KK’s Post on LA Times Article Warriors and Wusses (http://www.latimes.com/la-oe-stein24jan24,0,2968154.story)
A few months back, I read a 2006 LA Timess article called “Warriors and Wusses” by Joel Stein. The article took a relatively unusual stance by declaring that if you don’t support a war (particularly the war in Iraq), then logically you should not support the troops. This article makes me think of both Slaughterhouse Five and the NY Times article “Pilgrim’s Progress” which we read in class. In Vonnegut’s book, as much as he laments war, he also speaks to some of its benefits such as the way Billy’s son straightens out after enlisting. Stein recognizes that sometimes people have few other options when they join the army and that he was never faced with such a dilemma, but he maintains that those who enlist hold some responsibility, even if they didn’t choose the war they have to fight. He writes, “The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.” I’m not sure what Vonnegut’s response to these ideas would be as a war veteran, but I’m pretty sure Gallagher would be anything but pleased. Indeed, he speaks of wanting to lash out at a man who “analogized modern American soldiers to mercenaries.” Yet Stein goes on to make a very similar point in his article: “But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you’re not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you’re willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it’s Vietnam.” A part of me sympathizes with Gallagher. He writes about the disconnect that soldiers (less than 1 percent of the population) feel when returning from war because no one else can quite understand the feeling. At the same time, however, I feel that Stein’s assertion that ultimately supporting troops when you don’t support their cause is ambiguous holds truth. Actually, I think both authors (as well as Vonnegut) are aware of the stress of returning from war. Therefore, I think I lean more toward Stein’s view because he’s not saying we should shun veterans, and he recognizes the support they still require when they return. Stein concludes his article not by criticizing the “morality” of troops, but by simply stating that maybe they do not need parades and ribbons upon their return. He states clearly that they merit “hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return,” but anything beyond that is a shallow attempt to fulfill our guilt for sending them there in first place. Vonnegut, more than anything, condemns the human tendency to try and find meaning with extraneous fallacies, and he may very well consider celebrating troops in such ostensible ways equally superficial.