I’ve had a father, a step-father, an uncle, aunt, cousin, and so on who’ve served in the military. Myself as well. With a significant family history of service, and so close to my generation, the impact on my own perspective towards warfare should be seemingly obvious to an outside observer, but that would not necessarily be the case. I am reminded of a story of an abusive man who died of old age and his two sons were at his funeral. One was a drunkard and destitute, the other was very successful. When asked what they thought of their abusive father and how their lives turned out, both would reply: “With a father like that, how else was I supposed to turn out?”. My choice to join the military had little to do with the other members of my family doing so, and the same could probably be said of them.
One thing that can be said to be common among my family is that they hail from the southern regions of the country where the culture is quite different and conservative. Where in many places things like the military are seen as evil by, in my world it was seen as a more integrated part of life. In youth its Boy/Girl Scouts, in the young adult life its some form of military-like service (last I checked Eagle Scouts still get an automatic promotion in Boot Camp). These forms of highly organized services, which emphasize duty and rugged individualism are viewed integral to personal and community health.
Admittedly, it’s a strange dichotomy of southern culture to distrust the federal government as a general rule, but to integrate military service so strongly. I tend to share with my family, and with other southerners, a view of the idea of the military not in some general negative sentiment but as another aspect along the curve of self-realization: Your first job, your first car, that time you went to war, when you returned, etc. Its almost like a cut straight from some pre-90’s movie. This can be seen in fact that the majority of military enlistments come from southern states.
It is difficult to articulate in more detail the more specific values and general attitudes towards War without much longer and deeper thought. When speaking to my mother for example, her views towards the Gulf war in the 90’s where my father was, and the Iraq war in the 00’s where I was, can be somewhat enlightening on this cultural aspect. Her concern was not about the quality of the presidency, or the justification of the war but rather about the details and safety of what he and I were doing while there. War was part of life, one of those things that just have to be done. No negative sentiment involved much beyond that. I believe this view can be seen across the rest of the southern culture, where negative sentiment towards the military is not taken kindly at all and where the benefit of the doubt is given in most cases.
So to return to how these familial and cultural connections inform/influence my own attitudes towards war and peace, I would like to reiterate the story earlier: “How else was I supposed to turn out?”. More specifically though, my personal development and views on the concepts were attained more through a parallel and convergent evolution of ideas. Family, military and related aspects of the southern culture played more of a reinforcement role than one that taught and dictated these particular aspects of personal growth. I may revisit this in more detail in a later post.