June 17, 2007
A google search comes up with quite a few hits for the quote, which means Deskmerc has made a name for himself!
I emailed him to joke that he was getting quite famous, and he emailed me back the following explanation behind the quote:
A physicist (Robert Parks, I believe, I may have him confused with someone else) was asked before a congressional committe in the 80's about the Superconducting Supercollider. Reagan had authorized federal funds be spent on the project ("Go deep", he said, and everyone assumed that meant "Build it.") The committee was asking the physicists all sorts of questions, such as "Will this cure cancer? Can this be used to defend the country? Are there any practical applications for this multibillion dollar device you want the taxpayers to fund?"
The physicist (I'm paraphrasing here) replied with "No, it will not cure cancer, and there are likely very few practical applications to the SSC. And it will not help defend the country. What it will do, is provide a tool to increase our knowledge of the universe around us, and in doing so, make our country worth defending."
So that kinda stuck on me for a long time, sitting in the background of my head waiting for some more context to pounce, I suppose. And along came a war in 2003 and many folks of many political stripes engaged in the "chickenhawk" accusation. If you aren't military, then you should have no opinion on the war, that sort of thing, and if you support the war, then you should go fight it!
But that's asinine, of course, and we all know that. Many people have no reason to join the military and fight, they can't or they just aren't up to it, and not everyone is. But there are different kinds of support that anyone can engage in, and probably the most important one is simply to be a good citizen, work hard at your job, whatever it may be, produce good products, turn out well rounded students, keep the gas flowing at market prices, mow lawns, sweep streets, babysit technical illiterates on the phone because they have purchase technology four times smarter than they are, was cars, fix cars, answer phones, WHATEVER, just do a good job. Do they BEST job you can, no matter how small, because in the end, it does matter to the guys on the pointy end of the stick.
I found, that after coming home in 92, that I could have cared less in many respects who won the recent election (Clinton? Who is he?) What mattered to me is that I came home safe, we did our job, my family was there when I stepped off the plane, and cheeseburgers hadn't been legislated out of existence. What sort of country will this current crop of military men come home to? Will it be a country where nobody did anything because we're too busy yelling at each other to accomplish anything, or will they come home at least to a place where everyone did their jobs?
There are guys out there who are getting blown up, stabbed, shot at, run over, dragged around. They put up with it because that's the job (anyone who joins the military not realizing this is an idiot) and the job is very satisfying, in the end, especially when we kick ass and win all the time. But what's more satisfying is that part when you come home and everything is still there (except when they build a new mall or something, and you wonder how the hell kids can grow up so fast these days) The only way that can happen, that coming home satisfaction, is if everyone does their part back home. Without that, what's the point in fighting in the first place?
So, while these guys go out and get shot at to make sure I can still have a job myself (I doubt certain Islamist factions would allow monster datacenters to be operated with impunity, especially if it has lots of porn, if they had their way) then I can damn well do my job the best I can. Like it or not, agree or disagree with the fundamental reasons for going to war or even fighting in general, these guys lay it on the line every day. Its not a rationalization, its an objective fact: without a military, none of us would be here. Its an uncomfortable fact for some who advocate for Departments of Peace, but that is the way of things. The least any of us can do to thank these people is to make the best of the jobs we can do, not litter, and keep the cheeseburgers coming.
We can all disagree on fundamental points of policy. We can even advocate withdrawing if that is the wish of the plurality. It is, however, a disgrace be a slacker, because for the professions that cocoon slackers from the rest of the world, slack is not an option.
It's rare when you can remember the exact first blog post you ever read from a blogger, but I know exactly how I found Deskmerc (it was his sadly defunct Cthulhu joke), and I've adored him ever since. His quote and the tank he made me are just two of the ways he's so awesome.
Spread his quote. And make our country worth defending.
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