Monday, April 26, 2004


A weekend of tributes to fallen soldier Pat Tillman. At least we won't see his coffin in any pictures (because God knows how offensive that is). I struggle with how to think about his story. On the one hand, I think his sacrifice was incredible. He turned down millions of dollars to join the army, apparently something he felt very strongly about. I would normally applaud such a move without reservation. My quarrel is not really with Pat Tillman so much as it is with the possible jingoistic uses of his story.

Supposedly it was 9/11 that made him feel as though he had to join the service and fight abstract "terrorists". That is a message that I am afraid will be exploited by the pro-war side--i.e., this true American hero saw the danger this country is in and paid the ultimate price while you antiwar types run down the war on terror and don't support the troops. He was obviously a selfless guy, but I wonder whether he wouldn't be more valuable to the pro-war effort alive. The taxes on his millions would've been able to pay the salaries of several soldiers, and if he'd stayed out of the conflict, he could have been a good mouthpiece for the war on terror. He could've paid for ads in major newspapers that spoke out in favor of Bush and his policies, etc. But war kills even the golden child, and now the world is a poorer place without him.

I realize I still haven't put my finger on exactly what it is about this story that bugs me. It's not Pat Tillman, certainly, it's more the way the story is played by the major media. I heard one commentator opine that "hero is too poor a word" for him or something to that effect. And that is true in some sense, but it was said amongst other ramblings that lead one to believe that the most honorable thing one can do is die for one's country (implied: so all you antiwar bozos better shut up and sit down). Also, so much has been made of his turning down millions to make mere thousands in a godforsaken desert hellhole. Normally, in our money-is-everything society, it's pretty much agreed that greed is good. I just wonder how the media reaction would differ if instead of becoming a cog in our national killing machine, he had instead forsaken the millions to join a hunger-fighting organization or a landmine clearing operation to help with what the Afghanis really need.

Why is it any less honorable to bring pleasure to your country through say, one's talent in sport? Or whatever one does? Why is killing or being killed so highly valued? Shouldn't we trying to avoid killing people or avoid putting our own citizens in harm's way? Shouldn't we be pursuing peace instead (Charley Reese has a great column about this today)? Wouldn't that be the most noble pursuit? Maybe someday in the future we'll settle differences among nations with games of sport, maybe even football--no one gets killed, and you can live to play another day. If only Pat Tillman had been able to be around for that day (that will never come to pass, except in my fevered imagination).

So now he's dead but the Taliban is regrouping, al-Qaeda hasn't gone anywhere, the Iraqis hate us, we live in mortal fear of a terrorist attack before the election, terrorist attacks are occuring almost daily everywhere else in the world, and yet just over half of U.S. citizens think George W. Bush is the greatest president this country's ever had. It reminds me of that line in "Born In The USA"--"I had a brother at Khe Sahn/fighting off them Viet Cong/They're still there/He's all gone." Whoops, a comparison to Vietnam. Remind me what he died for exactly? And what they expect more of our sons and daughters to die for? Oh well, ashes to ashes, and vanity of vanities and all that. It'll all be over soon...unless it won't...

1 comment:

Freshmao said...

Hey Clinton,

The reason "hero" was too poor a word for Mr. Tillman was that the more accurate word is "Patriot." Pat Tillman died for what he believed in, because it was his beliefs in the cause his country was fighting for that lead him to reject millions of dollars in order to put his life in harm's way, even if it was to die by friendly fire.

Whether Pat Tillman was right or wrong about what he believed in his intentions were honorable. It reminds me of the Shakespeare we had to learn in highschool. "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, we come to bury Caesar and not to praise him. The good that men do is oft intered with their bones..."