Saturday, December 31, 2005


I have nothing to add to this spot-on ode to our troops from Ben Stein:

Probably the happiest moment of my whole life was when I had just quit being a trial lawyer for the FTC, the world's worst job, had moved out to UC Santa Cruz to teach, dragged my colitis-racked body into my tiny prefector's dorm room, unpacked, and then gone to look around. It was a surprisingly warm August night in Santa Cruz in 1972. I found a picnic table, a sturdy table indeed, and lay down on it on my back just for a lark. I looked up at the stars. I had never seen so many and they danced all around in the California sky.

I was at peace, free from cares and worries, about to plunge into a new life of love and redwood trees. And I know I've told you about this before and will again if I live.

For the next several weeks, I had a riot of romance with various women around Santa Cruz, got my first Weimaraner, learned to say good-bye to the day by staring at the sunset, and became generally a new man.

The old, frightened Benjy was gone at least for a few weeks or months.I was a hero of the revolution, James Bond raking in the girl chips.

I was happy.

BUT WHAT JUST OCCURRED to me today, December 29, 2005, is that none of this, absolutely none, not one bit of it, would have been possible without the men and women of the Armed Forces. While I was busy being born (and not dying), men and women were getting blown to pieces by German 88's and Japanese mortars to win the big one. While I was growing up, our freedom was saved by the Strategic Air Command ("Peace is our Profession") and by men and women patrolling in the Arctic Circle. While I was in elementary school, my cousin Joe and my uncle Bob were fighting and fine men and women were dying at Cho-Sin Reservoir.

The piece really should be read in its entirety.


Blogger Charlie Anderson said...

The first thing I would say in response to your post is that there were almost countless things that went into the experience of Ben Stein. The United States military in some way contribruted, but there was first of all the mother who bore him, the medicine which kept him alive, the farmers who grew his food, the teachers who taught him, etc. You see where I am going. In a sense "none of this would be possible" without the military, but you could say the same thing about many other facets of life. Where would we be without, say, antibiotics? Which isn't to say praising the military is invalid, but just that maybe some perspective is needed.

My second point has to do with your "heroes" title. Not to repeat our evoluntionary genetics and selflessness conversation, but people join the military for reasons. Maybe they have a lot of testosterone and want to be warriors (I am not in any way disparaging that as a reason). The world needs warriors. Maybe they think it sounds cool to be a soldier. Maybe they want the money for college. Maybe they are following in their family's footsteps. The point is this: they are doing it for their own reasons. I am glad there are people who want to be in the military, but I am just as glad there are people who want to do all of the necessary tasks that I have no interest in. So I just want to make sure we are viewing the military in proper context, and not worshipping it.

Many people probably join the military to help others. The same is true of other professions (social worker, teacher, doctor, yes, even lawyer). But the reason they choose their SPECIFIC profession is that it resonates with them. They are not doing it out of self-sacrifice: where is the sacrifice in doing something you enjoy doing?

7:40 AM  
Blogger Aaron Hanscom said...


You make some excellent points; many of which I agree with. I've long claimed, for example, that I'd make a horrible soldier. I've got poor eyesight, hate the site of blood, never been attracted to guns etc. So, yes, everyone has their calling in life.

But the reason Ben Stein's article is so important is that we are involved in a war right now; and in this war, a great segment of the population is oblivious to the sacrifices our soliders make. I think you'd probably agree with me on this. It doesn't hurt to remind people of the stakes and the people sacrificing so much for us.

You mention social workers, teachers, doctors and lawyers. Do you really think they get less appreciation from our society than soldiers do?

Thanks for commenting. I hope you do so more often.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Charlie Anderson said...

I agree with you that many people do not think about the troops very often. Probably part of that has to do with how many soliders an individual knows personally. I know basically one person in the military. I am sure in base towns and places like that, they think about the soldiers a lot.

I guess the part I still disagree about is the notion that the soldiers are sacrificing "for us." While it is true that the results of their efforts are at least theoretically beneficial to all Americans, I stand by my point, stated earlier, that soliders, like all of us, have their own motivations.

When I was a teacher, people would say "that's great, that's so noble of you to teach." I always thought that was a stupid comment. I mean, I was a teacher because I enjoyed teaching and that was what I wanted to do. Ultimately, I was teaching because of what it did for me. Sure, it had incidental benefits to other people, but if those benefits did nothing for me, I wouldn't have been teaching. Same with the soldiers--there is obviously something about soldiering that appeals to them. So I think they are doing it "for them." Which is fine--I am not making any objection to that. I think the world would be a better place if more people did the work they liked, as opposed to what other people expected them to do.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Aaron Hanscom said...

Outstanding point about teaching. I am also always annoyed when people tell me I am so "noble" for teaching. I hadn't previously thought about why it bothered me so much.

9:06 AM  

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