Slandering Pat Tillman maybe

Pat Tillman might have gone into Afganistan for the same reason he loved football: because it’s licensed violence. Was it Norman Mailer or Studs Turkel who postelated that the reason many men go to war is because on a very primal level it is fun.

The other day in a west coast harbor I watched a group of military divers, taking off from the dock on their launch. Watching them gather and load up, it became easy for me to visualize men at war. What was it that projected their aggression? Not necessarily their jocularity, their fraternal back slaps, wide smiles and machismo handling of their gear. It was their collective testosterone like a malevolent shield of old spice sprayed in all directions to offend every male not in their clan.

The flat bottomed diving launch resembled an infantry landing craft. I could imagine at it cruised by me in the harbor what a war party would look like in the eyes of forces defending the shore.

To some males this is what attracts them to football and hockey and fist fights and brawls. The rest of us see unnecessary risk and injury and death, they see a schoolyard game of king of the hill. In peacetime this game is played through salesmanship and office politics, in war this game is much more primal and carries with it the advantages of the spoils: the occasion to rape, the occasion to pillage, and the power to decide another person’s life or death.

Was Pat Tillman a patriot, or another alpha male? Maybe he gambled that playing an ultra-violent game in a stadium in return for a million dollar contract would pale in comparison to the thrills of warfare and the spoils of war.

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