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Soldier and the preppie: Overheard in the Salon (10 March 2009)

filo

photo by John Filo (1970)

associated press

Brooks, however, is consistent to type and cautions: "She’s made her point. Now she should put away Thunder and Lightning.” Yes, put those guns away, Michelle, you're scaring the poor man. (And his nicknaming each of Michelle's biceps is scaring poor me.) “Washington is sensually avoidant," he continues, as though showing off her buff arms is the equivalent of wearing a deep V-neck with a push-up bra. "The wonks here like brains," he says. "She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part." If only she could hide the fact that she's a lady, and a strong one at that, then, maybe, the Beltway could take this brilliant and accomplished woman semi-seriously. (Tracy Clark-Flory, "Put away the guns, Michelle!," Salon, 9 March 2009)

Salon readers and the Spartan War-Cry

I wouldn't be surprised if one day many liberal Salon readers come to prefer David Brooks over Michelle Obama. Not a man/woman thing: rather, more an Athens/Sparta thing: he, the genteel, is for the parlor, the play, the salon; she, the steel, is for the gym, the fight, and the shutting off of all childish-things.

No, this is relevant

How we react to the president and first lady's dress, habits, comport, physiogamy, and the like is important stuff -- not fluff. Clinton enjoyed big macs -- he was going to be kinda casual, even fun, and so were we. Obama is lithe and solid -- he's in the mood for to shape up America, and so are "we." The new ethos may suit anyone who's ever been accused of being effete -- which I assume holds true for the average Salon reader -- quite poorly.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

Welcome to our regular stable of "wimpy upper-crust liberal" trolls. Enjoy your stay. A couple of questions for you:

(1) Have you ever noticed that your name sounds exactly like a stereotype of an effete preppy?

(2) Why is it that right-wingers tend to be so out of shape? Not only could Michelle Obama kick all of your asses without even trying, most of you look like my 89-year-old grandmother could take you with one hand tied behind her osteoporotic back.

Also ... the Spartans lost, you know. (Dvorkin, Daniel, Reply to post, "Put away the guns, Michelle," 9 March, 2009, 5: 21 PM PDT)

@Daniel Dvorkin

Hey Daniel. Fun questions. Answers:

1) No, I haven't. Looks, with it's peaks and valleys, kind of like a mountain range, though. Looking at it again, maybe more a roller-coaster.

2) Not a right-winger. Mark Shields likes David for the same reasons I do -- he can listen well, with full respect. My guess is that most in the army/navy/marines vote Republican, or at the very least, have conservative tendencies. So, too, most everyone in professional sports. I'm not interested in warriors in the White House -- I want nurturers. As much love and as little blood as possible, thank you.

@Patrick

Okay, I'm going to zero in on one of my favorites here:

My guess is that most in the army/navy/marines vote Republican, or at the very least, have conservative tendencies. So too most everyone in professional sports.

I can't speak for the pro jocks, although I'll note that endowing them with some kind of warrior mystique is a mistake common to those who don't have any idea what real violence looks like. As for the service ...

I am a liberal. I am a veteran. Most of my family and friends are also liberals, and many of them are also veterans. Those of us who are veterans are proud of our service, and those who aren't are proud of us for having served.

I am a Democrat, and among my fellow Democrats what I encounter is respect for my service and -- frequently -- the bond of meeting a fellow vet, who is also proud of having served, as well as a committment to cleaning up the mess that conservative chickenhawks have made of the country over the last eight years. You know, the people who "support the troops," but God forbid they or their kids should ever actually serve a day in uniform or hear a shot fired in anger.

See, one of the great things about the military is that it's pretty much a cross-section of the country. Liberal and conservative and libertarian, black and white and Asian and Hispanic, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist and Hindu and every other religion you can think of -- you will find all of these, in every possible combination, serving America. Which is, when you come right down to it, a pretty liberal phenomenon in itself.

You, I expect, have lived your entire life surrounded by people pretty much just like you, and you're perfectly happy in your little comfort bubble where "the troops" are heroic abstractions doing heroic things far, far away. I.e., a conservative chickenhawk, just like your heroes Bush and Cheney. Don't worry, you can keep doing that. People like me, and people unlike me, who can put their differences aside to agree on a common goal, will keep on defending your right to be a self-righteous asshole, however little you deserve it. (Dvorkin, Daniel, Reply to post, "Put away the guns, Michelle!," 9 March 2009, 7:10 PM PDT)

How true are the guards/guardians of the pretty people stable?

Not an even cross-section: few progressives will sign up for something which strips you of your individuality and personality, out of a desire to lose yourself amidst something "greater." Joining up automatically makes you "one who serves" -- a hero. I really regret that. Maybe you do too.

Surely you would agree that those who would "keep on defending your right to be a self-righteous asshole, however little you deserve it," could readily be imagined as turning on said righteous assholes, as soon as they've “had it up to here" with them. The military would love to turn on all the pretty people, as you evidence. Peace-niks knew that, but it's been awhile. Since the Obamas might not just stop once they've kicked 'publican ass, but move on and push the whole country further into militarism, all the pretty, peaceful, cardigan-wearing Salon readers should take note of the current preference for meaness, leanness, and musculature.

@Patrick

Not an even cross-section: few progressives will sign up for something which strips you of your individuality and personality, out of a desire to lose yourself amidst something "greater."

Except that many do, whether you want to admit it or not.

Joining up automatically makes you "one who serves"--a hero. I really regret that. Maybe you do too.

No, I don't. I'm very glad of my service, and again, whether you're willing to believe it or not, what it did for me was to make me more fully who I am, not strip away my identity. Many other people have had the same experience.

Also? Be very careful with the h-word. "Hero" has a very specific definition in the miltary, and it's wildly overused outside it. During my two years as an infantryman and eight years as a medic, I knew many brave soldiers and airmen who served with courage and distinction, but I knew all of two who could genuinely be described as heroes. The idea that anyone who puts on a uniform automatically qualifies for that status is an insidious kind of dehumanization, and as such is a favorite of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders crowd.

Surely you would agree that those who would "keep on defending your right to be a self-righteous asshole, however little you deserve it," could readily be imagined as turning on said righteous assholes, as soon as they've had it "up to here" with them.

Can it be imagined? Sure. Is it going to happen? Probably not, at least not the way you're thinking. Because, you see, we aren't mindless drones. We know when we're being used, and we damn sure know it's not the "peaceniks," as you put it, who are doing the using. (Dvorkin, Daniel, Reply to post, "Put away the guns, Michelle!," 9 March 2009, 9:07 PM PDT)

@Daniel Dvorkin

Okay, so soldiers understand that there are only so many heroes, but signing up still has about it some some sense that, apparently instantly, you've shown you are no longer selfish and suspect but rather someone who has chosen to undertake the noble cause of serving others -- if not a hero, certainly a worthy citizen, someone to be proud of. Since some of us see the military as still largely about self-righteous bullying of people, many of us regret this, and wish more was done to redeem the "panty waist" jobs recruiters must so easily pluck young men and women from, with but a pluck of their poorly strung self-esteem.

Everyone who signs up must want to come to talk like you do. Earned the right to sneer so readily at self-righteous "pretty people" like me, and scaredy cats too afraid to join up. To be able to say though all their years of service, they've known many, many who were brave and courageous, but only a few who would leap on a grenade, or what-not. Maybe you're right and it's not so much about heroes, as about becoming a true "Man." And since this evolution at the very least seems to involve a ready and cruel dismissiveness to those deemed "feminine," toward a selfish elevation of oneself above the less-than-deserving crowd, I hope more challenge the worthiness of the end-product of "being all you can be." The learned demeanor smacks me of that of a righteous rapist, actually. Akin to the tone/stance of the article's title: "Put away the guns, Michelle! You're scaring David Brooks." (Oh David, you little hus, stop fretting and open yourself up to Thunder and Lightning . . .)

Link: "Put away the guns, Michelle!" (Salon)


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