Has a liberal ever thrown him(her)self on a grenade?
This is a question for which I’m not sure there is an answer. Individuals don’t go through life categorized as to conservative or liberal leanings, and the very definitions of liberal and conservative change over time.
This question first came to me at a much younger age, although not so clearly defined, when I first heard of soldiers sacrificing their own lives to save those of their comrades by throwing their body over a grenade thrown into a foxhole. While I understood the sacrifice and the reason for the sacrifice I found the action unthinkable; something I would most likely never do.
I then asked myself why not, and why would they.
From a rational standpoint it makes sense.
Alternative number one: Dive for cover and save yourself.
You might or might not save yourself by doing this. Furthermore if you were successful and everyone else was maimed or killed you would be alone in the foxhole and likely not be able to fight off the enemy.
Alternative number two: Grab the grenade and throw it out of the foxhole.
Those who throw grenades often wait a beat before throwing it in order to prevent this from working. Consequently, you might be successful and save everyone or, you might merely create an “airburst” and kill everyone including yourself. Or, you might never get to the grenade and just, inadvertently serve the function of the third scenario
Alternative number three: Jump on the grenade killing yourself but saving everyone else. The rest of your comrades are able to continue the mission while you are history.
What enables a soldier – or anyone – to sacrifice themself to save others?
Nobility is a word with two major definitions. It describes an hereditary class of individuals, and it describes individuals who possess honorable traits like honesty, bravery and selflessness.
Noble also describes a group of metals (copper, silver and gold) that are “incorruptible”. That is these metals resist rusting or tarnishing. This quality, as well as scarcity, determines the degree to which we value the metal; copper less than silver, less than gold.
The Nobility were once warriors. They were the Kings men. Their historical devotion and bravery earned them the title, noble. For that devotion they were granted status and land and wealth. Those days are gone.
During the Great War during which Lords and Earls fought alongside their butlers and footmen, the nobility were forced to face the fact that those commoners often displayed virtues that made it hard to go back to the way things were after the war.
I don’t think that anyone who acts bravely in times of crisis thinks of a reward after the fact. Furthermore, I don’t think they think at all. They react. What determines how they react?
It might be argued that it was a matter of how they were raised; the way they were taught and the modeling they witnessed. It’s hard to say those things didn’t play a part, but in many instances there was no teaching and no modeling. How do you model the sacrificing of yourself on a grenade?
I’m guessing that it comes from something much more innate.
Boot Camp or basic training seeks above all else to destroy a person as an individual and build them back as a team player. Recruiters look for young people who played team sports, and they aren’t just looking for quarterbacks. Linemen are just as important, maybe more so. Centers and guards and tackles get battered and bruised in every game protecting the quarterback or opening a lane for a running back, and do it for no glory.
It is not an accident that military members are heavily oriented toward conservative thinking. Two of the attributes that mark conservatives are a respect for authority, and a willingness to protect the in-group.
I think that those are the people – those linemen willing to be battered for the sake of the team – who throw themselves on grenades.
I had a commission prior to going to medical school that I earned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In land grant colleges ROTC is mandatory for the first two years and elective during the third and fourth. In the summer between years three and four cadets go to “summer camp”. I went to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. About a third of the cadets were from Texas A&M. For those of you who don’t know, Texas A&M is a military school.
We got up at 4:00 a.m., made our beds, dressed and were in formation by 4:30. We ran in formation for three miles, and reported for breakfast. From there we loaded into a “deuce and a half” truck and were transported to somewhere else for training. We stood guard duty at night in front of empty buildings, washed dishes, shined boots and had no day off or leave for six weeks. For six weeks we were built up physically, beaten down individually, instructed on bleachers in the blazing sun, and given both written and practical exams. It was a miserable summer. I pretended to be excited by it.
When I checked in at the beginning of my senior year, I found that I had barely gotten by. Captain Bennett, the regular army officer who evaluated all of us in our company had given me an individual score of zero (0) nil, zilch. My scores on everything else was so high that I passed. It was no secret to me or anyone that neither Captain Bennett, nor Sergeant York (yeah, really) our platoon evaluator liked me.
Much later a friend observed that they knew that I wasn’t a team player. I objected saying that I thought I was.
They knew I would never fall on a grenade.