Yesterday The Virginian Pilot printed an editorial by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof entitled “Our Lefty Military.” It is an interesting commentary and I recommend that you read it. In it he points out that the military is more left leaning because there is a narrower gap between what top officers earning and junior enlisted than between corporate CEOs and line workers. He also points out the military’s equal opportunity focus, child development and education.
I concur with most everything Mr. Kristof says. The military invests in its people and views them as assets rather than expenses the way corporate America does at this time. The military also took the point when it came to integration – not an easy task in the late 1940’s. Much of the rest of American society did not seriously address these issues until the 1960’s and in my opinion the military is still ahead of society in general. I suspect that as the process of gays serving openly evolves, the military will prove more inclusive. Part of this is that a military organization has a harder time talking the talk without walking the walk. If you have to count on the person next to you for your continued survival when the shooting starts, and that person counts on you, you can’t rely on a façade.
In the military there are two key factors that have helped this. The first is that everyone in uniform has been repeatedly informed that for every right there is a responsibility. A quality leader will not expose his or her troops to conditions that the leader is unwilling to share. A junior enlisted has learned that if one person does not discharge their duties, the entire unit or ship could be destroyed. I believe far more people in the military understand this than those from other walks of life. In a nutshell, it’s not about me, it’s about us.
If our corporate leaders, our sports stars, our actors and our musicians could appreciate this perspective, it might be a better world.