Columnist Asks: 'Will you look her in the eye?'
Good question, Bob!
By Winter Patriot on 8/19/2005, 8:43am PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Sometimes this job is too easy. What to read? What to post? Some of these questions answer themselves. For instance, if it's Friday morning, then it must be time to visit Common Wonders and have a look at Bob Koehler's newest column. It starts this way:

My guess is that the Army's new $350 million recruitment-ad blitz targeting parents will not feature any footage of Cindy Sheehan camped in a ditch five miles outside of Crawford, Texas, waiting patiently for the vacationing president to talk to her.

Nor, I suspect, will “Arlington West,” the makeshift cemetery containing more than 1,800 crosses spread out along the road to the Bush ranch, be part of the slick, insidious hype the Leo Burnett agency is hoping will soften the fearful grip American parents have on their teenagers these days, only one in four of whom wants his or her kid to enlist.

Slick and insidious is right, Bob. Slick like oil on the water. And "insidious" is a perfect word to describe the practice of spending $350 million of our money to lure our kids into a raging man-made disaster. Well, maybe there are some other words. And maybe it's not even our money. It's our kids' money, or our grandkids. Some day the bill for all this insanity is going to come due. And even if the current crop of White House madmen are not around to pay it, somebody is going to have to pay. Guess who? Who always pays? But I digress.

The entire column is worth a read --- as always --- one passage is worthy of particular attention. Koehler quotes the famous line, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori", as many writers have done in the past. Refreshingly, rather than assuming that all readers know what it means and where it comes from, he provides not only a translation but also a context.

In one commercial, for instance, a boy clinches a conversation with his skeptical mom about enlisting so he can have a way to pay for college by saying, “And besides, it's time for me to be a man.”

What brilliant (and shameless) manipulation of human psychology — as though the Army's raison d'etre is the personal growth of young people. Yes, boys have to grow into men, and rites of passage are crucial for this, but the admen and the Army are hawking a cynical lie. Almost 90 years ago, poet Wilfred Owen, who died in World War I, captured the essence of that lie in his extraordinary poem “Dulce et Decorum Est.” (The last line, translated from the Latin, means, “It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.”)

“If you could hear,” Owen writes, describing the death of a fellow soldier in a gas attack, “at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

Thanks again to Bob Koehler, whose care-packages of truth and sanity are always welcome after another week of craziness and vicious lies. Here's the permanent link to this week's column: Hiding from Cindy: The world is watching, George — will you look her in the eye?.