Saturday, May 15, 2010

oh, so now you want to be a terrorist and shoot me, right? good, get on your face

I heard a story about a Marine. A machine gunner was on patrol with his squad when they took fire from insurgents. They followed procedure to the letter by shooting back. But when the insurgents fled, the gunner dropped his machine gun, chased after them, and gunned them down with his 9mm. I imagine he held it sideways. His squad was astonished, and he was bemused at their astonishment. "Where'd you learn to do that?" they said. And he said that's how they did things in Compton.

I wish I could remember names and details, but the story serves my purpose well enough. I'll call him Sergeant Major G Fugga. The guy was apparently a cocky gangster ass mofo, and he ended up in the Marine Corps. This was no coincidence. I'm not talking about the recent problem of gang members in the military, but an essential and eternal truth of the Corps. He's a guy who enjoyed capping motherfuckers, and the Marines were the natural choice for him. No surprise, really.

Compare SgtMaj. G Fugga with me. I'm a god damn nerd. Why did I join the military at all, and this branch no less? Sure, I'm in a nerdy specialty, but why didn't I go for the superior nerd opportunities of the Army, Navy, or Air Force? If such polar opposites as SgtMaj. G Fugga and I have a common reason for choosing the Marines, that reason ought to reveal the true essence of the Corps.

I grew up as a government hating libertarian, and now I'm fairly apathetic politically. (There are details and nuances, but they're a topic for ten thousand other posts.) I have virtually zero rational desire to fight for my country. Just like I have virtually zero rational desire to go down a waterslide. But that doesn't change the fact that I find both prospects thrilling.

If someone were to shoot at me, my gut reaction would be to shoot back while running toward them. Some might call this risky behavior, but it's actually a wise and reasonable method of risk mitigation. When a threat arises, it might immediately benefit you to run and hide, but in the long run, it is less risky to swiftly and decisively nip the threat in the bud. The most obvious reason is that when you run and hide, the enemy is still alive. The other reason is psychology. War is all psychology. Immediate punishment is much more effective at influencing someone's behavior than delayed punishment. This applies to terrorists as well as kids and puppies. The'll avoid shooting at you if they know you'll shoot right back.

Marines are wise and reasonable. And we're knuckle-dragging cocky assholes. We're naïve thrill seekers and bud nippers. These are all qualities we tend to have, but they aren't our essence. Remember the distinction between our qualities and our essence. It'll be important. I'm going to stop using the word "essence" because it's getting gay. I'll shift over to its faithful synonym, "spirit." Remember the distinction between our qualities and our spirit. Our spirit is the one psychological quirk that sets us apart from everyone else.

Our spirit might be the mutual cause out of which our qualities spring, but it isn't necessarily. It could be a collective effect of our qualities, but it isn't necessarily. It could be a cause in some Marines, and an effect in others. The only thing that matters is that we're together. Sorry, gay again. I mean this spirit is what makes people say, "I think I'll join the Marines today." And when they do, they kick ass, they nip buds and take names, they perpetuate our Corps's reputation, and that reputation causes the next generation of quirky individuals to say, "I think I'll join the Marines today."

So the Corps is kept alive by this ruthless cycle of reputation and quirk-self-selection. The quirk is nothing special, some part of our instinct for self-preservation is missing. But the ruthless cycle pulls it up out of society and makes it meaningful. In a situation where a normal person would say, "Egads! Enemy fire!" someone with the quirk would say, "Shoot at me, will you? Why, I oughtta..." Recall how psychology applies to terrorists, kids, and puppies. But it doesn't apply to us. We don't get discouraged when the enemy shoots back at us.

When joining the military, everyone has a decision to make. Do they want a nice job in the Army with education for the future, or do they want to kill our nation's enemies? The latter might seem like the more rational choice, given that they're joining the military in the first place, but it really isn't. Putting yourself in harm's way is a pretty irrational thing to do. And so most people go Army. That's what makes the Marines our nation's self-selected infantry force. We want to fight. That's 99.9% of what makes a formidable force. We want to put holes in the unholy, evicerate the evil, scorch the scum, crush the corrupt, assassinate the assholish, shave the depraved, immolate the immoral, flatten the flatulent, debone the debauched, ignite the sodomites, extinguish the gomorrish, slander the satanic, murder the insurgers, kill the shrill, rile the vile, vaporize the vicious, mow down the low down and weed wack the wicked.

So why am I trying to analyze the spirit of the Marine Corps in evolutionary language? Because I'm a fucking badass, that's why. No, I's just thinking how funny it was how I hear Marines say, "Hell yeah I'm getting deployed!" and, "God damn it, when am I getting deployed?" And stories like these are extremely common, where insurgents specifically avoid Marines, and Marines almost sound relieved when they finally get to fight. We're crazy, and that's not bravado. We've got brain problems.

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