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The world as it is...

...as opposed to how we would like it to be. There's a fairly long article on Instapunk.com, not to be confused with Instapundit even though that's where I found the link. It ties together Fahrenheit 9/11, or rather
Christopher Hitchens' trashing of it with Rush Limbaugh, some peoples' irrational hatred for an image of the man that doesn't correspond with the observed reality, Abu Ghraib, hazing, and A Few Good Men. It sounds like a mulligan stew with a side of fresh incoherence, but it's actually excellent and reminded me of something similar to the Marine paratrooper wing incident, something so common I'm amazed it wasn't mentioned.

Back in the day, I went to a rather large high school in southern Maryland that featured an Air Force Junior ROTC squadron, which I was a member of for all three years that I attended the school. (I had the dubious distinction of graduating as one of the only two seniors not to be appointed a cadet officer, but I felt that graduating as a Cadet T/Sgt was more appropriate anyway.) One of the things that went on there, which repeated itself when I was on active duty in the Army and still later in the Guard and Reserve was that when somebody was promoted to cadet NCO rank, the stripes were "pounded in". The leadership instructor, a crusty old B-17 gunner who had started his military career in the horse cavalry, literally punched you in the stripes. Now, keep in mind that these weren't sewn on. These were pinback stripes with fasteners similar to those found on collar brass, ribbons, and other things that commonly hang off a uniform. The pins usually punch right through the clutch backs if even a little force is applied.

Now, these are high school kids, getting superficial wounds inflicted on their arms as part of an unofficial tradition. Nobody ever said anything. It was understood that this was symbolic, a ritual intended to remind you of your responsibility as a sergeant, even if you were just a high school kid wearing a uniform once a week for class. If you were the kind of person who would whine about a little pain like that, you wouldn't have signed up for Junior ROTC in the first place.

Later, the same thing happened with people getting their sergeants' stripes in the Regulars, the Guard, and the Reserve. People would punch the pin-on stripes (which in the Army in the 1970s and 80s had moved to the collar, to be replaced with sew-on stripes in the 90s) into your collarbone. And it hurt. So did getting roasted because one of your troops screwed up. So would getting killed in action because you screwed up and didn't train Specialist X to be all he could be.

It wasn't a big deal, but it made you think. Too bad it seems to have been exterminated in the name of making everything all pretty and shiny for the newsies.