I was speaking with college students recently about the culture of militarism in the United States. To quote Joseph Gainza of Marshfield, who led the American Friends Service Committee in Vermont for over 15 years and who founded Vermont Action for Peace, “(one way) of looking at other people, social problems, and even the planet itself, which has become a dominant pattern in the present culture of the United States today – a pattern which appears to have become so engrained in our American psyche that it is largely unnoticed, sometimes referred to as “militarism.” (You can hear more from Joseph about this here)
The students thought that it was unpatriotic to criticize the military and it’s leaders in any way. This came as quite a shock to me after having lived through the protests and social turmoil surrounding the Viet Nam war and more recently the Afghan and Iraq wars. What has changed in our culture since the 1960s to reflect these attitudes in todays students?
I have a biography of Miguel Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; 29 September 1547 (assumed) – 22 April 1616), often known as Cervantes, was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright.) “The man who was Don Quixote” that I just finished reading. This book by Rafaello Busoni was written in the 1950s. The author writes about what it was like to live during the reign of King Phillip IV. The constant wars that Spain waged all over the known world, the wealth of the empire being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the ever increasing military budgets at the cost of domestic infrastructure and ever spreading poverty among his subjects. All of this sounded eerily familiar to the United States today.
My conclusion is that this culture of militarism is ultimately Quixotism, exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical. Are we going to follow in the footsteps of 16th century Spain?