An Empty Regard, published by The New York Times
The New York Times focused on our longer-term theme in An Empty Regard, front and center in The Sunday Review.
[ . . . ]OYE Comment:
The new cult of the uniform began with the call to “support our troops” during the Iraq war. The slogan played on a justified collective desire to avoid repeating the mistake of the Vietnam era, when hatred of the conflict spilled over into hostility toward the people who were fighting it. [ . . . ]
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, other purposes have come into play. The greater the sacrifice that has fallen on one small group of people, the members of the military and their families, the more we have gone from supporting our troops to putting them on a pedestal. In the Second World War, everybody fought. Soldiers were not remote figures to most of us; they were us. Now, instead of sharing the burden, we sentimentalize it. It’s a lot easier to idealize the people who are fighting than it is to send your kid to join them. This is also a form of service, I suppose: lip service. [ . . . ]
“America needs heroes,” it is sometimes said, a phrase that’s often uttered in a wistful tone, almost cooingly, as if we were talking about a lonely child. But do we really “need heroes”? We need leaders, who marshal us to the muddle. We need role models, who show us how to deal with it. But what we really need are citizens, who refuse to infantilize themselves with talk of heroes and put their shoulders to the public wheel instead. The political scientist Jonathan Weiler sees the cult of the uniform as a kind of citizenship-by-proxy. Soldiers and cops and firefighters, he argues, embody a notion of public service to which the rest of us are now no more than spectators. What we really need, in other words, is a swift kick in the pants.
The basic problem with such faux, yellow-elephant hero-worship, no matter how justified in individual cases, is that our heroes become too distant from the rest of us, to the point that real Americans can no longer see themselves as inspired to emulate them by signing up themselves.
It's a responsibility of our national civilian political leadership, current and future, to inspire their followers, the American people, to do great things.
Now that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is on its way out, it's time for all Americans, everywhere on the political spectrum, if eligible themselves, to Be A Man! Enlist. If not personally eligible, encourage your eligible relatives and friends, your circles of influence, to Always Aim High.
Update: Letters to the Editor in response.