So, today’s big question…
Is something terribly wrong when British soldiers don’t feel safe wearing their uniforms in public, as the The Times reports?
Apparently the government would like more service personnel to wear their uniforms in public to engender respect for the Armed Forces, but last night RAF personnel were ordered to wear civvies on the street following persistent threats and abuse.
Can this be right?
I must admit that I find it hard to get over my almost hard-wired hatred of the military. But that’s because I was a draft evader in country where the military propped up an unjust regime and suppressed civil dissent. I couldn’t be a part of that. I hated it when Rolling Stone magazine started allowing recruitment advertising in its pages again, and cheered when Harvard booted army recruiters off campus. But of course that’s only because the US’s ‘Vietnam’ narrative, carried through popular culture, was transferred to my own situation in another country.
Also I was quite young, played guitar, and that whole Woodstock ethos appealed to me.
But now I’m in a different place, older and the world has moved on, so I have to undo all that programming and reformat, as it were.
On the other hand, I grew up with stories about my grandfather, who was in the RAF during the war, but who, at some point was transferred to South Africa to train pilots. Apparently, members of a Nazi-supporting Afrikaaner organisation, the Ossewabrandwag (‘ox-wagon sentries’), routinely attacked my grandfather and his comrades in RAF uniforms (apparently tomatoes with razor blades in them was a popular projectile, according to my grandmother). It is odd that six decades later, RAF personnel in uniform are not safe in Peterborough.
I now think that whatever ones opinion on Iraq or Afghanistan, the fact of the matter is that, regrettably, the world’s problems are rarely solved by putting buttercups in the barrels of rifles. We need Britain to be strong and able to defend itself and sometimes others less able to do so. We need a competent and professional armed forces, and we need them to be ‘of the people’.
Indeed, a democratic country can only function if its military is ‘of the people’. If military personnel have to disguise themselves to move among us, it cannot bode well. If the citizenry have contempt for its military, sooner or later the military will reciprocate that contempt. And a country whose military holds its citizens in contempt is heading for disaster. That much I know.
Well that’s what I’m thinking this morning. What are your thoughts?