A Surefire Recipe for the End of Democracy

cheerleader camo
Camo-clad NFL Cheerleaders “Salute” the Troops

W.J. Astore

I’ve written several articles about the United States and creeping militarism (see here and here, for example).  This should be obvious, but I’ll say it again: Calling attention to the militarization of American society is pro-democracy, not anti-military.  Indeed, back in the citizen-soldier era of my father, being “gung ho” for the military wasn’t even applauded within the military!

As one veteran wrote to me:

When I was in the military, being “gung ho” was not considered a compliment by most of my friends… Of course we were not professional military types, just taking our turns to do our duty. We remembered the American soldier epitomized by Bill Mauldin as “Willie” and “Joe” who fought successfully against the German Army and the Japanese fanatics…The popular war movies of WWII after the war usually pitted the austere, indoctrinated Nazis fighting to demonstrate the Nazi superiority against the average American citizen soldier. Remember the movie “Battleground”? Today the images of our Army uncomfortably remind me of the way the German superman was portrayed that we overcame. 

As America today celebrates its “superman” warriors (one soldier recently called this “the age of the commando”), our country neglects these same men and women when they leave the military, often with crippling physical and psychological wounds.

As another veteran wrote to me:

[There is a] disjunction between the cult of military hero-worship in American society and American ignorance of veterans’ problems.  I am continually disgusted with those who are pimping off the mystique [surrounding our troops] who don’t deserve any special regard for their military service.  And a final but important point: many combat vets, knowing full well the realities of combat and its effects on combatants, do not want to be thanked at all [by the public].

America’s militarism both feeds and draws support from our endless wars.  The war on terror has been ongoing since 2001.  So too the war in Afghanistan.  Iraq keeps getting more chaotic.  Miscalculation in Syria could lead to World War III.

Speaking of future wars, just look at the rhetoric of our more popular political candidates for president, to include Donald “bomb those suckers” Trump and Ted “carpet bomb” Cruz.  Chickenhawk politicians are nothing but opportunists.  They may be leading the war charge, but they know they’re backed by a society in thrall to military spectacle (as represented, for example, by pom-pom shaking cheerleaders in skimpy camouflage outfits).

Unstinting praise of America’s “warriors” and “heroes” is reinforced by feel-good corporate/military advertising.  Recall Budweiser’s “welcome home” party for an Army lieutenant that aired during the Super Bowl a couple of years back.  Or red-white-and-blue Budweiser cans to “honor” the troops on July 4th.  “Saluting” the troops with colorful beer cans – really?

Signs of militarism USA are everywhere.  Police forces with MRAPs and similar tank-like vehicles.  Colleges and universities jostling for “defense” funding (even bucolic campuses want those war bucks).  Popular games that glorify military mayhem, such as the “Call of Duty” video games.  Even mundane items like camouflage headsets for NFL coaches.

It’s time to end the madness.  Paraphrasing Dwight Eisenhower, only Americans can defeat America.  Constant celebration of all things military is not a recipe for victory.  But it is a surefire recipe for the end of democracy.

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8 thoughts on “A Surefire Recipe for the End of Democracy

  1. I saw a reference on CNN earlier today to this year’s military flyover of the Super Bowl being a “go.” How reassuring, eh? I guess we haven’t made enough noise in opposition to this incredibly stupid waste of taxpayer dollars. I will be spared the spectacle myself, as I assiduously avoid all the pre-game BS hype every year. I often wait until the 3rd Quarter to even look at the game and if it’s an apparent blowout I will tune away. But that’s practically mandatory for a contrarian: if every effort is being made to persuade me that this Obligatory National Quasi-Religious Ritual is essential viewing, why would I make a big deal over it? It’s tempting to boycott it altogether, in fact. I object to the retention of the very title “The Super Bowl.” This event started, after all, as a contest between the winner of the National Football League Championship and the winner of the American Football League Championship. Since the NFL absorbed the AFL many years ago, it has been simply THE NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME and that’s what it should be labeled. Truth in advertising, what a concept! Perhaps I will petition President Ted ‘The Canadian’ Cruz next year to look into this matter!

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    1. That’s funny. I was chatting with a friend earlier today, and this is what I wrote:

      The Super Bowl this weekend should be interesting. I’m sure “our” troops will be featured prominently as a patriotic backdrop to the game.

      Remember when you could watch an NFL game without humongous flags and troops everywhere and military flyovers?

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  2. To be perfectly honest, the idea of ending democracy (especially in the United States) is a very good idea.

    Our independence won from Britain actually depends upon it. That is the reason that Democracy was shunned at the time The Constitution for The United States was written.

    We must, at all costs, strive to return our system of government to the Constitutional basis it was founded on: A Constitutional Representative Republic.

    If Democracy is allowed to continue to thrive and expand, The United States will become another footnote in history right alongside the Roman Empire.

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    1. I catch your meaning. Yes, we’re supposed to be a representative republic guided by the Constitution. The founders distrusted democracy, which some saw as little better than mob rule.

      But today’s USA is much more of an oligarchy than a republic (or democracy, for that matter). Our elected representatives are puppets, controlled by vested interests with plenty of money. When the Supreme Court equates money with speech, oligarchy is almost inevitable.

      But, and this is truly sad, we’re not getting the best government money can buy, but the worst. Look at the current crop of presidential candidates — not a one comes close to a Washington, a Jefferson, a Madison. Heck, I’m not even sure they come close to a Gerald Ford.

      I suppose this is the way the moneyed interests want it. A mediocrity is far easier to control than a person of character like a Washington or a Lincoln.

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    2. I trust Mr. Shuler’s comment is facetious. How do we generally understand the concept of “democracy” in this country? It means simply that we are not (in theory, at least!) ruled by the whims of monarchs. Every few years we get to make a more and more meaningless choice at the polls between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The elected politicians supposedly “represent” our best interests in the legislative branch of government. I believe this satisfies the writer’s call for “a Constitutional Representative Republic.” Thus the term “democracy” is misunderstood by the man in the street, yes? We’ve never had it and never will. “Direct rule by the people” is “not on the table” for discussion. So how shall we “end” something we do not have in the first place??

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  3. My comment was meant to be educational at the very least. The problem we have is a lack of education regarding Democracy. Without proper knowledge of the dangers of Democracy, we could very well end up with a Democracy that would end our “Great Experiment”.

    We are actually much closer to an Oligarchy than a Democracy. The direction we are heading at this time will lead to either a true Democracy or a dictatorial Oligarchy.

    We owe it to future generations to share knowledge that may prevent their complete loss of freedom.

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