name, ma’am?

Ms. BAINES: Joan Mason Baines. I do look at them. Give them words of encouragement. Just non-verbally I just look at them. I don’t actually speak to them.

CATHY(ph): What’s interesting is my boys are that 20-something age, and if we had a mandatory draft, my boys would be there.

GRANT: And may I take your name?

CATHY: Cathy. I’m really divided because I would not want my boys going over there, and their friends are the ones that are over there now. And my son said to me, you know, we’ve got to be supportive for John(ph) because he hates it right now.

GRANT: And for you right now, what does supportive mean?

CATHY: You know, you just almost have to verbalize it. We have to just do it by words.

Mr. JEFF MCBRIDE(ph): My name is Jeff McBride. We’re going to be a facility engineering team in Iraq.

GRANT: You’ve mentioned that it’s very helpful to have complete strangers come up and say thank you.

Mr. MCBRIDE: I’ve had a lot of people come up in the airport, but I also had a lot of people in the local community where we are – people from church, or people that I know. They know that I’m going over there to serve and they’re like, if you need anything, if your wife needs anything, just give us a call.

Mr. ROBIN ATKINS(ph): My name is Robin Atkins. I just got out of high school. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m trying to do with my life. I’m definitely grateful for the soldiers being there. And there are so many people that are sitting on their asses here that aren’t even helping.

GRANT: Have you ever considered going into the military yourself?

Mr. ATKINS: Personally, I don’t think I’m cut out for the Army. If I went in the Army, I don’t think I’d come back. [ . . . ]

MONTAGNE: Voices of travelers at Baltimore/Washington International Airport. We played this tape for two scholars who’ve written about military service and public opinion in wartime. First, sociologist Charles Moskos. He believes when the U.S. fights, it should draft people for the military and national service. His response to those airport travelers…

Professor CHARLES MOSKOS (Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Northwestern University): What struck me was that the civilian responses were so hypocritical. Oh it’s good that somebody’s fighting and dying for us so I don’t have to do it myself. I call that patriotism lite, L-I-T-E. Those who are not serving are not willing to do any sacrifice, don’t really pay much attention to those who are dying, and that reflects poorly, I think, on American character today.

MONTAGNE: Of those voices that we’ve heard just a moment ago, to my ear some of them sounded just a bit lost, like they didn’t know what they could possibly do.

Prof. MOSKOS: Well, short of signing up, I think what we say let’s raise our taxes, let’s have gasoline rationing, and let us try to encourage the children of Congress to join the military. You have to have privileged youths serve as well as people throughout the social spectrum. I want to see Congress’ kids in there. I want to see Jenna Bush and Chelsea Clinton there.

MONTAGNE: Some civilians are doing more than just putting yellow stickers on their bumpers. They’re sending, perhaps, packages to troops or making donations to the USO. Perhaps lobbying employers to hire veterans from the war. Is that serving in any sense?

Prof. MOSKOS: No. It’s – those kinds of steps, while obviously appreciated by soldiers, is not the same as having our privileged youth serving. It’s a way of avoiding the issue. So here, I’ll give you a package instead of my own son or daughter.

MONTAGNE: Charles Moskos is professor emeritus of sociology at Northwestern University, [whom we warmly welcome to Operation Yellow Elephant.]

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