A couple days ago, while having the brake pads replaced on my silver four-cylinder base-model 2006 Honda Accord, I found myself in a waiting room with hours to kill and a lot of magazines to read. I came across a recent TIME article that really got me thinking.
The article says that, in the U.S., the divide between soldiers and civilians has never been bigger. Many outside the armed forces are ignorant of even the most basic details of how the military works, what it’s currently doing, and what daily life is like for service members. Meanwhile a lot of soldiers grow more isolated from the country they serve.
The percentage of Congress that’s made up of veterans has dropped from 77% in the 1970s to 22% today.
The article got my attention because I’m part of the problem. What do I know about the military? I know we’re in Afghanistan, and pulling out of Iraq. I know we were involved with the Libyan air strikes and that we’ve sent “advisors” to help fight the LRA. But…specific details of how the Afghanistan war is progressing? Knowledge of the military command structure? An understanding of what everyday life is like for a soldier? Things I can do, as a civilian, to help those who are risking their lives? On all those subjects, I’m hazy at best.
This is a big deal. Democracies rely on the people to be informed about what their country is doing. In the U.S., I see a population increasingly distracted by entertainment, increasingly apathetic about what their guns are doing and why. And it seems to me that this is how democracies fall.
I mentioned recently that I’ve started learning about a new subject every week. This week was Mozambique. I think sometime soon I’ll take a week and learn more about the armed forces.
How much connection do you feel to your country’s military, and how well do you understand them?