I happen to be a “gentleman of a certain age.” I love that phrase, it’s a politically polite way of saying, “He’s an old fart.” But one of the perks of being an old fart is that you’ve lived longenough to see a lot of shit. A feature strength of our jury system is the fact that any standard 12 person jury has an average of over 300 years of combined life experience. Anything pertinent to thedeliberation that any one juror sees, hears or has known can be shared with the other jurors, and then they know it too. That “Shared Wisdom” makes for a better deliberation, and a more just verdict.And now I have a warning to share.
Back in the 1960,s, I grew up in Cicero, Illinois, a working class suburb directly touching Chicago to the west. Back in the 60’s, it was a pleasant stew of working class Poles, Slavs, Germans,Italians, Irish, and 100% white. It was almost totally bungalows and two story apartments. We didn’t have buses, you walked to school. One of the prominent features of the neighborhood, as in mostworking class neighborhoods, Was an oblong banner hanging in a front room window. It had a red border, with gold fringe at the bottom, and a pure white center. In the middle of that white center wasa star. A blue star proudly indicated that the family had a son or less likely a daughter in active service in the military. Two blue stars meant two sons, and so on. A gold star on that snowybackground indicated a revered household,just like today, they had paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost a son defending our freedoms. On my eight block walk to high school, I passed more than a halfa dozen homes with those banners hanging in the window, including two gold star banners.
The point I’m trying to make herr is that back in those days, almost everybody had “skin in the game”. With the draft in full force, it was almost impossible to find a classmate who did not have abrother or cousin in the military. Almost all of our fathers and uncles had worn the uniform. You couldn’t walk down a main thoroughfare without seeing guys home on leave, or based locally ininstallations like Great Lakes, or the air force detachment at O’Hare airport walking around in their uniforms. If you were a male, as I am, by your 18th birthday you had already paid a visit to thelocal post office, to fill out your Selective Service form, and carried your draft card in your wallet, where mine still sits to this day as both a memento and a reminder. just how little it wouldtake to put your loved ones in arms way.
Those days are long gone. In all honesty, I’ve lived in several places since I graduated high school, and I can’t recall the last time I saw an active service banner hanging in a window. When Iworked for United Airlines, veterans were common, most pilots, and a lot of the mechanics had gotten their training in the military before leaving for better paying jobs in the private sector. Now,you have to look pretty hard in most jobs to find one. Don’t just take word for it, rack your own brains. How many of your friends or coworkers are veterans, or have an active duty servicemember in the military? With the revocation of the Selective Service Act, it is estimated that only 1% of the American population is serving in the military. As a country, we have lost thatcommon shared bond of military service, and the responsibility it brings.
That would be dangerous even with a sane, responsible President in office, With a narcissistic loose cannon like Trump, whose college major was deferments, it’s untenable. Rachel Maddow brilliantlydemonstrated in her book “Drift” how every President since Lyndon Johnson has sidestepped the politically unpopular reality of the necessity of more young men and women to die in conflicts byshamelessly using the National Guard to cover the deficiency of warm bodies as cannon fodder. The National Guard was never meant to be front line troops. They received military defense as adomestic line of defense, and to assist in cases of civil unrest and natural disasters in their perspective states. But with insufficient recruiting to allow for Presidents to swing their bigmilitary dicks around, they’ve endured deployment after deployment.
Trump is the ultimate “chickenhawk.” When given not only the opportunity, but the legal obligation to put on the uniform and serve his country, he cravenly bought his way out of it with a doctorsnote about bone spurs. While I don’t doubt that Trump has bone spurs, I think the doctor misrepresented their location, they’re not in his foot, they’re actually between his ears. Being rich, notonly have Trump’s own sons not served, I seriously doubt that any of his close friends or business associates, or their sons ever donned a uniform. Little wonder Trump has no problem with increasingour military footprint in Syria, or Yemen, or Niger, or wherever. They’re all just tin soldiers to him, he has no feeling or understanding of the true human consequences of his actions to so many ofthe families he’s supposed to be leading and watching out for.
Believe it or not, I don’t hole Trump solely responsible for this, and more than I do Obama, orBush, or any of the rest of them. He’s doing what all of them do, safely playing a game of “Risk”, whileother people do the bleeding and dying. With the abolition of the draft, this country has lost the sense of personal and community cohesion of shared responsibility and sacrifice that mostly militaryservice brings. Let me ask you one simple question. Would you take the possibility of a war with North Korea, or our continuing endless futility in Afghanistan a bit more personally, and be a bitmore vocal about it if your son, or brother, or uncle were in uniform, and at risk of being deployed? I tend to think so. Until we find a way to once again restore that feeling of shared committmentand sacrifice back into our personal and national moral fiber and consciousness, too many political leaders will continue to play conflict “chicken” with each other, and too many brave sons,daughters, and uncles will bleed and die. We already imposed our national will on our congress in fighting off the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we can do the same thing about our constant andendless wars. We just have to remember how to give a shit about it again. The choice is ultimately ours, not theirs.