"Ain't It Cool?"

That close-up picture of the soldier with the cigarette in his mouth was published a couple of years ago in the MSM (Time magazine, maybe) and I remember complaints because of the cigarette: said the pious complainers, 'He's setting a bad example.' I was speechless at the shallowness.

Posted by Retread at June 12, 2008 12:47 PM

Some people complained to Lincoln that Grant, his most successful general-in-chief, was a heavy drinker. Lincoln replied, "find out what brand of whiskey he drinks, then send a case to each of my other generals."

In previous wars, we used to send free ciggies to the troops. Maybe we should start agian.

Posted by Roderick Reilly at June 12, 2008 1:34 PM

I wrote some time ago about my inability to understand the attractions of "cool." One of my commenters called "cool" another way of enjoying ennui." I think of it as the "gray life."

Of course, it takes more than passion -- of any sort -- to elicit the willingness to dedicate one's life to the service of one's country. That takes values and a compelling moral vision...things that appear to be unable to germinate in mental soil saturated with "cool."

Posted by Francis W. Porretto at June 12, 2008 2:14 PM

If you can be cool under fire, all that other "cool" stuff is revealed for the fraud that it is.

Posted by mike anderson at June 12, 2008 2:45 PM

The greatest days of this country are behind us. I know, it's been said before... even directed at the kids who were jitterbugging while other kids caught bullets at Normandy. We tend to remember the good and forget the bad, and the country has always been going to hell in a glittery handbasket, and there will always be millions who will jump in and party all the way down.

But this isn't an "unpopular" war in Vietnam. This is a war MADE "unpopular" by the media and the opportunistic whores of the Democratic Party. It is a war brought by the screaming suicidal crazies of radical Islam. It is a war gleefully mis-planned and mis-fought by the opportunistic whores of the Republican party.

I didn't want this war to come, but we are in it. We have to win it. As bad and as rotten as this culture is, it must survive.

Posted by Cynyr at June 12, 2008 3:00 PM

Some of the cool kids at the mall might be Marines now. People in their time off always look superficial. Most fun looks that way, often it is. Absolute heroes have been known to go to bars and get drunk. Get into fights, of all things. It doesn't look like virtue, or sacrifice. It's time off.

May the Lord bless and protect those who fight terrorism all over the world, and especially that warrior lying on the ground in the photo.

Posted by Fred at June 12, 2008 3:00 PM

I'm queasy with revulsion and grief. What an incredibly powerful piece.

Posted by Cathy Wilson at June 12, 2008 3:11 PM

Of course those young men are heroes - especially the ones like the one lying on the ground. Of course they should be respected. The only trouble is that they are fighting and dying for the sake of the political careers (and business profits) of, and at the command of, old men at home who aren't fit to lick their boots clean.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at June 12, 2008 3:59 PM

Fletcher, they are fighting to defeat fascists. And also so that shallow-minded fools can prate about "no war for oil" and "make music not war".

Posted by pst314 at June 12, 2008 7:02 PM

Roderick Kelly:

There is a story similar to that about Grant, but less well known, about Major George Croghan. During the War of 1812, Croghan held Fort Stephenson in Ohio with a force of a hundred and sixty men against a besieging force of three or four thousand British and Indians. Years later, he was about to be court-martialed for being drunk on duty during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Told of the court-martial, Jackson "listened impatiently to the information, but heard it through, and then he laid down his paper, rose from his chair, smote the table with his clenched fist, and, with his proverbial energy, declared: 'Those proceedings of the courtmartial shall be stopped, sir. George Croghan shall get drunk every day of his life if he wants to, and by the Eternal the United States shall pay for the whiskey.'" How far we have fallen.

Posted by Frederick at June 12, 2008 7:03 PM

Thanks for the piece, Gerard.

I'm beginning to wonder if this country deserves these brave people. Perhaps Steyn is right and Europe will die soon enough. Look what the left is doing to him for posing the idea. Will we soon be surrounded?

We owe our current military even more respect than "the greatest generation". Because that generation believed it very cool to be fighting for Western Civilization and ideals. And to keep the hordes from our shores. Now it seems to be like "who the hell gives a s**t".

My gut feeling right after 9/11 was that the Democrats would take every advantage and they didn't disappoint. I have a few relatives in the military and my advise to them if Obama is elected is to get out. "Progressive" Democrats got our military people killed in the 20th century by like 5-1.

Bad odds.

Posted by JD at June 12, 2008 8:20 PM

Oh, Gerard, you make me weep and grieve - however, it is not you that makes me do these things, it is the awful truth about which you write so beautifully. Thank you!

Posted by Joanne at June 12, 2008 9:51 PM

The cool life. The only problem with it is it's a mile wide and an inch deep.

Last year my old Navy squadron that flew in Vietnam had its first ever reunion. I was amazed at the people who attended. Yes, a few pilots were there, but the bulk of the attendees were former enlisted men who, for the most part, had served 4 to 8 years on active duty. Most of them had gone on to successful civilian careers, some building very successful businesses. In talking with them about their Navy days, I was struck by the fact that, almost without exception, their time in the Navy had been the highlight of their life. No where in civilian life had they found the sense of belonging, of commitment, of being a part of something that was bigger than them. They all raved about the "can do" spirit that our squadron had. The way we put airplanes back in the air using duct tape, baling wire, jury-rigged parts, and good old American ingenuity. The long days, weeks, and months at sea were remembered fondly, almost as a badge of honor.

I've thought a lot about that reunion and realize that those men represent the end of an era. These men all joined the Navy rather than be drafted. Had there been no draft it's likely most of them would not have opted to serve. But they did, and now, in the twilight of their lives, the memories warm their hearts and give them a feeling they did something worth doing. Their lives are deeper and more meaningful because of that service.

Posted by Jimmy J. at June 12, 2008 9:55 PM

As usual, you hit the nail squarely.

I offer my own, small standing ovation to you.

Posted by WJB at June 13, 2008 12:26 AM

This Essay hit a nerve perfectly. Fantastically well done! The pictures were well choosen, too. It deserves a wide readership.

I second JD's opinion that we owe today's army as much respect as the WWII heroes.

May I humbly add to your thoughts...In my opinion, the cultural problem is bigger than the War - although the War's sacrafices made by the few for the many certainly provides the starkest contrast.

I think the cultural problem can be extended to a culture of not just "cool," it's about a culture of "easy." The culture values luxury, but does not value sacrifice. An obvious recent example is about how people buy homes. Not too long ago, it was about saving for the down payment. Today, however, it's all about buying the biggest house - even if it is beyond your means. When the situation gets bad, they expect the government to bail them out. There is no shame about side-stepping sacrific and doing what's easy.

Posted by Stevend at June 13, 2008 6:47 AM

Excellent piece, Mr. V.

The problem is cultural. Since the "enlightenment", we in the West have been living off the accumulated cultural capital left over from Christendom. Now that capital is beginning to run out. Oh, the Truth is still the Truth; it's just that no one believes it any more.

The only hope the West has left is a revival of culture, which will entail a revival of Christendom. God works miracles; perhaps this will happen. Perhaps a Charles Martel will arise, rally us Franks to victory over the Muslims, and found a new line of leaders. Perhaps a new Charlemagne will arise from that line and unite the West once more beneath Altar and Throne.

If, however, it is God's will that we suffer the same fate as the empires before ours, then we will be trodden under — by Muzis on one hand, by technoidolaters on the other. My little boy may face the choice of life as a ninth-century Kaffir or a pseudo-life as a file uploaded in some data bank. May God's Will be done.

I am going to stay optimistic. Chistendom can be revived — not through political action, but by fulfilling the Great Commission with both word and deed. Good people create good culture, from which springs good government. By living the words of Our Lord, we have the hope of becoming good people; therefore, it is imperative that we concentrate all our energies on doing so. It's salt, light, and leaven that will defeat the Conspiracy.

One minor quibble: the U.S. Marine Corps does not operate the AH-64 Apache helicopter; the U.S. Army does. The Marines fly the AH-1 SuperCobra attack chopper.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Plymouth Belevedere at June 13, 2008 7:34 PM

Thanks for the correction. Noted and made.

Posted by vanderleun at June 13, 2008 7:49 PM

And sincere thanks for the thoughtful and cheering comment too.

Posted by vanderleun at June 13, 2008 7:51 PM

You're welcome. Thanks in return for the hours of free entertainment (and occasional enlightenment).

Posted by B-chan at June 14, 2008 8:11 AM

Thanks, I needed that.

Semper Fi.

Posted by Damian at June 15, 2008 1:57 AM

I will be honest with you.

I look at how few soldiers there are, and how many "cool kids" there are, and I almost hope we lose the war on terror -- because very single one of those goddamned contemptible "cool kids" deserves to die screaming in fear and pain.

They have never known hardship. They have never believed in anything strongly enough to be willing to fight for it. They are weak, apathetic, not even decisive enough to be actively evil. They're hardly even ALIVE, for f__k's sake.

If you've read Revelation, you know the fate that awaited the church in Laodicea. We are all Laodiceans now.

Posted by Jake Was Here at June 17, 2008 11:06 PM

re: GV's post: Fuckin' A!!

Posted by Jim Rutt at July 19, 2008 9:28 AM

Dear Gail or Whomever,
I guess that during some long forgotten moment I must have screwed you or screwed you over -- or perhaps both. In which case I apologize.

As to the rest I don't recall anything called Popcorn Books (a bad title at any rate), nor six figure incomes in my 20s 30s 40s mostly 50s... believe me, I saw the checks.

As for the draft, I assure you I never -- or at any other time -- dropped acid for 3 days. Didn't know it was possible.

As for the rest, all I can say is I hope you, whomever you are, are living well and happy in the Land of the Formerly Cute.

Posted by vanderleun at January 26, 2009 12:26 PM