Friday, November 03, 2006

Kerry Speaks to New Reality

Okay, so I was too optimistic in my resolve not to post here for an entire month, but I just can’t help myself. How was I supposed to know that John Kerry would open his mouth? Anyway, so many right-wingnuts complained about what Kerry said about the troops rather than what Duhbya did to them, I felt compelled to weigh in on the subject.

My take on the matter is that when Kerry suggested that students who didn’t fare well in school were likely to end up in Iraq, he was exactly right. For decades, young men (and, more recently, young women) have joined the military upon graduating from, or dropping out of, high school. They cite critical on-the-job training, a GED certificate or other educational benefits, a steady paycheck with healthcare benefits, or a long-term career at the end of which awaits a relatively secure retirement package as reasons. These are not bad things, and they in no way imply that people who embark on such courses of action are stupid. For decades, the military has been a viable career alternative. Until lately, that is.

Not everyone does well in school. Not everyone wants to be a doctor or lawyer. Not everyone is interested in science, chemistry or computer technology. Not everyone wants to go into business. Some people just want to put in their eight hours, then kick back with a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Not necessarily stupid, mind you, just not overly ambitious.

Unfortunately, today’s economy is increasingly hostile toward lower and middle class workers. When blue-collar jobs disappear, white-collar jobs soon follow. Today, thousands of students are encouraged to pursue a college education to learn the skills they’ll need to land a job that won’t exist. The reality is that when they graduate many of them will be competing for low-wage jobs for which they’re over-qualified. While an unskilled person can start at the bottom and work her way up, an overqualified person can’t even get his foot in the door.

An unintended consequence of large numbers of students pursuing higher education is that they drive up the cost of education for everyone. Another unintended consequence is that many college graduates begin their careers deeply in debt.

The emerging economy, thanks to globalization and so-called fair trade agreements, is putting the squeeze on young people, some of whom find a stint in the military their only option. Today, when young people join the military, they’re virtually guaranteed a tour of duty in Iraq. If they survive, they’re virtually assured a return engagement. They (and you) can thank George Bush for that.

Did Kerry dishonor or disparage the troops when he made his comments? No! He spoke to America’s new reality.

Did Duhbya endanger the troops when he sent them, under false pretenses, into harm’s way in Iraq? Yes! If you really want to vent your anger, then venting it at Bush would be appropriate.

Kerry may have said it badly, but he said what needed to be said. Right-wingnuts still don’t get it. They probably never will.