Much as I like to congratulate myself on my habits of critical thought, my superhuman ability to resist fads, my wholly unique and original turn of mind, I know I'm a product of my time and place in the universe, an artificial and accidental construct of genes, family background, local culture, personal experience, and a blind acceptance of all kinds of prevailing currents in fashion, intellectual trends, and brainwashing by friends, colleagues, and pop cultural influences.
In short I'm possessed by the geist of my particular zeit.
We all are. Some of us to greater degrees than others. But all of us are products of our times and unfortunately our time is limited. Usually we become us in our late teens and early 20s and then we become stuck in time and stuck with who we are. The times change, but we don't.
Not much we can do about this. And some pretty dumb ideas become woven into the tapestry of who we are and even when the dumb ideas can be identified and traced through the design they are hard to pluck out.
Here's a list of some ideas and notions I reflexively accepted as true because of when I was a young adult but which led to nothing but heartache and confusion and which times subsequent have shown to be the sort of ridiculous and wholly meritricious sort of thinking that only a 20 year old would have considered plausible for more than half a second.
1. There's a flannel shirt for every occasion.
2. A haircut that leaves any percentage of your ears showing is conservative and will cause people to mistake you for a banker, especially if you're wearing a sportcoat and one of your grandfather's ties. (You probably shouldn't go with the Nikes though if you want the disguise to work.)
3. Actually getting a job in a bank would be a betrayal of all that is good and noble and beautiful in life, but...
4. Greed is good.
5. Real men don't eat quiche...unless it's the only dish the girl they want to sleep with knows how to make, then it's delicious.
6. It's morning in America.
7. It's hip to be square.
8. Video killed the radio star.
9. Government is the problem.
10. Find that G spot and never let it go.
11. No pain, no gain.
12. Meryl Streep can play anybody.
13. I'm ok, you're ok.
14. Carbs! Carbs! Carbs!
15. Enlisting in the military is something other people do.
The Heretik, Amanda Marcotte, and Shakespeare's Sister have recently written passionately about the evil unfairness of "Fortunate Son" George Bush sending all these children of the poor and the working class off to die for his ego while his own daughters party, party, party. Atrios has reported on the anger and frustration of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who wants to be president of the United States and who, being a Republican and knowing that he'll only get to the White House if he pleases the Republican Right Wing, has to be a gung ho supporter of the War in Iraq. Romney was asked if he was encouraging his own sons to join the military and go fight. Apparently, he found the question in poor taste.
It's amusing to watch Bush and other Republican hypocrites squirm, but has anybody asked the same question of Hillary Clinton?
She voted for the war, she has yet to come out strongly against it, and in fact she seems to be hoping that her hawkishness (relative hawkishness in comparison to some other Democrats) will help her chances of becoming president. Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton is 25. Is she going to enlist?
I ain't no millionaire's son, but I was still fortunate. When I was a young man there was no draft and no war. There were no economic pressures on me to enlist and certainly no cultural ones. In fact cultural pressure went the other way. None of my friends joined up. My father had been in the Air Force, but he served only his required two year hitch and was never tempted to re-up. He made it clear to my siblings and me that he'd only joined to avoid the draft and earn money for college and that neither circumstance applied to us. He wasn't opposed to any of us enlisting and I think he'd have been proud if one of us had, but he wanted to make sure that none of us felt we had to. So none of us did.
And probably none of our children will enlist either.
The disaster in Iraq is George Bush's doing. But not solely. And it is not his fault that most of the young lives he has available to him to throw away belong to the children of the poor and working class.
Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans like the idea of an all-volunteer military.
And while Iraq has been an unconscionable waste of lives, Iraqi and American, of any and every class, the question I have to ask myself is what would be a conscionable way to spend those lives? More specifically, when is it ok for me to ask other people to send their children to do a dirty and dangerous job I wouldn't send my own kids to do?
I think most Democrats believe that President Clinton did the right thing in the former Yugoslavia. Many who don't think so criticize him for how he was too careful with American lives.
And it's probably safe to say that most of us wish he had sent troops to Rwanda.
But in both cases the fact is that Liberals and Democrats were willing to ask the children of the poor and the working class to risk their lives to fight for our ideals and goals, and our being right, our being on the side of goodness and truth, doesn't change the fact that our fortunate sons and daughters weren't very likely going to be asked to place themselves in harm's way.
I guess what I'm saying is that I think that the idea of an all-volunteer military is unfair and possibly morally untenable, especially in a Democracy.
For it not to be, there has to be an agreement that those who sign up in peacetime are only the first line of defense in wartime and that as soon as possible the rest of the country comes to fight at their sides.
I can only see two ways of making sure this happens.
Well, three. We can hope we never fight another war.
But realistically there are only two ways that I see.
Or we all, Democrats as well as Republicans, Blue Staters as well as Red Staters, do a much better job of raising our kids not to think of military service as something other people do.
Related: Tom Watson writes on the continuing, and worsening, awfulness in Iraq and reminds us that as vile and despicable as our playacting President is, George Bush doesn't bear sole responsibility for the War:
the toothless, political cowardice of the Democrats must not slip away into the night of history. Particularly in this Congress, lockstep support for national security in the "time of war" has given the Administration the social checkbook it needs to write the bills for this war. Far too many Democrats went along for the ride, bought too easily into the argument that everything is different after 9-11.