Marc Eisen should be commended for pointing out that recruitment to the military is class based; that the rich and huge swaths of the middling "professional class" don't go ("Madison's Military Problem," 11/16/07). What surprised me was his suggestion that this is some sort of new phenomenon. "It wasn't always like this," he suggests.
On the whole, well-heeled elites and the privileged middle class have always either opted out of military completely or have found ways to avoid harm while sending others into the fray. Dating back to the Civil War, those who could leverage their class position have done so, while the less fortunate have been dragooned for the mayhem.
World War I, like the current war, was not that popular, especially in Wisconsin. Right here in Dane County, local draft boards composed of "professional class" types gleaned working-class youth to fill the trenches while home-front patriots championed that earlier imperial crusade as a campaign for "democracy" and "freedom."
The draft re-instituted at the time of the Korean War was maintained well into the Vietnam era. Those privileged enough to avoid conscription did so through college deferments or ended up doing a stint in the Navy, Air Force or the Guard. Kids from the working class, meanwhile, got grabbed by the Army or hustled and conned into the Corps, on their way to the Cholon Reservoir or Danang.
Today's war makers have opted for all sorts of enticements and marketing schemes in order to procure the fodder for the killing fields. Right down to paying chump change to fiscally gutted school districts for the right to lure kids with scoreboard ads during the home game.
Marc Eisen says he can't understand how military ads in high school gyms and on athletic field scoreboards represent "a threat to young people." He claims these ads rank low on any list of "baleful" media images reaching kids, implying that such ads don't seriously influence kids. But there would be no multibillion-dollar ad industry unless corporate and government clients found ads to be highly effective in manipulating the behavior of adults and kids. For Eisen to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.
The high-minded tone of Marc Eisen's column on military service is bothersome. He quotes an ex-governor who enlisted in the Navy after he got his law degree and prior to the Vietnam War turning "hot." What did Tony Earl do in the Navy, and was there more than a remote chance that he would get near a combat zone?
Deciding whether to perform a military "civic duty" became a more consuming - yes, even a moral - problem when faced with being drafted into a war you oppose.
I did wrestle with this question in the war years. I was drafted and never saw combat. But life in the Army is not a picnic, and it is as close as I want to get to permitting any organization control my life 24 hours a day. I don't take any pride in having been in.
Mr. Eisen: You offered an opinion that is more prevalent in Madison than many suspect. Often kids drag their parents to see me, and the parents say, "I don't know why my son or daughter wants to join ROTC." I explain to them that the vast majority of students at UW-Madison are here to take from the university. However: "Your son or daughter recognizes the need to give back to the community, state and country. They developed that sense of civic responsibility from their parents."
It always humbles and amazes me that we have 18- to 20-year-olds ready to sacrifice so much for the good of the many, whether it's in the Peace Corps or the military.
John G. Bechtol
Lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army, professor of military science, UW-Madison
Marc Eisen describes military service as "pitching in for the common defense." The common defense of what? The war in Iraq is defending Exxon Mobil, not the American people.
Before Eisen recommends the military to Madison's kids, he may also want to scrutinize what routinely goes along with this violence-oriented "civic duty": no rights on the job; no due process in disputes; no free speech; no informed consent for medical vaccinations; grave institutional problems with sexual assault, harassment and abuse of trainees; as well as open discrimination against gays.
We should not welcome the military's presence in our community. The military recruiters and their ads are doing a sales job on all of us in Madison. They tell us that war is normal, traditional and inevitable.
Here's a fact for Mr. Eisen to ponder: Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, enlistment by African Americans has dropped by half. And it's not hard to figure out why, given that opposition to the Iraq War in the African American community approaches 90%.
Just think about that for a moment: An entire community, wise enough to know that the government has no interest in its opinions, has united to keep its young people out of the meat-grinder that is Iraq. How many of those young people would now be in Iraq, or buried at Arlington, if Marc Eisen had his way?
Steve Burns, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
Marc Eisen spends the bulk of his column pointing out that the "elite" in Madison (and elsewhere) isn't shouldering its share of the armed burden in Iraq. But who does he think the billboard advertising is aimed at? Certainly not the privileged, college-bound kids who, as he points out, ignored the military recruitment table at a recent East High School careers event.
It's precisely the non-elites - the less privileged kids of all races and ethnic backgrounds - that the military is preying upon with its dial-a-recruiter ads and subsequent sales pitches notoriously full of deceptions and half truths.
Fran Zell, Evansville
I found Marc Eisen's recent commentary a breath of fresh air. The absence of the economic and intellectual elite from the armed forces of the United States since the mid-1960s is neither good for the country nor good for the elites.
Even in Madison there is fairly widespread agreement that the U.S. should have a military role (combat and "nation building") in Afghanistan. Such missions in Somalia and Kosovo were generally accepted, and one sees editorials and placards arguing that the U.S. must do "something" in Darfur. Lack of U.S. military intervention in other crises, such as Rwanda, has been much criticized here in Dane County.
Yet here in Madison we have teachers urging students to have their parents sign the paperwork to remove their names from the mailing lists sent to military recruiters, and the presence of a rather bland advertising slogan in a gym is considered heinous because our high school students cannot be trusted to make an intelligent decision in such matters.
Steven L. Oreck, M.D., Captain (medical corps), USNR (FMF)(retired) active and reserve 1970-2007
I was surprised to see the cover article "To Kill a Turkey" (11/23/07). Reflective and introspective writings like this are critical in educating a society that at times seems indifferent - not because people lack humanity, but because consumers are protected from the inhumane cruelties inflicted on animals through the entire process of meat production. A warmhearted thanks for sharing some insights and bringing some level of awareness, which will hopefully enable consumers to make informed decisions.
I admire Bill Lueders for deciding to participate in the killing of his Thanksgiving turkey, and am grateful that his article addressed the horrors of factory farming. The personality and ethics of Ken Wulf, the chicken farmer, were also well-represented.
As I read the article, I kept hoping that Bill's turkey would receive a last-minute presidential pardon. When none came, I was slightly consoled by the fact that the bloodshed made Bill feel "sickened and ashamed." To kill intentionally and with premeditation is an act of violence...there's no getting around it. We talk about wanting peace, while ignoring the daily violence we inflict on the animals who share the earth with us.
Regarding Bill Lueders' article about killing turkeys (that is, what I could bear to read), I hope that experience made him feel like a real man. As a vegetarian for 20-plus years, I do not understand how a person can kill and then watch a defenseless animal die. And the method described didn't sound very "humane" to me. I hope he feels "sickened and ashamed" for a long time.
Thank you, Bill Lueders. Maybe the growers and killers of turkeys will also be gently changed, as the evolving earth protects itself, and us, from our inner cruelty - like the fighter pilot after the war who could not hunt any more. Meanwhile, I will pass your article to friends and others, so that more persons will not be giving thanks next year with the torture and killing of these birds.
Bill Lueders: The lengths you went to learn about your Thanksgiving turkey should be a prerequisite for all who choose to eat turkey, or any animal. If a person wants meat, they should have the courage to kill - humanely. It is most cowardly for people to casually gorge themselves with a frozen turkey and not give one thought to the life of that animal.
I'm an American Indian and I believe animals used for food should be held in high regard. They must be honored. That is why I am a vegetarian. Humans don't deserve the meat they eat, and someday we will all pay for what we have done to God's creations.
Michelle Gordon, Gulfport, Miss.
I have hunted birds, small and large game. I prefer not to have a successful hunt, but I will often shoot if I must. The hunters I've known have been naturalists, respectful and aware of their connection to flora and fauna. It is not unusual to become emotional, sometimes tearful, after making a kill.
Why would someone hunt if it hurts? I think it might be because hunting connects us to nature. We do not want to kill, but do so to remind us of this connection and our mortality. Yes, you should feel emotions after killing other animals. It is the ability to share emotions that distinguishes human animals from other animals.
I do not know if I should consume other animals. I do know that if I consume animals or use leather, then hunting animals is a far more humane, moral and acceptable way to harvest them than are animal factories.