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Faculty Mentor

Jason McEntee

Abstract

Cultures are built upon myths that reinforce and glorify the way citizens wish to view themselves as part of a larger, stronger whole. These myths are central to the strength of a culture due to the shared sense of greatness, responsibility, and cohesion mutual belief instills. Globally, examples of cultural myth include French elegance, Arabic divine religious sanction, and British diplomatic proficiency. Specifically American mythology includes the pioneer mentality, equality for all citizens, and global caretaker. These myths, as with those of other countries, were born of historic actuality or ideology. The basis for each of these American myths, however, is the embedded, overarching myth of the American warrior. The myth of the uniquely American warrior, rather than European warrior mythology, is rooted in the militia man of the Revolutionary War. The militia man was a citizen called upon to serve his belief in the “new” American ideal of democracy. After the Revolutionary War, American warriors were men who served their country by protecting their families during the westward expansion of the United States, often in conjunction with, or in addition to, military service. As American civilization has progressed, the need for each household to have its own warrior-protector has been negated, and the warrior role has shifted from the social realm of individual citizens to the specific, specialized realm of soldiers in the armed forces. The creation of warriors in this new esoteric realm requires that warriors be constructed to meet rigid standards of physical prowess, belief, and behavior. Specifically, the American warrior should be in superior physical condition, uphold American beliefs of cultural and social supremacy, and act according to the highest moral and ethical standards. The inherent conflict of this idealized construction requires that American citizens who desire to become warrior-soldiers be reborn through the extremely violent, and explicitly sexual, purgatory of military training. This rebirth and it’s negative effects upon American warriors and culture is elegantly illustrated in contemporary American war film and literature such as Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, Wallace Terry’s oral history collection of Vietnam veterans Bloods, and Anthony Swofford’s 2003 Gulf War I memorandum Jarhead. [Page 1]

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