(Also published at Daily Kos)
On Friday night, I watched the Carrier Classic, a basketball game between Michigan State and North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. Yesterday, prior to my Minnesota Viking taking on (and being annihilated by) the evil, bloodsucking Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football, I was treated to a Marine drill team favorably comparing the qualities of a Marine to those of the Packers and their pursuit of an undefeated season. Taken individually, I might not have thought much about the symbolism, but together they set me to thinking. Sure, I understand that Friday was Veteran’s Day. I get that Veteran’s Day involves ritualistic, reflexive bowing to the military. What I don’t understand is how and why it’s become acceptable to conflate militarism with sports.
Athletic competition was invented by the ancient Greeks as a substitute for war. Today there are still those comfortable with (and whose purpose is served by) the idea of conflating war with sports, particularly football. Given that it’s fashionable these days to figuratively (and reflexively) genuflect in prostrate gratitude any time our military is mentioned, expressing an opinion to the contrary is not a way to win friends and influence enemies. That said, I have to ask why Americans fall all over themselves to prove their fealty to our men and women in uniform. I’m not suggesting that our military isn’t worthy of support, but we’ve become so accustomed to waving the flag that we seem to have lost the ability to question what our military is being used for.
The Pentagon has perfected the propaganda art of linking sports with war. Americans have completely bought into the narrative the equates the rigors of war with the glories of athletic success. This is a disturbing corollary to the long-established conflation of militarism and Christianity, and, to only a slightly lesser degree, the Pentagon’s cooperation with Hollywood in the creation of flag-waving militaristic propaganda. Of course, as far as the Pentagon’s concerned, it makes their recruiting efforts a whole lot easier when they can co-opt sports and movies turn them into free recruiting videos. As long as Americans don’t question the conflation of sports, movies, Christianity, and militarism, the American war machine will continue to be the tail that wags the dog.
Somewhere warm and breezy, Dwight Eisenhower weeps into his Corona….