Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hate or See


I've been lucky.

I often forget that many women don't know the world of men.

I was brutally reminded when a woman wrote in the "letters to the editor" part of the newspaper to say how she didn't want to see our soldiers doing their route marches in their field gear on our city streets. She hated those guys. I responded: "Eewww!"

I've been lucky... to be from an extended family where nearly all of us have done military service. Also lucky in that two of my brothers have done ranch work at cousin Betty Jean's, three of them have been in air cadets and four of them have worked in a remote mining camp. Between them they have been in at least five unions. Naturally, I can't expect the average woman to have relatives who have stayed in bunkhouses. Nor can I expect a lady who has led a sheltered life to go down to mingle at her local pub.


That lady simply won't get to meet the men who may briefly lose a bit of their polish by going off to do bush surveying like my roommate, do forestry like my sister, or ocean fishing like my neighbor. And if she doesn't know, or like, any of those guys, then maybe she'll never like soldiers either.

I've been so lucky... to be a bookworm with plenty of imagination: hence I can walk in another person's shoes. I mingle easily, I have to: As a writer it's my job to get to know people. One night I enjoyed drinking beer with a university football player. Call him Sean. He confided that he had failed to measure up to the muddy hardworking roughnecks at a wellhead. In fact, he quit. Later Sean redeemed himself, in his eyes and mine, by being the hardest worker on his roofing tar crew. It's a hot dirty job but Sean was always the first up the ladder. One day his boss whispered to him: "You are at the top of the list to be rehired next summer."

Among men, I suppose, a "wimp" is someone who, whether on the field of football, the fields of Mars, or the field of life, doesn't try hard enough to measure up.

Do girls wonder whether they will measure up, or are such worries only for boys? I don't suppose girls read war memoirs, or see war movies, or listen to their uncle's talk of surviving... but boys do, and they wonder. During WWII General Patton made a point of reassuring each incoming bunch of troops that they would do fine. He would add: "You will stop being afraid the first time you wipe off the blood from the man next to you. Then you'll just get angry." Patton had to speak plain and true because, in his time and place, the stakes were so high.

Of course soldiers in peacetime don't hate, any more than football players do. Players will aggressively train to compete against a generic team; soldiers will train to fight a faceless abstraction, "the enemy."


I can understand a sheltered lady in white gloves being too busy to use her library card, too busy to become determined to "do whatever it takes" to understand men, let alone to understand soldiers. And that's OK. But to actively, openly, hate the sight of them the way that letter writer does? Eewww!

Hatred is a problem in this world. I can understand that housewives in other nations might be lazy and "wimp out" by not making enough effort to conceal their hatreds from their children... Some may even actively teach their children to hate... But if they do? Those submissive dutiful Arab mothers who plant seeds of hatred will harvest a bitter fruit. Children of Shiites and Sunnis will end up attacking Islam and blowing up each other's temples. That ain't good.

Approximately 350 mosques were attacked by terrorists in 2006 according to the U.S. government's e-journal.

For me, it's a truism that if you relax your standards to let in hated for any group, no matter how badly they deserve it, then you end up hating another group too. And then yet another. Show me someone who hates a visible minority and I will show you someone who hates an invisible minority. (such as gays, Jews or persons with disabilities)

I don't hate folks if I get to know them enough to really see them.

Occasionally I have seen a bunch of soldiers shambling along the road in their rumpled field gear. I notice the tail end Charlie wearing a big orange triangle to alert traffic. I wonder if he is embarrassed: Can you spell target? (Incidentally, my sister says her army cadets have written upon their triangle with a felt pen: Hit Me First)

Although I've been watching Stargate SG-1 for ten seasons now, I don't expect our boys to carry the futuristic European weapons from that show: I see plain old army rifles. And, in place of television's tailored clothing, I see them wearing outfits in the army's two sizes: too big and too small. No one is Hollywood handsome. Instead I see the homely interesting faces of our guys from weathered fishing villages and dusty prairie towns. I see our boys doing a man's job for the first time in their lives. I wish them well.

Sean Crawford
Middle-aged now, in a quiet home
Spring 2008

~For a chilling look at how hatred can be misused in peacetime to get people to go to war, see War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, filed under Current Affairs, by correspondent Chris Hedges. The author makes no attempt to de-glorify peacetime soldiers, and he respects the professionalism of democratic regular troops.
Hedges gives a fresh look at the horror, a look that is in a class by itself: He looks not only at the beasts with bayonets but at the whole nation: He sees what happens to the civilians and their culture during wartime. This book is a "keeper."

~For a perspective on how hatred is morally dangerous see my essay Hatred and Canadian Muslims, archived in October 2012.

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