by Steve Lancaster 1/8/14
Not long ago I was visiting with my grandson and his family. We had left post housing for the NCO club and were enjoying a few beers. My grandson had recently returned from the sandbox, for the third time, and with a few of his friends we were telling stories of Army and Marines from Vietnam to Iraq. One of the youngest of the group asked me why I went to Vietnam. I started to give the standard, I had orders and I was stupid speech but replied, “I had a job to do.” The rest of troopers agreed with this jarhead. In reflection, that answer says a lot about Americans.
A job to do, defines the exceptionalism that is America. Disagreeing with the thinking of the social democrats in DC and the White House, it is very unique to this country. From the very first settlers who set foot on this soil, Americans have had a job to do. The separatists who settled New England and preached Christianity to the natives talked of having, “an errand in the wilderness” and that errand to them was a task, duty, chore, mission and a job.
As Americans we tend to view the world in terms of work. Perhaps it is because in no other country has Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic taken as strong a hold. It is the central element that makes even the newest American, from whatever country, as American as someone whose family dates back to the Mayflower.
The settling of the Eastern states, establishment of state governments and building an ever expanding interconnected but free culture did not happen because of someone’s grand dream, but because it was a job to do. When revolution came it was not a heroic struggle against all odds, but a job to do and get back to the real business of living as one liked. The same is true of the westward expansion in the 19th century. The wars of the 20th century were not a crusade to save the world for democracy or save the world from the Nazi, but a job to do and return to the real world. It is the reason that Americans are so deadly in battle.
As a people we are not excessively motivated to war by patriotic songs, flag waving, speeches or appeals to defend the homeland. Oh, we have many who are inspired in such manner, but that seldom lasts beyond the first contact with the enemy. By and large our young men and women view combat in the way a mason views building a wall, brick by brick a job to do a task to be done and return home. It is the reason that Americans and empire do not go together well. Few Americans can conceive of a better place to live, raise a family or be buried and that cultural ideal is well placed.
We have lost some of that attitude over the last 50 years, but it does not take a taskmaster to make Americans work, or some grand propaganda from DC. The applied attitude that Americans take to war, as work to be done means that as a culture we are poor haters. Other cultures bear grudges for generations, the conflicts in the Balkans bear witness to this, and Americans pass it off. There are still hard feelings about the War of Northern Invasion, but Yankees and Rebs unite under one flag, and one Constitution. Our closest allies, Japan and Germany, were our bitterest enemies. Perhaps if the social democrat agenda continues we will find the capacity to hate as much as the rest of the world. I hope not, for it will be a sign of the corrosion of our culture.