Brick-Head was talking, and I was, for some reason, still listening. I did not really feel like telling him to leave partly because I assumed he would walk away at any moment and partly because I didn’t feel like getting into an argument with him. My hesitance at verbal sparring stemmed from the fact that, despite not knowing his real name or anything about him, I was pretty sure I had a good feeling as to what sort of person Brick-Head was. He was tall and burly, wearing a sweat-suit that only helped accentuate his impossibly spherical beer belly. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties and likely spent a great deal of time over a grill with a beer in his hand. I got the impression that he could make it to the final round in a casting call for the new spokesman of Buffalo Wild Wings. I intend none of that to be invective, since there is almost nothing I love more in the world than beer and grilled meats. The problem is that I love my privacy and solitude almost as much, which was why we were on the wrong foot from the beginning.
My kind-hearted roommate was home, so the knock had been answered, something I never do unless I know the person through the peephole. Not surprisingly it was the aforementioned tough-headed man and a goon of some sort who stood in the background and shuffled back and forth awkwardly. They were soliciting for a fundraiser to send care packages to military members. From the beginning, the pitch was typical. Brick-Head rattled off statistics about how service members are killing themselves at astounding rates and the need for someone out there to have their back. We were not interested, and that is when things got strange.
If Brick-Head had been a salesman in his life, I imagine he made many offers that could not be refused. After it became obvious that there was no interest, he then insisted that they expected the entire apartment complex to contribute. My first thought was: “That’s nice. And . . . ?” I just nodded though. He then went on to explain that the troops don’t have a choice as to whether or not they step on an IED, I suppose to imply that choosing to give something to his fundraiser is a freedom of mine which has been paid for in blood. Then, upon getting no affirmative, Brick-Head showed us a contribution from our neighbor. “See, the family down the way gave some money.” At this point my internal dialogue had devolved into a repeated mantra of “Fuck this guy.” Over and over.
Things became more uncomfortable as the mafia-salesman continued to repeat the oddly menacing pitch that “they expected everybody to contribute.” Finally I asked him if he intended us to fill out a form right then and there or if we could think about it. He replied that it would not be possible to wait. After a drawn out “Ooookaaaaayyyy?” from me, Brick-Head said that we could always just try to impeach Obama if that was easier, shrugged and waltzed on his way. The interaction stuck with me for a number of reasons, and I’ll try to make sense of it in the next few paragraphs.
Brick-Head issue #1. First off, I agree with the guy that our soldiers killing themselves so often is horrible, and it is unconscionable that more is not being done about it. But we have to keep in mind that eighteen cents out of every tax dollar goes to defense spending. That’s 615 billion dollars. Why in the hell am I being accosted by Brick-Head to pay out of my pocket to fix a horrendously irresponsible government’s mistake? If the defense department damages our service members emotionally, then shouldn’t it be their responsibility to help them in the wake of that? There are so many non-profit groups out there focused on helping soldiers harmed by their time overseas. I want my tax dollars to help pay for their rehabilitation, not a new drone and not another misadventure which ends with blood in the sand. I would argue that it is the responsibility of the well-funded DOD (Which has not been audited in years) to show some empathy and help their soldiers.
Brick-Head issue #2. The second claim by the solicitor-general of Buffalo Wild Wings that stuck in my craw was his insistence that soldiers have no choice whether or not to step on an IED. Now to clarify, they don’t really have a choice, but at the same time, why the hell are they halfway across the world stepping on IEDs? Brick-Head threw that out like it was just a fact of life, and, sadly, it is. Any say that the people have in determining what pies the US invades with its long-reaching fingers has been eroded into non-existence. The escalating war in Syria, which now apparently calls for ground troops, is an illegal war. For years now we step into conflicts without votes from congress and with no transparency. Additionally, with the release of The Drone Papers, our causes and judgment in these conflicts seems to be more and more tenuously related to any kind of ‘defense of freedom’.
Brick-Head issue #3. His statement of “You could always just try to impeach Obama” annoyed me as well. Don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of the president for the same reasons that I was no fan of the last president. They are in many ways interchangeable. My annoyance came from the fact that (and this ties into my last complaint) Brick-Head seemed to assume that the troops were out there defending our freedom yet then called into question the legitimacy of the commander-in chief. You can have one of those complaints but not both. Herein lies the issue: the troops will go where the president wishes, despite any lack of judgement on his part, yet the assumption that they are defending freedom is constant. Is it not possible that (Of no fault of their own) they simply are not defending freedom? I think this is a very important question, and when it is not asked (for the sake of being ‘for the troops’) it becomes more difficult to diagnose the flaws in our foreign policy.
Yes, yes, Brick-Head was not the best person to show up at my door and give me the sales-pitch, and I will admit that his obnoxious methods rattled me to an extent, but some of his contradictory statements are at least somewhat illuminating to a cognitive dissonance between our concern for the brave men and women who enlist and the deranged vision of a Department of Defense that capitalizes on that adoration to get away with murder. That, I think, is the underlying tragedy.