Cynthia Enloe challenges readers to identify daily occurrences of militarization in her book The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. The indoctrination of America with militaristic ideals closes off other options from public thought. Enloe points out that “the rationalization of the use of force has been used to justify militarism, which in turn normalizes and legitimizes secrecy, hierarchy, masculinism, and a culture of threat” (Enloe 184).
Enloe goes on to give examples (education, soldiers’ girlfriends and wives, beauty pageants and cars) of “sectors of U.S. culture [that] have also been increasingly militarized” (Enloe 146). Drawing attention to the enforcement of military ideals in daily life makes one question the true intent. We as Americans need to understand the impact that we have on the rest of the world. We are “forever lecturing other societies—Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, France—on how they should remake their cultures. U.S. citizens, however, have been loath to lift up the rock of cultural convention to peer underneath at the masculinized presumptions and worries that shape American foreign policies” (Enloe 129). If we don’t stop the rampant integration of militarism in our daily lives in America it will spread to other societies.
Consequently, the non-support of militarization is viewed as being unpatriotic. Enloe states what can be seen in the media: “since September 11, publicly criticizing militarization has been widely viewed as an ‘unpatriotic’ act, as an act of disloyalty” (Enloe 146). One can support military troops and be a pacifist. The point Enloe makes is that “militarism is an ideology. Militarization, by contrast, is a sociopolitical process” (Enloe 219). The fact that military ideals have spread beyond the confines of the military itself and embedded themselves into Americans daily lives is the problem. The glorification of the military causes a society to think in only military terms. Instead of exploring all options to a situation, this sort of society chooses to immediately “solve” any altercation with military force. While it is necessary to have a military we do not need instillation and indoctrination to a set of militarized beliefs that war and aggression are always the answer. As Americans, we are looked to by other countries in regards to conflict resolutions. The continuation of militarization in our society will spread to other societies who look to us as a model.
There are members of society who refuse to allow militarism to run rampant. The fact that “two nationwide activist groups, Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Mothers Against the War, reflects a new consciousness of the roles mothers—and fathers—are expected to play in building up a large military force, as well as a growing sense of the urgent need for alternatives to those scripted roles” shows that Americans are challenging militaristic ideals (Macho, Macho Militarism). The questions are being raised as to the indoctrination of supporting military support. Mothers and fathers have put away their feelings of dread in support of so called patriotism for centuries. Now the tide is shifting in thoughts on conflict resolution. There are many more groups questioning militarization. For example, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Women Waging Peace, and Women in Black, whose Athens chapter was accused of disrespecting soldiers when someone wore a U.S. Army uniform with pacifist buttons at a protest last year, are all looking for alternatives to war and aggressive actions.
Ironically, one of these groups advocating peace named themselves after the militarized homeland security alerts. “CODEPINK emerged out of a desperate desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq. The name CODEPINK plays on the Bush Administration's color-coded homeland security alerts — yellow, orange, red — that signal terrorist threats. While Bush's color-coded alerts are based on fear and are used to justify violence, the CODEPINK alert is a feisty call for women and men to ‘wage peace’” (Code Pink). So, one has to question if this use of military terminology perpetuates militarism or diffuse its power? The paradox of adopting a name that employs a militaristic system can be viewed as taking power from the source or entirely redundant.
This March 8, International Women’s Day, we should all look for ways to diffuse the militarization of daily life and look for alternatives. As a model for non-militarized conflict resolution we can be looked to as example by the rest of the world. By changing our militaristic thinking we can change other countries’ thinking as well. As Enloe so hopefully states, “I don’t think that it’s mere fantasizing to envision a world without war” (Enloe 144). We need to look toward the activist groups as inspiration. By challenging the indoctrination of military ideals in our daily life we will begin to diffuse the unquestioning authority it uses in perpetuating violence. With alternative options available, they merely need to be pursued here in America and the effects will be worldwide.
Enloe, Cynthia. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. 2004.
University of California: California.
Enloe, Cynthia. Macho, Macho Militarism.
Code Pink for Peace