This Article is About
high school graduation
death knell
killing spree
Staff Sgt Robert Bales Is No Kid
Join 1000's of Authors at StreetArticles Today!

Staff Sgt Robert Bales Is No Kid

I read today that the soldier who had suddenly gone on a killing spree in Afghanistan had not enlisted in the army until soon after September 11th, 2001, at the age of 27. Staying for multiple tours, he was about thirty years old when he committed that mass shooting that's on the news. That's a full decade older than the average, straight-from-high-school-graduation, armed forces volunteer. Was his breakdown from 'darn good soldier' to murderous psychopath more or less likely, given his age?

I've posted other articles concerning the learning-enabled 'young brain' in contrast to the parenting-enabled 'mature brain', so I won't repeat them here. But it was in my mind the moment I heard about the slaughter—was this a probability for any soldier of Sgt. Bales's relative seniority? Is this proof that even greater mental harm is avoided by training and deploying predominately young people, who still have the adaptability and resilience of a younger, learning-oriented mind? Are adults too sedentary to be of use in battle? Should there be regulation of a maximum age for combat troops?

I always feel a little derided whenever the Shakespeare play "Henry V" gets to Act 4, Scene 3:

" We ... brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

...

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us..."

Now, I'm proud to have been born in 1956, which made me one of the very first generation of Americans that could go from child to man without being forced into military service. And I'm not speaking only of the end of the Draft in 1973, which made my eighteenth birthday (in 1974) a very happy birthday, rather than a death knell.

I'm talking about the "No Nukes" movements of the 1950s and 1960s and the Peace protestors that followed them in condemning War, a cultural staple in days of yore but, as of the mechanized and atomic age of post-WWII, too great a danger to Mankind as a species and Earth as a whole. The communities of the past expected warrior-like training and service to the homeland to be as much a part of maturation as puberty. A boy who shirked this test was not ignored by his neighbors—he was condemned as a coward and weakling. The concept of a man reaching adulthood without military enlistment of any kind is only a handful of decades old—and in many countries, military service is still a mandatory step towards adulthood.

The sentiment of Shakespeare's Henry V is still a very real thing--I don't think less of myself for being a non-soldier, but I hold no illusions as to how veterans of Afghanistan would view me—an ignoramus who can never know what battle is and never bond with anyone as comrades-in-arms bond. I can't argue—it's perfectly true. The fact that I don't want to know those things is my own personal opinion, and doesn't count.

I wouldn't have made a good soldier—and being a bad soldier is a great way to get killed—so I probably avoided a quick death in Viet Nam by not being drafted. Not that dying is something I'm stupid enough to try and avoid--I've always been fatalistic that way—but I would have been miserable for all the time up to my falling dead in a far off jungle. The Army (Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard) lost nothing valuable by my demurring to serve—I was (and am) too nerdy to be good in a fight.

As a boy, I got in a few fights--they always left me shaking and crying, whether I won or lost—in fact, I was more traumatized and horrified by winning than by losing. I'm a very sensitive guy. So I'm only surprised that the mental and emotional damage of combat isn't more unanimous—people of my ilk would never be up for battle number two—you'd need a new army for every battle. I think it's safe to assume that a happy childhood is a terrible preface to serving in the military—those with a penchant for 'mixing it up' are much better suited to institutions of team death-sport. But there's always that element of Patriotism, a la "Born On The Fourth Of July", which proud, starry-eyed boys are so vulnerable to.

I'm not against patriotism, though. I feel very loyal to the USA. But here in the twenty-first century, I can't help but think my patriotism would be best expressed by finding alternatives to armed combat, not participating in it. The whole idea of two groups of near-identical people shooting at each other, tearing each other apart with zipping bits of metal and explosions—am I the only one who finds this just a bit primitive?

We outlawed corporal punishment in public schools, now we are trying to end bullying in school. We have our kids inoculated against the major health risks for which we have immunization. We have our children's diets overseen by the FDA and the Dept. of Agriculture. The local school boards debate the cafeteria lunches served in schools. We treasure and protect our children with every ounce of parental will—is it for this? Is it to make them good killers, good corpses, good PTSD patients?

Yes, savagery exists. Yes, the USA can't just throw out its armed forces. But it is long past time when National Defense should focus squarely on the causes of armed conflict and defends against those causes--not to wait until it's already a fistfight.

Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex—and now we know why. There’s big money in arms. Whole communities live off of governmental military contracts and service bases throughout the nation. Our lives, our culture, our country—all are unbreakably linked to the business of war. Our economy always surges during war-time—imagine the nose-dive it would take if we stopped designing, manufacturing, and selling arms and equipment, and if we closed all military bases and discharged every service-person!

The unemployment hit alone would be massive. And it might surprise us to find out how much of our Capitalist Eden depends on making war.


Street Talk

JoshuaM  

You make me wonder whether people will ever do the things necessary for peace and prosperity that have massive impacts. Granted, absolute disarmament would have huge economic ramifications for us. Knowing the truth about our political system and our leadership and responding with disapproval would have huge ramifications. Non participation in goods and services that are not good for us or the environment would have huge ramifications. Forcing the issue of constitutionality and demanding respect of life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness would have huge ramifications. All these hardships would befall us and make life hard, very hard, for a time. But what of the alternative? Don't the existing structures already have horrible ramifications? Isn't the hardship we would face through change BECAUSE we have proven that we can exist with these horrible ramifications and adapt a system to cope with them? This says to me that the supposedly horrible aftermath of change is temporary. If my grandfather's generation had not buckled and not forced these issues, we would not be forced to make these hard decisions ourselves today. The malignant systems in place only become more entrenched so it would have been easier for my granddad to rebel against it than for my father, easier for my father than for me, and so on. Soon, it seems, with modern weaponry and banking/power structures getting a lock on the world and oppression, we will not even be CAPABLE of rebelling against them. So what am I to do? Do I choose the easy road today and shrug my responsibility to my progeny like my dad did? Like Wimpy, "I will gladly demand respect of my liberty tomorrow for a chance to suckle a bit more today and not deal with it." This to me is like sitting on your couch with your family and having a fire burning in the kitchen that won't reach you before you and your wife die naturally, so you leave it to grow so your children, who WILL live to see it burn the room you are in, must put it out. Do we just say, sorry kid, you will have to deal with the hardship of change because I don't have the cajones? Oh, yeah, by the way, little Joey, it will be way harder to do by the time you're old enough, but who cares I just don't feel like having the hassle in my lifetime... At some point, somebody is going to have to experience the hardship of change; it is inevitable. The next generation and those that follow will adapt and will not even truly appreciate this, but someone has to DO it first, before a new way can be imagined and implemented. I cannot in good conscience put this off to my kids like my dad did and his father before him. We must make stand, and yes, deal with the mess that will result. It is the only way, in my opinion, to not hand it off to our children...

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Thank you for your thoughts, JoshuaM. I see the struggle as one of education and empathy. A one-man show on Broadway was recently made a scandal by virtue of it not being entirely true--and the man apologised. But, there is a story in today's news that a commission of inspectors has been retained by SONY to find and halt the inhumane worker treatment and underpayment of workers in China. So it seems that by lying about his personal experiences, the Broadway performer has precipitated action against the criminal bosses in China that the show was making an issue of. So maybe he told a 'good lie'? But there are others who warn us of dangers, or try to protect us from dangers, and these people are only doing it to have control of something good or to make a profit off the troubles of others. So maybe they are 'bad heroes', like W? Either way, the differences between right and wrong are in constant flux, in time, in intent, in context. To me, this says, 'Give up trying to fight a war against the bad guys and start living in such a way as to exclude greed and envy and the lust for power.' I'm not sure how that would help--maybe I believe in people too much--but I think it beats having too little faith in our species' inherent humanity.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
JoshuaM  

I'd like to think you are right. I hope others also believe as you do and in time through positive thinking and the exclusion of support for tyranny we can make real change. It would be very nice if one day, the mongers called for war and nobody showed up... Thanks again for sharing your perspective. It is refreshing to see that there are those who believe in themselves and others. Humans do not have to be a negatively impacting force, it's a choice we can make one way or the other... My goal, personally, is to tickle a desire for thought and potential change out of apathy, but what then? I don't have any answers, only questions. Forward thinkers like yourself may have some tactical insights that can point us all in directions which can do something with the energy once we decide we want to. You can lead a person to ponder, but you can't make them think! Like Sherry says, no two of us are the same, and our needs and beliefs are so personal, so unique, there probably isn't an easily pin-pointed simple answer. So how to proceed towards creating something more peaceful and enlightening will require those who exemplify HOW to do it, not just those who elicit awakening to the need. I see myself more as an example of someone who is vocal (like an alarm) about the need and may elicit a response in some others to feel like their IS need, but your thoughts make me feel like you could be part of the solution more than the alarm. I hope there are a lot of people like you out there, diamonds in the ruff, an invisible army of peace, and making a real impact, one day at a time, one kind word at a time. Cheers!

  
  about 7 years ago

I assume that humans are like snowflakes and no two of us are the same. I appreciate, Christopher, that you have taken the time to explore who you are and communicate that to us. I also appreciate that you don't ask others to not be who they are. Your experiences are Very Well Stated. Thank You!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
You May Also Like
Strategies to Help Raise Your GPA
When it comes to doing well in school, your Grade Point Average or GPA is extremely important if you want to go to college after your high school graduation. If you are concerned because your GPA is possibly too low to attend college, there are strategies you can employ to…
By: Reginald Woodie in  Reference and Education  >  College University   Apr 08, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

After the Glitter Fades - Approaching the Home Based Business for the Long Haul
Ever wonder where people get the idea to start a home-based business? In my experience, it comes from a latent talent usually expressed in a hobby or observing someone else and saying hey, I could do that. At the root of most ventures is the most base of motivations known…
By: Sherrill Darby in  Home Based Business  >  Network Marketing   Jun 07, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Black Ops Air Guns: 3 Maintenance Tips for Your Guns
Maintaining your Black Ops air guns is crucial to ensuring that your guns and your games last longer. Here are 3 tips on how to keep your Black Ops air guns clean, which BBs to use, proper loading, and how to troubleshoot a jammed gun. Cleaning Your Black Ops Air…
By: Alexandra Everett in  News and Society  >  Military   Mar 08, 2016  
0
  Likes: 0

U.S. Military
In the recent situation in Afghanistan, people are wondering why we are over there. About 65 percent of American people want us out now and not later. As to what happen and how he able to get to the village about a mile away and do what he did is…
By: Daniel Anderson in  News and Society  >  Military   Mar 13, 2012  
8
  Likes: 2

Veteran Employment Opportunities
There are a lot of resources available to assist job seeking veterans to connect with employers in the civilian job opportunities. Many companies are also striving hard to ensure that the military vets who put their life on line to go to war and fight in defense of the country.…
By: Harold Fuentes in  News and Society  >  Military   Feb 26, 2013  
0
  Likes: 0

Memorial Day-a Good Time To Look Back
Memorial Day is a holiday that we sometimes think of barbecues, family gatherings, and a day off of work. It is also the day we enjoy the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Nascar. Many people take the day and visit cemeteries to remember their loved ones, and many…
By: Marla Overton in  News and Society  >  Military   May 29, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Will the Photographs Of Bin Laden’s Death Be Released?
When President Barack Obama ordered the takedown attack on Osama Bin Laden, it was with the understanding to the troops that they were to arrest and detain the terrorist leader if he were to surrender. The troops and advisers, on the other hand did not expect that to happen in…
By: Jacey Figgins in  News and Society  >  Military   May 03, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Iraqi Withdrawal Date May Be Postponed
The Iraqi conflict which started in 2003 has been going in now for eight years. Thousands of Americans and Iraqis have lost their lives. Some have life time injuries. Millions of dollars have been spent, infrastructure destroyed, and many parents are left heartbroken because of an unpopular war. During the…
By: Winston Hackshaw in  News and Society  >  Military   May 20, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

The Medal Of Honor
The military gives awards for service and for valor. They give awards for simple participation. But the highest award for American Service people is the Congressional Medal of Honor. Other countries present similar awards. The Victoria Cross was and still is the highest award in British Commonwealth Countries and Countries…
By: John T Jones, Ph.D. in  News and Society  >  Military   Jun 06, 2012  
2
  Likes: 1

More Questions Than Answers In the Slaying Of Osama Bin Laden at This Time
The jubilation and joy of finally finding and then killing the terrorist leader, Osama Bin Laden has faded away into a more guarded and reserved state as countries around the world start to access the threat of reprisal. The question of whether there will be an increased threat of terrorist…
By: Jacey Figgins in  News and Society  >  Military   May 04, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Bin Ladens Death
Ladies and gentleman I had just heard of some very ground breaking news on the death of Bin laden. Obama has just called in a emergency conference but it was delayed. I almost certainly that he will be discussing the news about the death of Bin laden. For years upon…
By: Donnell1 in  News and Society  >  Military   May 02, 2011  
0
  Likes: 0

Changing Attitudes Towards Our Military
Support for our military has changed drastically since the Vietnam War. Our modern day warriors are looked up to, unlike our Vietnam veterans who returned to a very hostile America. Our Vietnam vets were called "baby killers" and were told to get out of Vietnam. Protest songs like "Four Dead…
By: ALAN YAMAUCHI in  News and Society  >  Military   Jun 29, 2011  
1
  Likes: 1

China And Singapore to Explore New Initiatives To Boost Their Military Programs
While it is known that Asian giants China and India have already rapidly built up their already huge military arsenals, the tiny, prosperous Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore had been quietly ramping up defense expenditures at a rate disproportionate to its size and population. According to the Stockholm International Peace…
By: Kimberly Shen in  News and Society  >  Military   Dec 10, 2014  
0
  Likes: 0

Jobs for Veterans
In the past few years, the employment situation for veterans has improved though there are some who served in Iraq and Afghanistan that are still faced with employment challenges. The improvement in the employment situations has been facilitated by programs that are spearheaded by President Obama to help spur interest…
By: Harold Fuentes in  News and Society  >  Military   Feb 28, 2013  
0
  Likes: 0

Donating to Veterans Organizations
There are many veterans organizations in the United States of America which get a percentage of their funding from individual contributors to help them bring a wide range of professional services to homeless veterans as well as those veterans who are in need. Therefore it is very important that you…
By: Harold Fuentes in  News and Society  >  Military   Feb 13, 2013  
0
  Likes: 0

Article Views: 3465    Report this Article