One of the things I loathe is America’s infatuation with its military.
Undeniably, there are some great people in the military; people who believe in what they are doing and who are trying to police the world. But, sadly, I still feel that they’re delusional – it ought to be obvious to any thinking person that the US military is not being deployed in a moral or useful project; therefore it is a criminal enterprise that brings violence on others for no purpose other than protecting America’s corporate interests. After all, it’s not as if the world is asking to be policed; the US has just decided that it’s going to project its hegemony in the form of claiming to be “global cop.” This is how it’s always been, as Smedley Butler pointed out in his famous War Is A Racket tract. [stderr] [wik]
Still, it irked me severely to see that the hardware store where I get my plywood has put up a big sign and demarcated special parking places for “active and retired military.” (I guess pregnant women can go fuck themselves) and it used to send me into great, horking, spasms of irked when USAirways’ boarding process gave priority to “military in uniform.” The ritual “thank you for your service” also makes my hackles rise; it’s emblematic of America’s unthinking and unconditional appreciation of its policy of foreign wars. Everyone who wears the uniform was involved – directly or in a supporting role – with America’s greatest blunders. What’s to thank them for?
But in the time of the coronavirus and social distancing, we have a new reality. It’s a reality in which a minimal wage worker is expected to still go to work and wear protective gear as they still get paid minimum wage to hand bags of cheeseburgers or chicken tenders to scared people in cars. They’re going the extra mile and, in spite of the protective gear, they are risking losing their jobs and having their lives turned upside down by getting sick – just to give us a cheeseburger that enriches their management chain (who are safe in their mansions in the Hamptons). The nurses (first and foremost) and the people who clean up at hospitals are the heroes of the day, followed by the doctors and EMTs and the other technicians – but spare some gratitude for the people who are hauling the body bags, handing out the cheeseburgers, and doing their low-reward best to keep the minimal infrastructure working.
The other day, my UPS driver came by to drop off a box and (from a distance) I said, “thank you for your service.” He was surprised, but relaxed a bit and said that, yeah, he didn’t feel so happy about delivering boxes in this situation. “At least I don’t work at McDonald’s” was what he said. That’s what got me thinking.
From now on, I’ll thank people for their service – and give them money besides if it’s appropriate – it’s sad but under disaster capitalism, the people who are keeping the system working are those who are least rewarded by it. I know that “thank you for your service” is about as worthless as “thoughts and prayers” but I’ll try to give them a $20 while I’m at it. We all know it’s not enough.
I was in the army active then ready reserve between 1983 and 1989. Somewhere on my shelf in the other room I have a cardboard tube containing a fairly unattractive certificate declaring me honorably discharged. On occasion I’ve had people say “well, a chairborne warrior like you can’t talk about military strategy…” in which case it has been handy to send them a link to the damn thing. [discharge] As though being a corporal who lugged around an M-60 qualifies me as a military genius. What qualifies me as a military genius was that I saw through the charade very early and switched from active to reserve status as soon as I got out of basic. I was a 76V – “material storage and handling specialist” which means that I was an army certified forklift driver. When Balticon was being held at the Baltimore convention center instead of the Hyatt Regency, there was a day when the loading dock staff were on strike and were trying to charge the vendors extra to move their stuff inside the convention center. That was when I decided to spend the day forklifting around science fiction. After all, I was an army certified forklift driver; the convention center staff took a look at my military ID and shrugged and I fired the lift up and got to work. Then, as I was going down one hallway, a woman came running up to me and started complaining about the air conditioning. I stopped quickly – most people don’t realize what getting a foot under a forklift wheel means – they’re small but deadly. And the ‘lift skidded on the polished concrete and the fork did to the wall what the iceberg did to the Titanic. I said, “look, lady, I have no idea about the AC but as you can tell, forklifts are dangerous.” Nobody ever asked about it, so I never mentioned it ’till now. Anyhow, my military ‘service’ was a joke and I don’t deserve thanks for it in the slightest. When you see someone muttering the ritual “thank you for your service” you might want to mention that most of the people who serve in the military are fuck-ups and most of what the military does is fuck up and that maybe they should thank a waiter, instead. And give them some money.
I have not figured out what to do about establishments that don’t allow their staff to accept tips. God damn that is some evil capitalism right there. If you’re going to say not to accept tips you’d better be offering them medical insurance, a 401K, dental plan, and paid sick leave/time off.
One of the nurses who was photographed with Boris Johnson – who survived his brush with coronavirus – didn’t. [nypost] This is hitting nurses and other caregivers particularly hard. I have a friend who is a radiologist at a hospital in Utah, who spent 2 really shitty weeks with fevers and shakes and is officially cleared so he’s working basic service jobs around the ER because (we are pretty sure) he can’t get it again, now.