One of my favorite scenes from Frederick Wiseman's Public Housing is the sad spectacle of a government employee explaining to a single mother (who looks to be about 16) that she should not have spent $100 on her hair because she does not have a job. If there is a more quintessential statement of "government as parent" than that, I'd love to see it.
Wait. I think I may have just seen it.
It's not an overstatement to say that the average enlisted soldier is not a rocket scientist. Military recruiters have spent the better part of the last half-century targeting young people who lack either (or both) the financial or cognitive means to secure a college education and/or non-lethal employment. Frankly, for many enlisted people the Army is going to provide more money, employable skills, and experience than any of their other options. While the average soldier on the ground is not a candidate for a MacArthur Grant, I sincerely doubt that they are less intellectually capable than the morons who populate most of civil society.
But as more and more people, namely reservists, who signed up under the assumption that they'd never have to serve in combat are doing just that, the stress of military life affects their family life. Never fear, though. The Army is here to teach you how to marry a supportive, obedient spouse who won't mind when your term of enlistment is involuntarily extended 3 times and you return to civilian life with a raft of physical and psychological problems.
Yes, finding a good military wife – er, spouse – is an art, not a science.
The folks over at NoJerks.com have perfected a program of "Premarital Interpersonal Choices and Knowledge (PICK)" that the Army is now paying to have presented to their young, impressionable, and apparently retarded troops. I'm not sure if the Army searched high and low to see if they could condescend the enlisted any more than they already have, but this might do it.
The cornerstone of their mate-hunting program is the "FACES" (they're big on acrostics, apparently) technique. The "F" stands for "Family Background and Childhood Experiences." So Lesson #1 – do a substantive background check on all potential spouses to weed out anyone who has red flags on their emotional credit report. A good military spouse will be one who doesn't show troubling signs of "needing you around" or "getting emotional when horrible things happen to you."
Do you get the feeling that the PICK program could save itself a lot of time and money by simply redirecting viewers to a dating site or database for good, quiet white Christian women with burning desires to be housewives?
If enlisted people are really so clueless that they need someone to sit down and explain (in a completely oversimplified manner) how to find a spouse, then the Army should be ashamed of itself for enlisting them in the first place. No one who needs to be told that "Compatibility" (that's the third part of FACES) is an important part of marriage should be armed. Period.