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We [Don’t] Take Care of Our Own

Staff Sergeant Robert BalesA generation ago Bruce Springsteen was socio-serenading us with what soon was to become the iconic song, “Born in the USA.”  And now, seven presidential elections later, he’ll likely be sending his message with the song, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Although the message in 1984 was inconceivably misconstrued and misappropriated by conservatives then – Ronald Reagan, running that year for his second term in office, among them – this time around, as made visually clear in the video released a month ago, Springsteen is giving us the lyrics in his video underlined from beginning to end with a clear message: Ignore the words at your own peril.

No hidden or subliminal message from the “Boss”. To most of us, it was clear in 1984, and it is clear today, what the laments were in post-Vietnam America… or what the dire struggles are today, both material and spiritual, all summed in the song with the missing “don’t”:

“Wherever this flag’s flown
we [don’t] take care of our own”

No, Americans, singularly among people of the so-called First World, don’t take care of their own. Half of America is in poverty, and few among the other half care or much give a damn about the situation, resorting to blaming it all on a lamentably greedy “one-percent.” They prefer not to look in the mirror, naked… knowing full well how ugly they look in their obesity, exhibiting both, layers of fat and lack of cojones.

But if the civilian poor yells “help” but the cavalry stays home, as Springsteen tells us in his song… the culture in the military is quite different.  They do take care of their own.
 
Soldiering America dutifully lets you know that no American military member will be left behind; and the nation seems to find idiotic pride in such a vainglorious act… for at the end of the day, it’s all it is. It is to honor the empire, the symbolism, and not for the love of the fallen or captured comrade at arms. 

That’s the meaning in the military of “we take care of our own.” Our soldiers are exempt from responsibility to anything they might do, any crimes they might commit against the yellow or Muslim man they’ve been sent to kill; children and women not to be excluded, nor the old nor the sick. Yes, Americans can take care of their own and they have… from the hamlets of MyLai to Haditha to the unnamed village in Kandahar where the latest act of American criminality took place; in America’s military culture, the only clear-cut crime is that committed against their own.
 
Somehow, in some fashion, any criminality committed against foreign friend of foe, no matter how despicable, how heinous the crime, always finds an irrefutable defense in combat stress symptoms which appear as anger, anxiety and depression… which becomes a perfect defense if such symptoms are linked to a recent death of a comrade, or the accused has served in too many combat tours. 

Of course, such symptoms probably apply to half or more of the military population, which is in effect telling us that given the nature of war, and how the Pentagon is allowed to conduct it (financial considerations forcing multiple combat tours), the American soldier is for all intents and purposes, a priori, free from being found guilty of any crime – more specifically, capital crime – unless such crime is perpetrated against his comrades or adversely affects U.S. national security.

Sergeant Bales, assuming he is found to be the only soldier involved in the recent massacre in Afghanistan, will not be paying for the horrific incident, whether innocent or guilty of such a crime; such determination in military justice likely to take many years. The Pentagon’s convenient refracting transparency will make sure that such is the case.

That brings us to the question of who the criminals are. Well, the criminals can be seen when we look ourselves in the mirror: the criminals are simply us. Not the President, nor Congress, nor the bemedaled pit-bulls staffing the Pentagon… they are simply the hangmen we choose to carry our criminal acts. The criminals are us who allow ourselves to be governed by a warmongering, elitist gang serving special interests and not the people, the commons.

If we lack the conscience and compassion to take care of our own, should anyone expect us to take care of others… walk around the world imparting social justice? Yes, Boss, we are, unfortunately, ignoring the words in your song at our own peril.

© 2012 Ben Tanosborn


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