Down to the final five contestants, Tuesday’s American Idol was outstanding musically and dramatically as all five did surpassing renditions of first, ’60s faves, and then guest judge Neil Sedaka’s songs (they now perform two songs each) – that is all five OTHER than US Marine Joshua Gracin, who was so clearly outclassed by the other four finalists that ALL of the judges commented something to the effect that he appeared to have reached the end of the line.
Joshua Gracin, a good guy, military man, and good but not great singer, was very, very clearly outclassed by the others, yet when the stunning vote was announced last night, Trenyce and Ruben [!!!!!] were the bottom two, and Trenyce was shown the door.
America (or at least those who voted) were dumb as dirt when they voted Rickey Smith off in early April, but in voting Trenyce off last night, and Ruben behind Joshua, the electorate proved themselves to be just above paramecium and just below liver flukes on the intelligence chart: so shockingly stupid that something other than talent must have been at play.
I fear what is at play is a bias in favor of a military man in time of war, even though, through no fault of his own, Josh Grayson was singing and dancing in Hollywood while his cohorts were in harm’s way in the desert halfway around the world.
On first thought it would seem obvious that America would reflexively rally round its military in time of war, and in this war it certainly did – just ask the Dixie Chicks – but it wasn’t always so: ask a Vietnam veteran. I believe the hyper-support of the military by the US public now – even adamant war protesters have made clear their support for the troops – is a psychological compensation for the decidedly mixed reaction the military received from the public during Vietnam.
There are many differences between the Vietnam War and all subsequent US military actions including Gulf War 2, notably the character of the war itself, but it seems to me the main difference between America’s relationship with its military then and now is the draft.
Conscription implies compulsion and this compulsion bred an attitude of fear and resentment felt by many draftees and the public at large, especially those within and near the sphere of eligibility, against a military-as-enforcer. The draft (which ended in 1973) has also been used to justify America’s “failure” in Vietnam – though most would argue our loss was political and not military – and this prejudice against the skills of a conscripted military is today dogma. Note the flap caused by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments in January:
- “As an organization founded by Vietnam War veterans seeking justice and fairness for all – whether military personnel or civilians – we are outraged by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments made at a January 7th DOD press conference when asked about the possibility of resurrecting the draft. Secretary Rumsfeld said troops from Vietnam War conscription, “added ‘no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services…'”
As Vietnam veterans who served with conscripted soldiers, we find Secretary Rumsfeld’s egregious slur a grave insult to the memory, sacrifice and valor of those who lost their lives, and, further, dismissive of the hundreds and thousands of lives, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam, who were devastatingly shattered by the Vietnam War.
We suggest that the Secretary choose his words much more carefully in the future, and be sensitive as to how they affect those who put their lives on the line for this country, whether drafted or enlisted. This is all the more critical as our country is on the eve of war with Iraq, and thousands of U.S. troops are again mobilized to potentially engage in battle.”
— Bobby Muller, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation [see Rummy’s furious backpedaling here]
A very sensitive matter, that. The draft was meant to do two things: ensure that the military, literally, had enough bodies; and secondarily, to create a more egalitarian military by forcing the middle and upper classes to participate in a historically working class-dominated sector. Of course, exemptions to students, teachers, family men and the well-connected tended to favor those same middle and upper classes, intensifying rather than mitigating the resentment of the less-privileged.
The grand irony here is that a professional, voluntary military, by disentangling itself from society, has in fact set itself up to be embraced by that very society. There is no longer a threat of compulsion from the military: the military is no longer in a position to DO something to us, it is now strictly in the business of doing things FOR us, and as such we feel unambiguously grateful for its awsome efficiency, skill, courage and POWER.
THAT is why Josh Gracinn got more votes than the clearly musically superior Trenyce and Ruben from the American public this week, which bodes very well for the condition of the American psyche, but is an outrage in a singing competition.