Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The NFL and the Pentagon Team Up to Exploit Veterans and Sell Military Lies

For more about the fables the NFL is helping the Pentagon sell, check out Veterans for Peace.
The NFL uses the military like Lourdes, all its sins of corporate welfare, medical malpractice and institutionalized racism are washed away in a red, white and blue cleansing courtesy of Uncle Sam. There is another side of this as well. Yes, the NFL benefits by cloaking itself in the military, but the military also benefits by linking arms with the NFL. It makes the military look like a game, an adventure, a burst of adrenaline. You are Marshawn Lynch in beast mode, only you’re holding an M-16 instead of a football. Sure, you will make 1/100 that of an NFL player, but you get the sense of teamwork and the rush you associate with the NFL on Sundays.

I spoke with Mary Tillman, the mother of NFL player turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan ten years ago this April. “I don’t like that ads for the military are shown at all on TV, especially during sporting events,” she said, “A feeling of camaraderie is important to all humans and I think the camaraderie of sport provides the most reward. Many young men join the military in order to get that feeling of belonging, that feeling of brotherhood. It is irresponsible to try to entice young people into military service with subliminal messages.”

Mary Tillman is absolutely correct. You hear what the NFL and the armed forces want you to hear. You never hear about what you might be asked to do overseas and how that might change you. One of my friends joined the military in the late 1990s for college money, not knowing the United States was about to enter a decade of war. He was one of the most gregarious people I knew, an athlete who was the sort of person that would break up daily scuffles on the court. After five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he made it home. I saw him and although much quieter, he was still a kind, open person. He was so open, he told me matter-of-factly that his marriage ended because he could not stop choking his wife and screaming in his sleep.

I also was friends with a woman who joined the Army. It is in many ways a similar story. She thought that she could get money for college in the peacetime of the 1990s and found herself on the outskirts of Baghdad. Three years ago, she told me a story about being out one late night on patrol. She had to go to the bathroom far from any facilities. She knew fellow female soldiers that wore adult diapers because they worried that using the bathroom outside could leave them vulnerable to sexual assault from a supposed “brother” soldier. She would not do that and went to the bathroom and was attacked. She told me she fought off the soldier with three well-placed knees to the nuts, but spent her remainder of time looking over both shoulders, until she cracked from the pressure, as she put it, “of seeing crazy everywhere” and was sent home on mental disability. Sure enough, as of 2009, according to the government’s own figures, “prevalence of military sexual assault among female veterans ranges from 20-48%, and 80% of female veterans have reported being sexually harassed.”

The NFL and the Pentagon walk comfortably together not only because they present pumped-up versions of masculine invulnerability as admirable qualities. They also rely on dishonest narratives about what happens to the good people who go through their grinder. Just as we are only now finally waking up to the fact that generations of former NFL players end up penniless and suffering from tragic neurological damage, the Pentagon highlights people like Lt. Chuck Nadd, the people who make it home intact, with reservoirs of love, community and support systems. They say to young people, “You too could be Chuck Nadd.” They don’t say that, as a soldier, you are equipment, and like the NFL, the Pentagon is pitiless when it comes to damaged goods.

1 comment:

mesa personal injury lawyer intern said...

Very well written, and thought provoking. It's not the first time I hear about female soldiers being sexually assaulted during their so-called honorable service, and by their own team mate at that. These male and female soldiers are fighting a hard battle, not only against foreign enemies but also from greedy statesmen.