I have this page in my Sociology text that talks about members of the armed forces deployed overseas as being “Cultural Emissaries.”
“Wherever they serve, American Military personnel have the opportunity to learn about other cultures and to act as representatives of American Culture to the people they encounter.”
Basically the idea is that these men and women become ambassadors. They have the opportunity to participate in what we would consider foreign cultures, and the have the ability to share their own personal culture, to some degree, with the people they encounter as well.
This idea was something I hadn’t thought of before, though in reality it makes a lot of sense. It was just an idea that never occurred. Men and women of the armed forces acting as “cultural emissaries” makes so much sense, and yet we never hear about it in the news or anywhere for that matter.
The text provides four military perspectives. One an officer who was struck by the ingenuity of the people living in Afghanistan who were able to do so much with what little resources they had available to them.
Think back to everything you’ve ever heard about the people of Afghanistan, and ingenuity relating to anything not insidious and military-based is not something you ever heard of, but here we have a U.S. officer displaying an ability to appreciate those people who have been so demonized in the west.
This is one example of how the the militarization of America works. We reduce a people into a population, and we categorize that population as despicable and blood thirsty, and suddenly we’re no longer talking about coping with human beings, we’re talking about fighting boogeymen. Our notion of these people become so skewed that it’s impossible for us to empathize with them.
Now for the educated what this does is create apathy. We’re not sure the narrative we’re seeing is true, but we can’t be bothered to protest or rally because dammit we have three midterms on Wednesday and the people of Afghanistan are just going to have to wait. But I wonder if we’d feel the same way if the US media didn’t work so hard to strip that people of their humanity, because it’s hard to care about a population experiencing injustice and atrocity, but when people experience injustice and atrocity it’s impossible to ignore.
Now the uneducated buy into the narrative more or less. They believe that those people are just evil, and that they can’t be reasoned with. but these folks never heard about the ingenuity of Afghans, or that young Iranian girl who grew up with the sounds of bombs going off down the street so often in her lifetime that when an American soldier met her in Baghdad and a bomb went off down the street she was able to identify the blast as a mortar round, because she could differentiate one type of explosion from another. They’ve never heard of the soldiers who were ordered not to share resources with the local “populations,” but who could not obey those orders when they realized children where a part of those populations. They ended up sharing water bottles and much more with those people and were satisfied that they were able to make a small difference. They’ve never heard a soldier say, “their religious beliefs are not unlike ours in that everyone understands the importance of reaching out and being charitable to one another…” (Army First Sergeant Agustus C. Hall Jr.) No. They don’t see that at all, and so they see monsters under the bed, and they react from a place of fear and mistrust, and by doing so they enable the military exploit these countries they’ve demonized for an indefinite amount of time.
So the problem here becomes transparency. We’re so caught up in the myth of demonized populations that we ignore the humanity of the nations and people we occupy and invade, and by doing so we ignore the opportunity to grow and understand cultures that we assume are alien to us. We ignore the thoughts of the men and women who serve our country because they don’t fit in with the narrative we’ve become most comfortable with, and as such we’ve locked ourselves into a vicious cycle of misunderstanding and unending armed conflict. Which is exactly what the Military Industrial Complex needs to maintain acceptable margins of profit.
One solution to this would be creating a culture of reflection around the military. So that when a member of our armed forces deployed overseas is discharged he or she is given a year to three years to reflect on their experiences, and we collect this reflections and publish a book of them every year so that the American public can start to see war and conflict from an insider’s perspective and not just from a military-industrial smear-campaign perspective.
I think such a solution would start to humanize the people we target for military action, and will encourage people to begin to stand up to Military Industrial Interests. In our system checks and balances are the healthiest way our country can thrive, and right now the MIC is subject to no checks, no balances, and as such it has run rampant and will continue to do so until the American public begins to see behind the economic curtain of our armed forces and our arms industry.