22 September 2009

Army Sneetches

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really quite small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

Soldiers, as Dr. Suess’s classist characters once did, wear our rank on our chest. The Army wants people to know who they are talking to, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not exactly the best way to facilitate good communication.

Once, as a young substitute teacher at a high school, I had parked my car in the faculty lot. The school’s principal stopped me and said I couldn’t park there. Annoyed, I politely informed him that I was a teacher, not a student.

As an older teacher told me at that moment, “he’s such a doofus.”

The Army doesn’t like doofuses, so they identify everybody clearly and boldly.

With rank so prominent in the equation, they forget the other two identifiers, the Soldier’s name and the US Army label on every single uniform. Aren’t these more important?

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.

The rank insignia becomes an impediment to communication and an excuse for arrogant leaders to look down upon juniors and remind the latter to take it from the former.

Thank goodness we have civilian lives. After a deployment or drill, most Soldiers will go back home and back to work where artificial castes don’t prohibit good communication, cooperation, and respect.

Back to that place where all the Sneetches forget about stars
and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.


  1. This is beautiful. Joseph will be proud.

    Even in the civilian world, it may not be ranks, but titles, class and skin tones, definitely "prohibit[s] good communication, cooperation, and respect." It's just that we can put people in their place in the civilian world, despite the aforementioned differences, without the fear of receiving an Article 15. :)

  2. Ha, I like this one.. was that a real Dr. Suess book?

  3. Was it a real Dr. Seuss book? Of course! You mean you don't remember watching it in like the third grade? You can see it on YouTube, the cartoon is really quite entertaining.

  4. But what about the career guys who don't get to "got back" to real life?

  5. another reason why the Army needs to rethink the importance of rank in its operations. We should rely on citizen-soldiers to defend our security. That means we should run our Army according to our unique American way of life, not some thuggish autocracy.