Ten years ago, April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman became a legendary American hero when he was killed in Afghanistan. Since then thousands of Americans have given their lives in the defense of democracy. But you would be hard pressed to find someone who gave up a multimillion dollar NFL contract in the prime of their career, in order to weed out the dooshnozzles who contributed to the September 11th attacks, in the pile of rocks known as Afghanistan.
When the Arizona Cardinals safety was killed it was a reminder that he would not be the last American solider to offer his life up for his country. But it was also proof that professional athletes are people too. And they can sacrifice in the same ways that we can. Either way, it should’ve been something we could ALL get behind.
But that wasn’t the case. As a young undergrad at UMass I grabbed the Daily Collegeian, UMass’ student newspaper, on the way to class, on April 29th. The featured article in the editorials was written by a piece of human garbage that went by the name of Rene Gonzalez. It was titled: “Pat Tillman Is Not a Hero; He got what he deserved.”
Yup. It actually said that, in a newspaper that is funded by the the students of UMass-Amherst and the taxpayers of Massachusetts. Here’s the whole thing:
When the death of Pat Tillman occurred, I turned to my friend who was watching the news with me and said, “How much you want to bet they start talking about him as a ‘hero’ in about two hours?” Of course, my friend did not want to make that bet. He’d lose. In this self-critical incapable nation, nothing but a knee-jerk “He’s a hero” response is to be expected.
I’ve been mystified at the absolute nonsense of being in “awe” of Tillman’s “sacrifice” that has been the American response. Mystified, but not surprised. True, it’s not everyday that you forgo a $3.6 million contract for joining the military. And, not just the regular army, but the elite Army Rangers. You know he was a real Rambo, who wanted to be in the “real” thick of things. I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures. Well, he got his wish. Even Rambo got shot in the third movie, but in real life, you die as a result of being shot. They should call Pat Tillman’s army life “Rambo 4: Rambo Attempts to Strike Back at His Former Rambo 3 Taliban Friends, and Gets Killed.”
But, does that make him a hero? I guess it’s a matter of perspective. For people in the United States, who seem to be unable to admit the stupidity of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, such a trade-off in life standards (if not expectancy) is nothing short of heroic. Obviously, the man must be made of “stronger stuff” to have had decided to “serve” his country rather than take from it. It’s the old JFK exhortation to citizen service to the nation, and it seems to strike an emotional chord. So, it’s understandable why Americans automatically knee-jerk into hero worship.
However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a “pendejo,” an idiot. Tillman, in the absurd belief that he was defending or serving his all-powerful country from a seventh-rate, Third World nation devastated by the previous conflicts it had endured, decided to give up a comfortable life to place himself in a combat situation that cost him his life. This was not “Ramon or Tyrone,” who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education. This was a “G.I. Joe” guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy.
Tillman, probably acting out his nationalist-patriotic fantasies forged in years of exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert himself into a conflict he didn’t need to insert himself into. It wasn’t like he was defending the East coast from an invasion of a foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he paid for it. It’s hard to say I have any sympathy for his death because I don’t feel like his “service” was necessary. He wasn’t defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in.
Perhaps it’s the old, dreamy American thought process that forces them to put sports greats and “larger than life” sacrificial lambs on the pedestal of heroism, no matter what they’ve done. After all, the American nation has no other role to play but to be the cheerleaders of the home team; a sad role to have to play during conflicts that suffer from severe legitimacy and credibility problems.
Matters are a little clearer for those living outside the American borders. Tillman got himself killed in a country other than his own without having been forced to go over to that country to kill its people. After all, whether we like them or not, the Taliban is more Afghani than we are. Their resistance is more legitimate than our invasion, regardless of the fact that our social values are probably more enlightened than theirs. For that, he shouldn’t be hailed as a hero, he should be used as a poster boy for the dangerous consequences of too much “America is #1,” frat boy, propaganda bull. It might just make a regular man irrationally drop $3.6 million to go fight in a conflict that was anything but “self-defense.” The same could be said of the unusual belief of 50 percent of the American nation that thinks Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11. One must indeed stand in awe of the amazing success of the American propaganda machine. It works wonders.
Al-Qaeda won’t be defeated in Afghanistan, even if we did kill all their operatives there. Only through careful and logical changing of the underlying conditions that allow for the ideology to foster will Al-Qaeda be defeated. Ask the Israelis if 50 years of blunt force have eradicated the Palestinian resistance. For that reason, Tillman’s service, along with that of thousands of American soldiers, has been wrongly utilized. He did die in vain, because in the years to come, we will realize the irrationality of the War on Terror and the American reaction to Sept. 11. The sad part is that we won’t realize it before we send more people like Pat Tillman over to their deaths.”
It simply will never, ever get any worse than this. I’ve read a lot of bullshit written by college nudniks who think America is satan, but this takes the cake. My blood boiled with anger when I read it, and it progressively got worse and worse. I have no idea what Rene Gonzalez is doing these days, but as he said, he’s from Puerto Rico – a country where the citizens can freely come to and from the United States because we imperialized them. Morons like Rene are the same people that denounce American “imperialism,” while tasting the sweet delicious fruits of American freedom. Ask the millions of Mexicans who would die to get into this country how much they wish their country was imperialized by the evil Americans.
Was he right about the war in Afghanistan? Of course he was. That’s not a war that’s winnable. Doesn’t change the fact that spitting on someone’s grave makes you the ultimate asshat liberal.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.