Thursday, May 26, 2005


This was the title of a NY Times piece which dove tailed into their series on Class in America. Very good and the series has surfaced many of those things that we don't talk about in this country. However, I thought the piece on the National Guard as blue collar workers who peopled the Guard was especially poignant for now that we are war.

In the Volunteer Army, there is nothing more apparent than "class." Officers are mostly taken from the upper middle class, either college graduates and more likely West Point or another of the Service Academies. And, the enlisted ranks are filled from the working class, whatever that comprises. Where the Times got it a little skewed is that it isn't just the Guard but the Army at large. I don't have any hardcore statistics but believe it to be true. The Navy and Air Force are peopled with a higher "class" of soldier. If by "class" we mean education, family background and the "priviledged" in various ways. For opening up this, we thank the Times.

If there is anything that makes the case for the failure of the All Volunteer Army, it is the fact that the working class of Americans are fighting America's wars and nothing is more representative of this fact than the National Guard.

To take the tact of the Times and tackle the hard subjects, think of the most egregious national embarrassment, among many, that we have dealt with in Iraqnam--prison scandal and who was at the center of it? The National Guard. A group of rogue Guardsman whose claim to fame was stupidity but mostly emotionally unsophisticated men and women who were without supervision and proper training. It was and is an abomination and an indictment of the shortcomings of leadership and of the Volunteer Army they have promoted.

According to the article which I think is true. The Guard is almost entirely made up of those from the working class and is a far cry from a cross section of America. And, in my opinion, these patriotic Americans are to be lauded not condemned. During Vietnam days, the Guard was used as a harbinger for those dodging the draft and Vietnam. Think of the President.

The Guard doesn't view its role in class terms but by in large as patriotic duty. Who can complaint about that great attitude! And, let's face it, there's some consolation that in most circles, rising from poverty to the White House is a plus. And, we cannot imagine any politician who doesn't want to tout his common roots.

There's lots to be said for how the Guardsmen see themselves. I especially like the comments from one Sergeant who had served three years on active duty and then joined the Guard. He said, "there are rich people, who are the thinkers. There are blue collar people like us, who are the doers. And there are the poor people, who don't do anything but will follow." This sergeant favors a draft. Good for him. Yes, these are the working class, the salt of the earth: a crane operator, Walmart worker, a fireman, and a prison guard. GOD BLESS AMERICA

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