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Forget the war; smell the cookies

Aug 11, 2013 - By Randy Tucker

Today's never-ending military missions are marketed like fast food.

It's an old trick used by hucksters to get prospective buyers in the mood. If you have every found yourself tricked into a seminar dedicated solely to getting you to buy a condominium or time share, you experienced it. It's a time honored tradition in Atlantic City, Vail, Branson and has even been reported in Wyoming's version of Las Vegas, Jackson Hole.

There seems to be an inordinate amount of bread and cookie baking going on in prospective home and condominium sales. The idea is a simple one, yet very effective. Before you ever see the living room, kitchen, the spacious master bath or check the closets, you're overwhelmed with the smell of fresh bread or cookies just out of the oven.

The assault on your olfactory system is an extremely effective marketing tool. The anticipation of sampling these baked delights breaks down many of the physiological and cognitive barriers we have in place to protect us from unnecessary purchases.

How many of the millions of defaulted mortgages experienced during the last housing crisis are attributable to French bread or chocolate chip is worth a graduate thesis for a marketing major.

While we may laugh at this overt play at breaking down common sense through the senses. There is a sudden rise in a much more insidious and jaded play on the American consumer.

Is anyone else offended when fast food franchises, national real estate chains or even appliance vendors trot out shots of excited children, dogs and spouses suddenly surprised at the return or their dad, mom or owner from the war in Afghanistan?

The play on the emotions is so blatant that any cogent person should automatically erase the perpetrator of this advertisement from all possible purchases at present and into the future. In short, if Acme Widgets runs an ad with an ecstatic 8-year old running down the hall of his school to meet his mom, who is donned in full desert camouflage, along with all her battlefield equipment (sans gun...too controversial) and with perfect hair and makeup, I'm not buying any more Acme Widgets -- ever.

We're reached a surreal era in America. We're surrounded by a constant barrage of "Support the Troops," but the big thing that would really support these men and women is simply getting them out of unnecessary combat and bringing them back home.

But because that would require a concerted and cooperative political effort, battling immense corporate interest with incredible amounts of oil money in sway, it's just a lot easier to send them a box of Oreos and some shampoo.

It's been written that no one with lawn service actually knows anyone serving in the military. The concept is further amplified when you take a look at national politicians.

In the 1960s politicians were labeled either hawks or doves as they took pro or anti-war stances against the national nightmare that was Viet Nam. During those years future political leaders had the chance to check their beliefs in up front fashion.

In the case of John Kerry and John McCain that meant getting shot up in a swift boat on the Mekong River or spending a horrible ordeal in the Hanoi Hilton after being shot down and taken prisoner.

Other politicians took an easier route in those trying times. Future presidents Clinton and George W. Bush took draft deferments or used family political might to get billets in stateside National Guard Units. Future Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney's six consecutive deferments kept him out of military service but didn't keep him from sending others into combat in the future.

When you think of these types, the term "Chicken Hawk" (also an atavistic term from the Viet Nam era) comes to mind.

They are for the war as long as someone else fights it.

The modern military differs greatly from that of the 1960s. We now have a professional military stretched to the limits. Until 1974 the military had the option of drafting more soldiers, sailors, airmen and, yes, even Marines for the first time in the corps's long history. That option doesn't exist any longer.

Ernest Hemingway, Eric Sevareid and Ernie Pyle were among the well-known correspondents in World War II. Later, Dan Rather, Ed Bradley and Charles Kuralt became household names as they brought the horrors of battle in Southeast Asia to the American living room each evening.

We don't recognize war correspondents as we once did. Actual combat footage and images of dead and wounded soldiers once were commonplace, but politicians realize the effect this had in the ant-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. They won't allow it to happen again.

War is no movie, yet the sanitized images of combat on the big screen replace the horrible reality to most of us. While we look the other way, the same corporate structure of the military/industrial complex uses our sentimentality to get us to prolong the insanity through mindless consumerism.

The harsh glare of reality would end much of this carnage, but until then the message is clear: buy, buy, buy.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired educator. He farms in rural Riverton.

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