I live in the Sandhills, an ancient ocean bottom thriving as a golf resort and haven for equestrians. It’s the kind of soil that dries quickly so you can play another round, and I guess its good for horse’s fragile legs.
When I moved here in 1975, Fayetteville was called “Fayettenam” and “Fatalburg.” And besides golf these days, after a decade or more of growth at Fort Bragg, the steadily growing area of Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Aberdeen also has a booming military population punctuated by the regularity of artillery practice at the 251-square-mile military reservation that has grown exponentially.
Just about every time I pick up the local paper these days, there’s an announcement for another military event, initiative, celebration or campaign of some kind or other whether for family, children, widows, relatives, veterans and maybe even pets of military families. The military rollout here is like tinnitus, effectively masking any critical realization that one of the emperors of maladies is the military.
There are military contractors selling tactical gear, weapons and training canines and, from what I can see, a professional army officers’ cadre living here in what has to be considerable debt (must be those military discounts) in genteel subdivisions, sporting large fifth-wheel travel trailers along with recent-model cars, trucks and boats in their driveways.
And car dealers, real estate agents, insurance brokers and merchants of all kinds are putting out the red carpet for the military offering steals and deals. There’s also the constant drumbeat of “Support The Troops” – maybe innocent enough, I know they’re only human beings caught up in a maelstrom, it’s not their fault, but doesn’t “support” imply support of these fruitless wars as well?
But it’s all good for business and pretty effective in painting any protestation as un-American. The marketers, real estate brokers, bankers and merchants around here are so successful that nary a peep is heard. Although generally throughout the nation the public is disconnected from the military in a way hitherto unknown in our history. But here the Area Realtors Association is touted for making sure there’s an American flag in every classroom so the Pledge of Allegiance can be said in style.
We see military members a lot, but I don’t think I’m far off the mark when I say that we don’t generally talk to them, know them, socialize or befriend them. They pretty much stay to themselves relying on one another for support, and that appears to be the same for the families and relatives who also hang together. I think it’s a pretty drilled into subculture unto itself at least during enlistment. I also live next door to a run-down rental house that has hosted some pretty messed-up soldiers over the years
A powerful military industrial complex has been at work in the U.S. for decades. And possibly the greatest strategic ploy to get the military out of the public’s hair, I think it was Nixon’s, was to create a volunteer armed force that provides a vast job market for primarily the working class and avoids a lot of the cultural, social and political perils of conscription. When everyone involved in war is making a living from it, they’re less likely to squawk, at least out loud, while still on the job.
The issue of these wars has been deftly excised and altered for public consumption by marketing. And along the way, we’ve said goodbye to representative government as the military and politicians as policymakers, hawks and backers of the economic riches keep their constituents at home fat, happy and humming. We’re making goods, supplies and weapons of all kinds, including a new fleet of defective fighter planes, more flags to fly or stick or pin on something or drape a coffin, or supporting a war effort that is generally misunderstood to not understood and yawningly supported because everybody’s too busy otherwise and not really affected.
And where I live you really have to go out of your way to say anything disagreeable about the wars or the military or say or do anything to protest. You risk being deemed unpatriotic.
Bob Katrin of Southern Pines is a retired instructor at Sandhills Community College.