Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hey, Look Me Over

I miss Herschel Walker.        Not for his play in the National Football League, significant only in having been the lure for the Minnesota Vikings to trade numerous players and draft picks to the Dallas Cowboys, who went on to win two Super Bowls as a result.      Not even for his exploits as a fabulous running back for the University of Georgia, where he won a Heisman Trophy.

But as both a collegian and a pro, Walker displayed the class exemplified in the video below. No celebrations for Walker; when he reached the end zone, he acted as if he had been there before.      That is rare now, when everybody who scores a touchdown (and often at other times) has to preen for the camera, all the more for friends and family to see him on ESPN SportsCenter, YouTube, elsewhere, or anywhere.

And so there is writer Annie Keeghan, blogging on Open Salon, commenting upon having "heard on the news that Marines were videotaped urinating on the dead corpses."     She admits "when I saw that video, my first reaction wasn't outrage or condemnation (but) sadness."    Further,  

My second reaction to the news was wondering why we're all so surprised, why we expect that these men and women, who carry out duties they cannot decline- living in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, performing acts that none of us can imagine, suffering sleep deprivation and questioning their safety more hours of the day than not, watching their comrades blown to bits in front of them, watching innocent children and families suffering- why we expect that they won't break, won't seek out perverse forms of release...

Perhaps we're surprised because Marines are trained not to act in this manner.      We admire them in part because they are a team and are highly disciplined and dedicated to their nation.  Marines are not expected to commit acts so profane- or perverse, as Keeghan puts it- that video of the incident is scrambled so that women and children are spared being offended, revolted, or both.     Nor are they encouraged to jeopardize U.S. standing abroad among those who view, or are told of, American soldiers grossly humiliating Afghans, presumably Muslims.     It is not a way to convince the populace of
"American exceptionalism"- or to win a war.

Such acts may be committed more often than we civilians know.     But we do know about this event, and we do so precisely because

In the 39-second video, the four soldiers in combat gear and carrying weapons are seen acting in unison as they stand over the corpses and urinate.    They sigh and laugh.   One of the marines says "Have a great day, buddy" while another comments "Golden, like a shower."

They are clearly not concerned at being caught.   One of them asks a fifth soldier who is filming the incident:   "You got it on the video?"

These are not soldiers responding to "a state of constant hyper-vigilance" or "sleep deprivation."      Nor are they merely "seek(ing) out perverse forms of release," as if young males have no more self-control than do lower animal forms.     They appear to be having a jolly old time, intent on drawing attention to themselves, more like today's NFL players than like Herschel Walker.

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