SSgt Jason Rivera is a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh. Thought he had a hot prospect. A high school student was interested in joining the Corps. So SSgt Rivera went over to the kid’s house.
It was a large home in a well-to-do part of the city. And things looked promising. American flags fluttered around the yard in support of the troops. The kid’s mom was wearing an American flag t-shirt when she met the Marine. And she declared, “I support you.”
But the flags and lip service were all the support mom wanted to give. She stopped the Marine dead in his tracks when he said he was there to talk about recruiting her son.
“Military service isn’t for our son. It isn’t for our kind of people.” –Unidentified Suburban Mother, quoted in the Post-Gazette
Military sociologists are calling this sort of thing “patriotism lite.” It’s part of a disconnect in which civilians see the military as a different class, that civilians shouldn’t have to sacrifice for a war effort, and that service members are paid to do a job — so do it and don’t complain.
Obviously, this doesn’t go down well with service members.
Terry Neal of the Washington Post takes up the issue of the affluent and military service. He looks at exit polls and finds that the affluent were the most likely to support President Bush in the last election.
Mr. Neal also finds that the affluent are the least likely to enlist.
He cites a couple of researchers. Robert Cushing — a retired professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin — tracked American deaths in Iraq by where they came from in the US. He found a disproportionate number of the war dead were whites from small, poor, rural areas.
But it isn’t the very poor who are sacrificing. They’re also left out.
David R. Segal — director of the Center for Research on Military Organizations at the University of Maryland — studied that trend before the Iraq War. He found that the very poor are excluded from military service because of criminal records or insufficient education.
Meanwhile, recruiters have relied on incentives, cash, training, and education to lure new recruits. Kids from more affluent families don’t need those things and are less likely to join.
And Army records themselves bear out both observations. They find that the affluent and very poor are under-represented in the Army. Crossposted at Watching Washington