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Lucius
Posted on Friday, April 30, 2004 - 04:00 pm:   


Pat Tillman is not a hero: He got what was coming to him

By Rene Gonzalez
April 28, 2004


When the death of Pat Tillman occurred, I turned to my friend who was watching the news with me and said, "How much you want to bet they start talking about him as a 'hero' in about two hours?" Of course, my friend did not want to make that bet. He'd lose. In this self-critical incapable nation, nothing but a knee-jerk "He's a hero" response is to be expected.

I've been mystified at the absolute nonsense of being in "awe" of Tillman's "sacrifice" that has been the American response. Mystified, but not surprised. True, it's not everyday that you forgo a $3.6 million contract for joining the military. And, not just the regular army, but the elite Army Rangers. You know he was a real Rambo, who wanted to be in the "real" thick of things. I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures. Well, he got his wish. Even Rambo got shot in the third movie, but in real life, you die as a result of being shot. They should call Pat Tillman's army life "Rambo 4: Rambo Attempts to Strike Back at His Former Rambo 3 Taliban Friends, and Gets Killed."

But, does that make him a hero? I guess it's a matter of perspective. For people in the United States, who seem to be unable to admit the stupidity of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, such a trade-off in life standards (if not expectancy) is nothing short of heroic. Obviously, the man must be made of "stronger stuff" to have had decided to "serve" his country rather than take from it. It's the old JFK exhortation to citizen service to the nation, and it seems to strike an emotional chord. So, it's understandable why Americans automatically knee-jerk into hero worship.

However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a "pendejo," an idiot. Tillman, in the absurd belief that he was defending or serving his all-powerful country from a seventh-rate, Third World nation devastated by the previous conflicts it had endured, decided to give up a comfortable life to place himself in a combat situation that cost him his life. This was not "Ramon or Tyrone," who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education. This was a "G.I. Joe" guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy.

Tillman, probably acting out his nationalist-patriotic fantasies forged in years of exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert himself into a conflict he didn't need to insert himself into. It wasn't like he was defending the East coast from an invasion of a foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he paid for it. It's hard to say I have any sympathy for his death because I don't feel like his "service" was necessary. He wasn't defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in.

Perhaps it's the old, dreamy American thought process that forces them to put sports greats and "larger than life" sacrificial lambs on the pedestal of heroism, no matter what they've done. After all, the American nation has no other role to play but to be the cheerleaders of the home team; a sad role to have to play during conflicts that suffer from severe legitimacy and credibility problems.

Matters are a little clearer for those living outside the American borders. Tillman got himself killed in a country other than his own without having been forced to go over to that country to kill its people. After all, whether we like them or not, the Taliban is more Afghani than we are. Their resistance is more legitimate than our invasion, regardless of the fact that our social values are probably more enlightened than theirs. For that, he shouldn't be hailed as a hero, he should be used as a poster boy for the dangerous consequences of too much "America is #1," frat boy, propaganda bull. It might just make a regular man irrationally drop $3.6 million to go fight in a conflict that was anything but "self-defense." The same could be said of the unusual belief of 50 percent of the American nation that thinks Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11. One must indeed stand in awe of the amazing success of the American propaganda machine. It works wonders.

Al-Qaeda won't be defeated in Afghanistan, even if we did kill all their operatives there. Only through careful and logical changing of the underlying conditions that allow for the ideology to foster will Al-Qaeda be defeated. Ask the Israelis if 50 years of blunt force have eradicated the Palestinian resistance. For that reason, Tillman's service, along with that of thousands of American soldiers, has been wrongly utilized. He did die in vain, because in the years to come, we will realize the irrationality of the War on Terror and the American reaction to Sept. 11. The sad part is that we won't realize it before we send more people like Pat Tillman over to their deaths.

Rene Gonzalez is a UMass graduate student.
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Brendan
Posted on Friday, April 30, 2004 - 11:05 pm:   

Lucius:

I am curious: Where did this article come from?
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 08:32 am:   

It's been circulated widely, talked about on TV here....I think it oriinally came from the Universiy of Mass. student paper.
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Bob K.
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 12:14 pm:   

Translating "pendejo" as "idiot" is a little disingenuous; that would be like translating "fuckwit" to "idiota." Obviously she's trying to cause a stir. She certainly seems incapable of anticipating the other side of the argument or getting into a guy's head. While I don't think her piece is a major embarrassment, it's shrill and immature. Judging Tillman was a true hero or not depends on knowing the unknowable about his motivations, but he showed the signs of being a pretty standup guy.

She seems like a young fem scared of testosterone. The owner of my local gym, a bodybuilder who's won about a hundred regional titles with his wife, says he finds it funny that these young guys come in all pumped up on HGH, creatine, and steroids because they think the chicks will dig it. (This one kid has a wicked scar along his right triceps from his elbow up to his deltoid from a compound fracture he got while arm-wrestling -- he'd gained thirty pounds of muscle in two months thanks largely to drugs, and outstripped his bone density; when he tried to slam his opponent, his upper arm exploded.) Anyway, the manager told me, he finally got fed up with all the naivete. He pulls one kid aside and says to him, "Look, I don't use this shit; my wife and I aren't in this to max out our livers. And the only chicks that really prefer bodybuilders are other bodybuilders." The kid was doubtful, so the manager tells him to bring his girlfriend into his office, where he proceeds to show her a fitness magazine with both lean active guys and bodybuilders. "Which do you prefer?" he asks her, then laughs at the kid as she confesses she likes the lean guys and the kid stands there blurting protest.

Another amusing thing: while driving home last night, I listened to an NPR story where a female-to-male transsexual relates the effect of his first big shot of testosterone. Before, he says, he'd look at an attractive girl and think that he'd try to get to know her, wonder about what her interests were, etc., but after the testosterone, she-to-he was shocked his brain would be flooded with aggressive pornographic images.

Welcome to the club!

So in the name of controversy, I declare this a battle-of-the-sexes issue. What guy wouldn't want to have Tillman's drive, strength, self-confidence, and courage? C'mon, all you sword-and-sorcery-loving geeks: who wouldn't want to lift a fat eunuch tyrant off his throne and toss his meat to the dogs, meanwhile legions of admirers pound their heads on the floor in an ecstasy of hero worship? Who wouldn't relish the subsequent fear and eager entreaty on the face of the buxom slave girl at your measured, calculatedly menacing advance, at the heft of your prodigious quads, pecs, and biceps (my gym manager's demonstration notwithstanding)? Man, I'm feeling as tall as Lucius just thinking about it. Sign me up!





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Minz
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 01:21 pm:   

I'm with Bob on this one. First, from day one Tillman didn't want any attention for this, and refused to allow any photos or media interviews. In fact, he'd probably be pissed he's getting more attention than any other poor victim of Bush's lies. And he signed up right after 9/11--I'm thinking if he'd been told he could end up in Iraq to help the bottom line of Halliburton, he might've thought twice. Yes, he wanted to be Rambo in that he saw the devastation wreaked on his native soil and decided to join up. But he can't be blamed for the misguided direction in which our leaders have gone. At least he was in Afghanistan, ostensibly where there had been a useful mission at one point.
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T Andrews
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 03:01 pm:   

Rene's arguement is all over the place. Is it an attack on men? The entertainment industry? The hero archetype? Bush?
S/he picked a poor target for her/his attack, in my opinion. A dead individual who isn't here to defend their motivation.
Saying he 'got what was coming to him' is low. Verrrry low. A pretty weak argument from a grad student, I think.

America definately needs to redefine what a hero is. Overpaid sports stars are not heros. But maybe overpaid sports stars who put their money where their mouth is (or their life, in this case) are credible heroes after all.

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Bob K.
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 05:00 pm:   

Gee, here I try to lower the level of discourse and Minz and T come in and bring it up a notch, being all agreeable and sane. I'll retract my battle-of-the-sexes call in deference to T, but I do honestly think it might be an issue of cerebral academic chickie versus testosterone (a nod here to the women bodybuilders, gay and straight, who have more cojones than most guys, and to any woman who's had a difficult pregnancy, something I've witnessed firsthand God help me).

Bob
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 05:17 pm:   

Except I believe Rene Gonzalez is a man. The stories I've found on it refers to "his column." Rene is not an unusual male name in parts of Latin America or France.

I don't follow football so know little of the man himself. Still it seems like this kind of thing doesn't help the anti-war side Rene claims to believe in and is cruel to this man's loved ones. It's good to see the anti-war side recognizes this article as confused or mean, and that is to their credit even to me.
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Bob
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 05:31 pm:   

>Except I believe Rene Gonzalez is a man.

Well, there is THAT. Yeah, I think you're right.

>It's good to see the anti-war side recognizes this article as confused or mean, and that is to their credit even to me.

Of course it's mean. Anyone rational can see that, and on the whole, it's the anti-war side that's the rational one.
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Bob
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 05:38 pm:   

Anti-Iraq war, that is. The Taliban didn't leave us much leeway.
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 06:07 pm:   

If you want to know the truth, even I can agree Iraq is not entirely working out. I thought it could be a good justified thing, but now I'm leaning toward thinking we should concentrate more attention on improving Afghanistan. Also on trying to work out peace deals in Sudan. Sudan was a known hang out for Osama, and the Civil War there is attracting Islamic militants. Some of which think Al-Qaeda is wimpy rich boys, not true Islamic revolutionaries like themselves.
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ellen
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 01:56 pm:   

I assumed that Rene was a man as soon as I read the first post.
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Bob K.
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 04:38 pm:   

Rub it in, Ellen. All right, I admit it. I wanted to share the gym story. I thought it was pretty funny. He still sounds like a ... aw, to heck with it.

At this point, though, I feel bad for the guy. This was in a college paper, not the New York Times. Students write stupid shit in college papers all the time. A guy derided a local band in our college paper, calling them a "bunch of queers," took his lumps in two weeks of reader write-ins, and that was it. This poor guy says something dumb about an icon of American heroism and now he'll be trying to live it down forever. He's got the mark of Cain writ large on his byline from sea to shining sea.





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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 05:10 pm:   

Yes. We're Americans. Lets improve Aghanistan. Jesus! It's kind of what the Brits said about India. Good Job! Colonialist asshole mentality -- it never dies.
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 06:31 pm:   

And what Castro thought about Angola. Or what Carter thought about Haiti. Or what the UN thought in Bosnia. Or what Tecumseh thought about the Creek Indians.

Please don't tell me you favor this Rene person's opinion?
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 06:45 pm:   

'Bout as much as I favor yours, Thomas R. Which is to say, I know where it's coming from, it's some little asshole don't know shit from shinola shooting off his mouth. Nothing we should hate on, but it makes a bad smell.
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 08:10 pm:   

Well in least you have some sense, even if otherwise it's the same old foul mouthed vitriol I already knew. Neat how you managed to make me feel both better and worse about you than I already did.
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ellen
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 12:51 pm:   

Bob K--nah. Everyone will forget about it in a couple of years. Of course, he could change his name ;-) and they would forget quicker.
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Bob K.
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 01:33 pm:   

I dunno, Ellen. I exaggerate, but still, the right-wing pundits will archive their outrage, and Google has a pretty long memory.

I think despite the thread topic, there's not much controversy here. He picked a bad target. As for Afghanistan, well, our invasion was fait accompli when Al Qaeda became the chief suspect and the Taliban wouldn't cooperate. However, there's no "working out" in war. War has always meant murder, rape, and turning the mean dogs loose on the children. And most wars, certainly these, are initiated mainly to secure the prerogatives of a few elites, whatever the stated goals. The "War on Terror," like the war on drugs, will trawl with a wide net that catches more innocents than perps. It should not have been a "war" but a police action. Rene seemed to have it right that far.



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T Andrews
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 02:04 pm:   

You summed it up well, Bob.

As for Rene, maybe he should change his name if only to avoid being confused with the feminine Renee. heheh. :-)
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Bob K.
Posted on Monday, May 03, 2004 - 02:58 pm:   

>As for Rene, maybe he should change his name if only to avoid being confused with the feminine Renee.

You know, I've tried and deleted a dozen responses, but not one wins me back any dignity. (You and Ellen . . . sheesh.)

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