What if the United States was not wrapped in camouflage? (Bodies of War part 3)

Along with the abstract, disembodied, and dehumanized language of war used by the military, the media, and the administration, we in the US are given comforting ‘bedtime stories’ by our MSM that attempt to lull us off to sleep with images of America as the knight in shining armor poised to save the innocent and oppressed maidens of Afghanistan or battle the evil villains of ‘terrorism.’ Part of this narrative relies on a pro-military media and culture that envisions military might as necessary.

As feminist theorist Cynthia Enloe reveals, contemporary American culture is one of pervasive militarization. From the Hummers that now rule our roads, to the camouflage attire available for all ages at everywhere from Target to Neiman Marcus, to the endless yellow ribbons and ‘support our troops’ bumper decorations that bedeck vehicles of all sizes and shapes, militarized images and commodities are everywhere.

However, the militarization of our culture does not seem to be accompanied by awareness, let alone an analysis, of what this pervasive militarism entails. Teenagers in camouflage t-shirts or suburbanites driving Hummers are not cognizant – nor are they promoted to be – of the realities of militarization around the globe, let alone the contemporary war in Iraq. As a case in point, in a recent survey in a San Diego paper that queried people if they were more worried about rising gas prices or the war, one person admitted they tend to forget a war is even happening while another noted that gas prices were more concerning as “I drive a big truck.”[1] What goes unspoken in these comments is the unblinking belief that the massive loss of life as well as continuing destruction of the infrastructure, culture, and value system of various Middle Eastern countries brought about by the war is on par with what we have to pay at the pump. And, as the comment above notes, trading in that ‘big truck’ is not worth an Iraqi life, let alone an end to war.

Further, that the paper could in good conscience and without public outrage even ask such a question reveals a very worrying amnesiac thought pattern in the contemporary US. The media, this newspaper being an example, does not foreground the war, how it is linked to oil interests, and how all this is linked to the profit driven corporatization of the globe – rather, it asks facile questions about the everyday cost of gas.

This outright failure of the media to address the excessive and continually rising militarization of US culture is criminal, as is its excessively sparse coverage of the war. Other than brief mentions of the death toll, or of superficial stories characterizing Iraqi’s as a crazy, violent people who insist on insurgency, civil war, and self-flagellation, the media does little to incite the American public to be concerned about the war, let alone analyze its root causes and motives. This is, of course, because the media is in the back pocket of those who benefit from militarization – our corporate, conservative, and religious right leaders who see the world as an oyster they can squeeze profit out of right until ‘end time.’

The mainstream media has become a huge propaganda machine, keeping Americans fearful, dumb, and shopping. It prompts them to be frightened of ‘terrorist attacks’ and be in a tizzy over ‘homeland security’ in order to allow the administration to enact neo-conservative domestic policies while simultaneously urging them to forget about the realities of the war we are waging and the extreme bodily, environmental, and monetary costs of our growing war machine. In fact, the sedatives offered by the media are so powerful that many fail to realize what the Hummers populating are streets represent-a militarization so ubiquitous that camouflage has become the new black, that driving a tank has become as common as sliced bread. Yes, the peace sign has made a comeback and adorns t-shirts, mailbags, and bumper-stickers as well-but, unfortunately, it is not backed by the same might (or money) of camouflage-there is no peace army, at least not one that can stay out of jail long enough to foment revolution or garner enough media attention to wake up a sleeping, camouflage wearing populace.


[1] Poway News Chieftan, May 18, 2006

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