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Terry Manning

Language of war shows how soft we really are

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Everyone’s favorite 45-year-old star quarterback scrambled his way into a public relations nightmare last week when he made the mistake of comparing military service to his being a highly paid athlete.

“I almost look at like a football season like you’re going away on deployment in the military,” Tom Brady said on the Let’s Go! sports podcast. “It’s like, ‘Man, here I go again.’”

It was a poorly conceived analogy, of course, but when you dedicate yourself to the game like Brady, where it literally affects everything you eat or drink, how you sleep, how you subject yourself to rigors of training or deny yourself the pleasures of domesticity, it’s easy to imagine how burdensome it must feel to him after 22 years.

The Internet was not nearly as understanding. The expected broadband bullies weighed in and tore Brady to shreds, painting him as a spoiled brat who should never again let a comparison of his life to military service cross his lips.

This included actual military veterans who detailed the sacrifices they make to fulfill their commitment to defending the country. Twitter user WhatsYourDamag4 wrote about the daily concerns she and her colleague faced during their deployments.

She included not being able to see her children, daily barrages from enemy missiles and small weapons, having to comfort small children as they lay dying after an explosive attack on the school they attended, and the dread of having a “lucky” streak when no one at her base was killed in the three weeks before their departure.

She wrote, “I could only call my mom once a week, on a phone with a 10-second delay that she couldn’t figure out, so we were constantly talking over each other. I was afraid to say how I was doing, she would have gotten upset and it could have affected her health, so I lied.”

Her unit’s “luck” held up “until the suicides started.” Not quite the same mental toll as choosing to avoid carbs in favor of freshly pressed juice concoctions, is it?

Brady apologized for what he said, but I’m not so sure what he said was any more egregious than the combat language and imagery too many casually use.

No one has an illness; they are “battling” the illness. People don’t criticize; they “take flak” as they ”attack” each other. A story development has to be a “bombshell.” Every political disagreement is a “frontline skirmish” that threatens “civil war.”

Manufacturers specialize in military-inspired clothing and accessories. Children wear camouflage-patterned outfits to class. People can sit in the comfort of their living rooms and wage virtual war on people from all over the world, cackling and talking smack as they turn each other into bloody stains on video gaming systems.

Politicians plan in “war rooms” how to “take out” their opponents and post ads with them inside crosshairs. Basic ideological differences are outdated when one side keeps saying the other is trying to “destroy” the country and will “kill” if they are elected. They encourage their supporters, “Take no prisoners!”

And yes, I’m going to mention Jan. 6, where we saw Rudy Giuliani calling for “trial by combat” as he urged insurrectionists to stop the proper election of President Joe Biden from being validated. This, as the former president exhorted “fight like hell” to a crowd containing members of at least two militia groups who planned to detain and potentially kill officials as part of their pledge to “save the country” “by any means necessary.”

We display how un-serious we have become as a society when we toss around language borrowed from such a serious matter.

Real sacrifice isn’t choosing to stay in shape for football. It isn’t brandishing a sidearm while waiting in line for your mocha latté, extra whip. You haven’t “picked a hill to die on” when you opt not to wear a mask or get vaccinated during a pandemic; you’re just being a jerk.

We owe it to the people who actually make military sacrifices to stop making dumb comparisons like Brady’s. Freedom isn’t free, and we shouldn’t act like it’s cheap, either.

Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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