Digby had a great post today in "Rights of Passage":
The war provided two very distinct tribal pathways to manhood. One was to join "the revolution" which included the perk of having equally revolutionary women at their sides, freely joining in sexual as well as political adventure as part of the broader cultural revolution...His masculine image encompassed both sides of the male archetypal coin --- he was both virile and heroic.
The other pathway to prove your manhood was to test your physical courage in battle...tradition requires that you put yourself in the line of fire to prove your courage if the opportunity presents itself. You simply cannot be a warrior if you are not willing to fight. This...is deeply understood by people at a primitive level and all cultures have some version of it deeply embedded in the DNA...Men who went to Vietnam and faced their fears of killing and dying, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, put themselves to this test.
And then there were the chicken hawks. They were neither part of the revolution nor did they take the obvious step of volunteering to fight the war they supported...they allowed others to fight and die in their place despite the fact that they believed heartily that the best response to communism was to aggressively fight it "over there" so we wouldn't have to fight it here. These were empty boys, unwilling to put themselves on the line at the moment of truth, yet they held the masculine virtues as the highest form of human experience and have portrayed themselves ever since as tough, uncompromising manly men while portraying liberals as weak and effeminate.
The only political aspirants among those three groups who failed to meet the test of their generation were the chicken hawks. And our problem today is that they are the ones in charge of the government as we face a national security threat. These unfulfilled men still have something to prove.
For my friends at work, it is easy to call for more killing in the distant desert. It costs them nothing. It's no more real than a video game or movie. They have paid nothing more in taxes, they know no one who is over there, Fox TV shows no dead bodies. Hooray, hooray for us red Americans, it is effortless to be John Wayne! The worship of violence has infected them. And it had me too, at one time.
One day, we had a truck bombing at the camp's perimeter. Our medics responded, and I opened the back doors to one of our ambulances when it got back behind the wire. There was blood on the floor, everywhere, a sloshing dirty pool. A woman screaming, a sharp, unreal noise. A little boy with his guts hanging out. He was still and pale, like ashes. Bodies kept coming that day, by ambulance and chopper, because there were vicious, coordinated bombings in our city.
I have seen a little girl, maybe 8 or 10, with one arm and one leg. Hobbling about on a little crutch, one appendage for each side of her body. Where is the God I don't believe in when I really need him?
I want this real war to have a real cost for my easy-living republican friends. I want them to pay money, to see blood, to think about morality and death. I want them to have bad dreams and question their ideas and their philosophy and their very selves. I want them to know that there is a moral cost to all of this and take it very seriously. I want truth burned into them. I want them to weep and to pray. I have. Is that a lot to want? No. It should be the minimum required to have a war.
I must admit, I was in favor of this war at one time. Colin Powell convinced me that it was all true, that terrible danger loomed over us all. I could not believe that my government would lie to me at such a perilous time about life and death and war. I went to Iraq long after I realized I had been taken in by the neocons. I am still young and foolish enough, even in middle age, to have wanted to test my courage in the ancient male ritual of war, so I went to Iraq. I was neither warrior, nor chicken hawk, nor anti-war activist. Just a seeker.
I found that my courage was fine, but some new wrinkle has appeared in my conscience. Something between despair and passion. I have a desire that my country, all of us, and you kossacks who have helped me so much, and this generation, does not fail the test of these awful, new times. All of the hate-filled culture wars, with a bonus real shooting war on top, has been thrown abruptly in our laps. Our test is here and we cannot escape it. And I have a despairing fear that we may fail.