War, power and the clothing of men (2)

Click on About Face for the previous part of this sequence.


 About Face by Nate Powell for Popula.

A veteran and historian responds to Nate Powell’s “About Face” by Sam Duncan for Popula.

The Sum of All Beards by Adrian Boneberger and Adam Weinstein for The New Republic.

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7 Responses to “War, power and the clothing of men (2)”

  1. Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

    I visited the site. The guy appears to be into white stereotypes. And military stereotypes. There are incorrect statements and generalizations that would hurt good people if we were all to accept them.

    I still hang out with active duty military. Mustaches have always been allowed in the Air Force and the Army but have to be conservative enough not to interfere with the modern gas mask. Full beards were allowed in the Navy until prohibited in 1984. That was a tradition that took a very long time to overcome. Sailors need to wear gas masks too.

    In 2018 the rules were relaxed to allow longer hair in the Army and Marines. Air Force hair has always been allowed to be long enough to look normal in the general population. Nobody in the regular military gets to wear a beard today. A slight stubble has been allowed since the 80s because some men were getting bad cases of pseudofolliculitis. It was primarily a problem for black men but some whites have very curly beard hair too.

    SpecOps can pretty well keep their hair as they want. That’s because the CIA or other agency might want to borrow them for a while and use them as a spy/assassin. The ability to blend in with civilians is a part of their job. Civilian contractors set their standards however they want.

    The author is concerned that more officers are wearing fatigues in garrison – and that means what? It may remind the wearer that they aren’t just a businessperson in an office. They are soldiers. That is a GOOD thing. Given a choice, I would always wear fatigues over a dress uniform.

    I’ve had a beard and a belly in the past and may again. I’m also a white ex-military who grew up in an extremely rural area. I love running around in the wild and I’ll wear khaki and OD green and desert camo or woodland camo (if I wear anything at all). My favorite camo right now is mossy oak. I don’t carry a gun unless I’m hunting or at a range and have no desire to meet or impress other people out there.

    Most people lift and trick out their very expensive 4WD truck as an act of conspicuous consumption and never hit the dirt. It is NOT cheap My car is minimally lifted & with slightly oversized tires. I do it so I can safely drive on trails in the desert I otherwise couldn’t risk. If I could afford a bigger lift, badder tires and brush guards up front I’d do it. I could try more trails.

    Only a complete idiot would cover their tail lights. It would be an instant ticket – maybe an arrest – and a BIG red flag to any cop who saw them. The only time it would mean anything would be at night and their chances of getting rear-ended would skyrocket. Good luck explaining that to your insurance company.

    The Punisher is a Marvel comic book going back several decades as well as a movie. That modified skull is his logo. It is not an SS Death’s Head as he not so subtly hints.

    I could go on. This is all racist fear mongering. A few people might fit his stereotypes. So let’s make the world fear heavyset white men in baseball hats with beards and sunglasses who drive tricked out trucks. It is no different than telling us we should fear black men in Superfly outfits or Hispanics in lowriders.

    If I took this sort of thing seriously I’d be insulted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. philebersole Says:

    Fred, I appreciate your comment. There’s a fine line between cultural commentary and stereotyping, and, to be honest, I didn’t think about this when I put up these two posts.

    I don’t think there’s a one-to-one correspondence between clothing styles and culture on the one hand, and political and philosophical ideas on the one hand.

    I wouldn’t assume, for example, that a white man with long unkempt hair is some kind of a left-wing radical or that a white man with a shaven skull is some kind of a right-wing radical.

    But I do think these choices have a cultural significance, although it’s not always clear what they are.

    I’m concerned about the para-militarization of different aspects American life, including the military. There is a difference between the military, with its strict discipline and, ideally, a strict code of honor, and paramilitary formations, which are more like independent warrior bands.

    The U.S. military relies on mercenary companies, which aren’t subject to military codes of conduct, and special units that operate outside normal military discipline.

    It’s possible I have a naive view of war, never having experienced it directly. Maybe William T. Sherman and Curtis LeMay were right, and war is hell, you cannot refine it and military codes of conduct are foolishness But I think something is lost when you abandon codes of conduct.

    I worry about the para-militarization of the police, the rise of private police organizations and the rise of self-organized private militias, and I worry about the fact they all have military-grade armament.

    Among other reasons, para-militarization seems like preparation for revolution and civil war.

    All this is accompanied by a certain “look” that has cultural significance. Now I’ve never seen a black-and-white American flag or a skull symbol on a police vehicle, but, to the extent these things exist, they seem ominous.

    Of course you’re right about not making assumptions about individuals based on their appearance.

    I don’t know anything about Nate Powell except what he revealed in his cartoon, but he seems to be writing out of his own feelings and personal experience and not out of prejudice against people he doesn’t know.

    I find that I’ve suddenly become unable to access individual items on the Popula web site. I can access the menu, but not individual items on the menu. I don’t know whether this is a new policy by the Popula administrators or whether some computer algorithm objects to me appropriating their material for my own web log. If they tell me they object to me copying Nate Powell’s cartoons, I’ll take them down.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. philebersole Says:

    If you can’t access individual articles on the Popula web site by clicking links on this post, you might have better luck by Googling “Popula” directly.


  4. Fred (Au Naturel) Says:

    As you say he is expressing feelings and perceptions. Negative feelings and perceptions and group judgments are the stuff that racism, misogyny, homophobia and every other negative – ism are made of. If it is wrong to hate Muslims in general because of 9-11 it is just as wrong to hate differently looking white men for the views he projects upon them.

    Look at the last picture. Seriously. Take the flag out, replace it with a flag with a crescent moon flag and make the men look Arabic. Or make them black and stick a black power emblem behind them. Or Latino and use a Mexican flag. Keep the text the same in theme but change who is targeted. It is no different.

    I’m just as concerned about the militarization of police. I see it in the use of more powerful sidearms, in the increased used of armored vehicles and in police training to be quick with the trigger. Sometimes SWAT will wear full-face helmets and black uniforms. I think it is to be more intimidating and anonymous than to protect the officer.

    Conflating some kid wearing a Mohawk to school with white supremacy is assinine. They are just kids trying to be different. BTW, it got the name from the Mohawk Indians. It doesn’t derive from the crests on Greek helmets which were used to keep track of soldiers on a battlefield and to denote rank.

    I’m sure you remember when having long hair either meant you were a Communist revolutionary, Charles Manson, or gay. No difference.

    Are there “rules” to warfare? Unless your intent is simply to exterminate everyone you encounter, well yeah. War is politics pursued by other means. To the extent that something is politically unacceptable, there will be a rule about it. The force of a rule is dependent on reciprocity. You treat your POWs well so that your troops will also be treated well if captured, You refrain from certain weapon types as long as the enemy does. Hence the Geneva convention and other treaties.

    If you are up against an enemy that ignores the rules (Al Qaeda, for example) it still behooves you to obey some of them voluntarily. You want them to feel safe in surrendering, you don’t want to create martyrs and you don’t want a political black eye like the one Abu Graib caused.

    Getting soldiers in the field to worry about rules when they are being shot at or their buddy just had his head blown off or the other side has contempt for the rules is difficult. I am amazed anyone pays attention to them at all. It is very easy to lose one’s moral compass in the hell of war.

    OTOH, if you are Ghengis Khan cruising thru Persia all rules are off.

    Liked by 1 person

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