Michael Maiello's picture

    The Starship Troopers Phase of Trumpism

    In 1997, Paul Verhoeven took a militaristic Robert A. Heinlein novel and satirized it as a movie.  When it came out, a lot of the audience missed the joke. Since then, a cult following has brought people along and now everybody gets it.  A big part of the Starship Troopers joke is society's compulsion towards military service. Mankind has branched out into the stars and found wars to fight. In order to preserve an all-volunteer military while compelling people to enlist, the "Terran Federation" has come up with a new form of governance:

    See, you don't have to sign up and fight.  You're just not a full citizen if you do.  You don't get to vote. You have too pay full tuition at Harvard, You can live your life as you please, but you're just a little less than the people who enlisted.

    Which brings us to John Kelly, the former General and White House Chief of Staff who yesterday debased himself in defense of his President, who told the widow of a war casualty that "He knew what he signed up for."  In Kelly's defense of Trump, he said:

    We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.

    Kelly then refused to take any questions from reporters who were not members of a family that had experienced wartime military casualties or who were not especially close to such a family. That can only be interpreted as a jab a media profession filled with former liberal arts students who lack close ties to those in the military. So, Kelly won't event take questions from people who aren't sufficiently close to the military.  It's a step towards Starship Troopers.

    I think there's zero chance we ever bring back compulsory military service. But I could see social pressures, backed by laws, making military service into something that seems like a choice but that is, at the very least, highly coerced. There was actually some pressure to enlist during the Vietnam years, on the theory that if you were going to be drafted anyway, you'd likely get better treatment and more control of your destiny if you just signed up.

    Oh, and this bit of Kelly's about people volunteering to serve for no other reason than love or country?  Can we be honest and drop the platitudes?  Military service is not charity for the nation. It is very often a job and very often one taken out of necessity. There are huge problems with that, but it is true. Being a police officer or a fireman or an FBI agent or the head of the DMV is similarly not charity. Jobs working for the public are still jobs.

    But fetishizing military service is the absolute worst. Our freedoms are truly at stake.



    Nice allusion, but a little too close to home!

    All right, let's sum up. This year we explored the failure of democracy. How our social scientists brought our world to the brink of chaos. We talked about the veterans, how they took control and established the stability that has lasted for generations since.

    I have to watch this movie again.

    PS This whole Gold Star parents brouhaha is awful from beginning to end.

    I'd forgotten the classroom scene!

    But I remember the shower sc--

    Verhoeven has always been reliable...


    When I was in the army none of us thought we were better than the civilians. But everyone in the Air Force, Army, and Navy thought they were better than the Marines. As for what the Marines thought, no one knew because no one paid any attention to what those ignorant dumb ass jarheads said.

    Wow I never heard that about what the other forces thought about the Marines, thanks for sharing that secret! I thought it was generally the Army that were looked down upon as the lowly beasts of burden at the bottom. How come it's not in the movies and other pop culture? (Not to drag in another thread here, nope.) Doesn't matter if that's changed since you were in, or was different before you, I'm just amazed to hear it reported that it ever happened at all. I fell for pro-Marine spin infiltrating pop culture?

    Oh, yes.  The joke is that any time you meet a marine (never a FORMER marine, because once a marine, always   yada yada yada), the first words out of their mouths are, "When I was in the marine corps....". 

    My husband was an army helicopter pilot, and he loves to mention that when his Robin Hood Group in Vietnam had worn out a helicopter they went to the marines.  I've had those same words (when I was in the marine corps) said to me by a NYC taxi driver, an ice cream scooper-server, a doctor, and s many more.  Army, Navy, and AirForce all think that is hilarious and pathetic.

    Ever heard the joke:  

    An atheist, a marine, and a vegan went into a bar...and everyone knew because they told everyone before they ordered a drink.

    ...Actually the joke was funnier, but I told it wrong, lol

    Love that joke, though. I'd add "a guy training for a marathon" and "a guy with no TV" to it.

    In my case a lot of the hatred of marines came from being stationed in Japan. As soon as the 7th Fleet came to Japan the word was out, don't go to Tokyo or Yokohama this week because the cities will be crawling with marines acting stupid, insulting the natives, and starting fights.

    My grandpa was a marine and I always thought they held themselves as superior but were angry at being a division of the Navy.

    With references to several comments:

    'But fetishizing military service is the absolute worst.'   Absolutely.

    Marines have a powerful recruitment technique in addition to the idea suggested of making it a pragmatic choice to some branch of the military. They have convinced little guys and status deficient guys that they can prove that they are tough guys by becoming a Marine. That is way different than being smart guys because they have also proven that they are willing to be mindless murderous tools regardless the justification. They will have lifted themselves in their own eyes from herd animals to pack animals. Wolves, by evolved nature are pack animals. So are lap dogs. So are Humans. So are Hyenas. Some lap dogs and some percentage of humans have become civilized but both still have a prehistoric nature that can be encouraged to bad affect.

     Anyone who might think they speak knowledgeably of modern Army culture based on personal experience before the draft was abolished is speaking from ignorance. While the draft was in place Marines and "RA's", regular Army, were considered stupid by all draftees and ultimately by many who had joined primarily because of the 'fact' that they joined but also because a fair percentage actually were a little dim. 

    It depends on how one defines superior. Marines often define superior in part as esprit de corps which was one of the reasons the other services looked down on them, at least in Japan. If a group of army guys were out in a japanese club and one dude got drunk and stupid we'd try to rein him in or get him home. If we couldn't stop him and the fool was determined to act like an ass or start a fight we'd abandon him to his stupidity. The knowledge that he was on his own was often enough to get him to back down. The marines would stand and fight with their comrade no matter how stupid. Knowing that his buddies had his back made the fools act more stupidly  provocative.

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