Masters of war


Sunday afternoon, Aug. 4, I biked down to the Target Center to catch my beloved Minnesota Lynx in a late afternoon WNBA matinee match-up against the Seattle Storm. Upon arrival, I settled into my seat behind a row of cute amped-up kids who were rustling pom-poms, dancing to the pre-game beats, and chanting, “Military, military, military!”

At first I thought the kids were part of a large military family, maybe celebrating the return of one of our brave damaged soldiers, but I soon realized we were all there to celebrate “Military Night” at Target Center — a game set aside to honor our troops (yes!) and thank them for the great work they do in fighting for our freedoms, which God and every good American knows aren’t free, but which came as a surprise to me and any other ticket holder who was under the impression we were there to watch a professional basketball game, not a multi-media recruiting video for the industrial military complex.

Pretty sure I was the only one who didn’t get with the program, starting with the national anthem. I sat in my seat, as I often do at sporting events when the church rises to sing about the rockets’ red glare, because I wasn’t in the mood to salute a flag, any flag, or to be told by anyone to salute a flag, any flag. Instead, I exercised my freedom to sit and observe the passive madness, absolve myself of the oppressive groupthink, and ruminate on “The Fog of War,” Errol Morris’s brilliant documentary on former Secretary Of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and Duane Thomas, the rebellious Dallas Cowboys running back who in 1973 allegedly stood with his back to the flag during the Star Spangled Banner.

Fun game. The Lynx dominated the Storm, and over the course of the two-hour contest, time and again we were asked to stand and cheer for the military, and time and again as the 9,000-plus sheeple stood and cheered, I sat in something like disbelief. Something like, because the truth is military corporate tie-ins with sports are nothing new, especially with NASCAR and the NFL.

To wit: Over a montage of military-provided footage of troops being welcomed home on Sunday’s Vikings-Lions broadcast, Fox Sports play-by-play stooge Thom Brennaman thanked the armed forces for protecting “the greatest country in the world” — which brought to mind the first episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” in which a rogue talking head tells a journalism panel exactly where America stands in terms of greatness, not to mention the massive sign that hangs above the main gate of the Metrodome and declares the National Guard to be “Minnesota’s first line of defense” over a photo of the National Guard lined up against protesters outside the Xcel Center during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

I first witnessed this “partnership” (the Lynx emcee’s word) between sporting events and military recruitment-disguised-as-pep-fests a few years ago at the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament, where at halftime in the Target Center corridor, a group of uniformed Marines encouraged teenagers to sign up and see how many pull-ups they could do. The line of young and able bodies was long and multi-colored.

Those kids have been on my mind over the last two weeks, as talk of attacking Syria escalates. But given our pedigree, what else are we supposed to do? We live in an unquestioned, unchecked culture of corporate war and war mongering, and we are its violent, reactionary children. To step back from the maw and question any of it, even to point it out, is an act of treason that will get you hung for not supporting the troops, but it’s worth mentioning that the Target Center and Metrodome are good examples of how even our progressive Twin Cities can be indoctrinated into thinking that killing one’s neighbor is the way to go.

Thankfully, even with President Obama and the rest of our leaders’ lack of creativity and imagination toward peace-making in Syria’s civil war and bringing Assad’s war crimes to justice, a war-weary world is making its feelings known here and abroad. Me, I’m thinking we could all stand to turn off The History Channel and stop indulging in John Kerry’s “Munich moment” nostalgia, and embark on a worldwide book club reading of “The God of Small Things” author Arundhati Roy‘s poetic and instructive “War Talk,” which offers this timely advice:

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

“The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling — their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

“Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at and