Friday, May 28, 2004

U.S.: Letter to former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers

As we approach Memorial Day, Reggie Rivers, a former Denver Bronco player, has had the bad taste to write a column in the Denver Post in which he equates military service with slavery. Not only is the column lacking of a sense of history and of any historical context, the argument it puts forward is similarly devoid of intellectual merit.

Rivers calls his colum "Keep our slaves safe," and in so doing manages to insult every man who serves the military in defense of this nation. The sense of his article is that the proper response to terrorism is that vapid Clintonian one we saw after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 Cole bombing. It seems that, for Rivers, the only war that the U.S. military should wage is that when Army meets Navy on the football field. How else to account for Rivers' disdain for the military's endeavors in Iraq and for those young men and women who heed patriotism's call and sign up?

While reasonable people may disagree about the war, insulting the military which is engaged in this nation's defense is another kettle of fish. The men and women in the military do not need to know that somebody they might have looked up to considers them slaves; they do not need to have Reggie Rivers' unreflective words undermine them just when they are needing our support. Reggie Rivers is free to write the tripe that he does because some young soul out there is willing to die so that Rivers may remain free. Would that Rivers would exercise his freedom to support those who fight.

Anyway, here's the letter I sent to him. It gets snarky cuz I was feeling snarky.


You are a dolt. Here's why.

1. "Our military is one of the last bastions of slavery in the United States. At the moment, our slaves are stuck in a combat zone, getting killed and maimed, and there's nothing they can do about it except hunker down and pray."

You do not understand the meaning of slavery, and you have diminished its horror and demeaning nature by analogizing between military service and slavery. What makes your analogy even more despicable is that blacks in the Sudan and elsewhere are enslaved and mutilated by Muslims, and you, along with a great percentage of blacks in this country, are silent. In the face of genuine and humiliating slavery you say nothing; yet honorable military service you demean. That's despicable, Reggie, truly despicable.

I would suggest that you read Eric Williams's From Columbus to Castro or any decent history book about slavery and the Middle Passage if you really wish to understand the magnitude of your folly.

2. " Yes, our slaves signed up of their own free will, but most of them were as misled about their job as the rest of us were about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

You are unreflective and lazy, Reggie. Had you taken the time to do some research and genuine critical thinking, you would not be parroting the Democrat plantation party line. That you cannot get beyond the plantation party line is proof that you, yourself, have yet to throw off the shackles of mental slavery. Who did the misleading, Reggie? When the entire world believes the same set of information, can anybody be rightly be said to have misled anybody? What do you make of the shell with sarin gas found in the past couple weeks? Did it occur to you that where there is one there will be more? Have you heard of the convoys that moved materiel into Syria's Bekka Valley?

3. "And I don't think 'slave' is too strong a word to describe someone who is not permitted to quit his job no matter how dangerous it becomes or how much he hates it. For most of us, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and guaranteed that we have the right to withhold our labor. It doesn't protect soldiers."

From this, I must conclude that when you were with the Broncos that you were a slave. After all, you were bought and sold without having any say as to where you might be traded, weren't you? Have you ever heard of a contract? When you signed a contract to play, were you free to terminate that contract as you chose without incurring any penalty? Why did you not invoke the 13th Amendment when you played football, Reggie? Why did you not try to withhold your labor while you were with the NFL?

4. "Our armed forces recruiters are quite adept at making military service appear beneficial (it mostly is) and safe (it's not). The threat of war is minimized, because few rational people actually want to fight. According to Chalmers Johnson, author of "The Sorrows of Empire," almost half of our enlisted forces are between 17 and 24 years of age, and they were lured into military service with promises of education, job training, escape from poverty, medical benefits and the chance to operate some cool, high-tech equipment...."

Nobody likes to fight war, Reggie; however, every *man* does what he must when the necessity of war is upon him. He does not get on a field and play pretend war games when his country has been attacked. Remember Patrick Tillman? By the way, what inducements were you offered in high school and college to seduce you into playing pro ball? Money? Fancy cars? Women? Cheap. Sure, the military recruiters offer an education rather than opportunity to fight ... we were not at war then, Reggie. A peace-time military can offer any inducement that it desires, and none will be so cheap as what ball-players go for when they grab the pro ball brass ring.

What you fail to realize is that many of the young men entering the military after 9/11 are doing so for reasons different than they joined before 9/11. Ask Pat Tillman. Oh, you can't. I wonder what inducement the military offered Tillman? It must have been the same as is drawing the young men and women who are signing up in droves -- love of country, desire to serve one's country, patriotism ... have you ever heard of it?

5. "The U.S. Army has an official video game that can be downloaded at It's a recruiting tool aimed to win the hearts and minds of children of all ages. The goal is catch them before they develop critical thinking skills that might lead them to question the wisdom of volunteering for slavery."

Can you not see that the point of the U.S. Army game is the continuity of ideas regarding the role of the military in American life -- especially given how the media have portrayed the military since Vietnam, how your fellow journalists are portraying the military today? With a little bit of critical thinking, the connection would have been discernible; however, one imagines that football recruiters must have got to you before you developed the skills to think critically. Honestly, Reggie, you just don't think critically, and that lack is discernible from the holes in your argumentation.

6. "The recruitment effort gets more aggressive at the high school level. Johnson wrote, 'Complaints about harassment by military recruiters in San Diego became so numerous in 1993 that the San Diego Unified School district adopted a policy against releasing student information to recruiters of any kind.'"

So, Reggie, tell me about recruitment efforts regarding professional sports; tell me how unaggressive it is. Which is the higher calling, Reggie, recruitment to serve in the military to defend one's country, or recruitment to play pretend war games on a grassy field where nothing much is at risk? Why are military recruiters held in such disfavor at high schools and on college campuses, Reggie? Could there possibly be a connection to how the politicians and the media turned the American public against the military during Vietnam? Why is it that the academic types are so virulently anti-military, Reggie?

7. "Bans on overbearing campus recruiters became so common that President Bush addressed the issue in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The bill stated: 'Any secondary school that receives federal funds under this Act shall permit regular United States Armed Services recruitment activities on school grounds, in a manner reasonably accessible to all students of such school.'"

The Constitution talks about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. What does a citizen owe his country regarding its defense, Reggie? If American citizens will not defend America, who will, Reggie? Besides, when Federal funds are given to public institutions, should the Federal government not be free to make demands?

8. "So our kids get bombarded with formal and informal recruiting messages - and they sign up. One day, they find themselves sitting in a Humvee in Iraq, with their best friend lying dead on the floor next to them, and they suddenly realize the deception of their recruitment and the shackles of their slavery.

They just want to go home, but they can't. And domestically, we continue to trot out the tired mantra that supporting the troops means supporting the war.

If we truly care about our young slaves, we should do everything we can to get them out of harm's way."

These last paragraphs signify pure and simple cowardice. We have been attacked; we have had war declared on us, and your response is do nothing. Your response is do not fight. Your response get the troops out of harm's way. When we have got the troops out of harm's way, what will you do when the terrorists come to our soil, as come they will again? Where will you have the U.S. hide its troops while civilians are being slaughtered?

You would have done well to join the military instead of playing pro ball, Reggie. At least in the military you learn how to think.


Blogger Jane said...

Ping "Helen SmacksDown Reggie Rivers and the Colorado Post."

9:48 AM  

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