war/military

Pew Research Center reports that, as of 2010, women make up about 15% of enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers:

Not all types of women are entering the military at the same rate.  Nearly a third of women in the military are Black, about twice their proportion in the general population.  In contrast, about half are white, about 2/3rds their proportion among civilian women.

A larger proportion of women, compared to men, said that they joined the military because it was difficult to find a good civilian job:

They were just as likely as men, however, to report other more common reasons for joining:

Interestingly, women reported high levels of strain re-entering the civilian population and the majority believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not worth fighting:

Nevertheless, a large majority felt that entering the military was good for their personal growth and career opportunities:

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In light of Romney’s comments regarding those who depend on the government, we thought we’d re-post this great data showing that many people who are using government social programs don’t know they are doing so.  

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Dolores R. sent in a fascinating image posted at boingboing. It comes from a paper by Suzanne Mettler, a professor in the Department of Government at Cornell. Mettler first asked survey participants whether they had ever used a federal U.S. government program. Then later in the survey she specifically asked respondents whether they had ever benefited from or participated in specific federal programs. As it turns out, large number of people who have benefited from various federal programs or policies do not recognize themselves as having done so. This table shows what percent of people who said they had participated in or used these 19 federal programs had earlier in the surveys said they had never used any social program:

Mettler argues that recipients are less likely to recognize themselves as benefiting from programs that are part of what she calls the “submerged state” — programs and policies that provide incentives and motivations for particular behaviors in the private sector, rather than overtly directing behavior. If you receive food stamps, you interact directly with a government agency, are required to periodically meet with a government worker and reapply to re-establish eligibility, and can point to a specific thing that links you to the program (these days usually a debit-type card rather than the old style coupons/stamps).

On the other hand, if you participate in the government’s mortgage interest deduction program, which encourages home ownership by allowing people to deduct the cost of mortgage interest from their taxable income (which you can’t do with rent costs, for instance), it’s less noticeable that you are benefiting from a federal policy. You get a form from your mortgage company that provides the relevant number, and you transfer it over to the correct line when you’re filling out taxes.

Notably, the programs recipients seem least likely to recognize as a government program are among those the middle (and higher) classes are most likely to use, while those more common among the poor are more clearly recognizable to those using them as government programs. Yet allowing you to write off mortgage interest (but not rent), or charitable donations, or the money you put aside for a child’s education, are all forms of government programs, ones that benefit some more than others. But the “submerged” nature of these policies hides the degree to which the middle and upper classes use and benefit from federal programs.

Food shortages during World War II required citizens and governments to get creative, changing the gastronomical landscape in surprising ways.   Many ingredients that the British were accustomed to were unavailable.  Enter the carrot.

According to my new favorite museum, the Carrot Museum, carrots were plentiful, but the English weren’t very familiar with the root.  Wrote the New York Times in 1942: “England has a goodly store of carrots. But carrots are not the staple items of the average English diet. The problem…is to sell the carrots to the English public.”

So the British government embarked on a propaganda campaign designed to increase dependence on carrots.  It linked carrot consumption to patriotism, disseminated recipes, and made bold claims about the carrot’s ability to improve your eyesight (useful considering they were often in blackout conditions).

Here’s a recipe for Carrot Fudge:

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons of finely grated carrot
  • 1 gelatine leaf
  • orange essence or orange squash
  • a saucepan and a flat dish

Put the carrots in a pan and cook them gently in just enough water to keep them covered, for ten minutes. Add a little orange essence, or orange squash to flavour the carrot. Melt a leaf of gelatine and add it to the mixture. Cook the mixture again for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Spoon it into a flat dish and leave it to set in a cool place for several hours. When the “fudge” feels firm, cut it into chunks and get eating!

Disney created characters in an effort to help:

The government even used carrots as part of an effort to misinform their enemies:

…Britain’s Air Ministry spread the word that a diet of carrots helped pilots see Nazi bombers attacking at night. That was a lie intended to cover the real matter of what was underpinning the Royal Air Force’s successes: the latest, highly efficient on board,  Airborne Interception Radar, also known as AI.

When the Luftwaffe’s bombing assault switched to night raids after the unsuccessful daylight campaign, British Intelligence didn’t want the Germans to find out about the superior new technology helping protect the nation, so they created a rumour to afford a somewhat plausible-sounding explanation for the sudden increase in bombers being shot down… The Royal Air Force bragged that the great accuracy of British fighter pilots at night was a result of them being fed enormous quantities of carrots and the Germans bought it because their folk wisdom included the same myth.

But here’s the most fascinating part.

It turns out that, exactly because of the rationing, British people of all classes ate healthier.

…many poor people had been too poor to feed themselves properly, but with virtually no unemployment and the introduction of rationing, with its fixed prices, they ate better than in the past.

Meanwhile, among the better off, rationing reduced the intake of unhealthy foods.  There were very few sweets available and people ate more vegetables and fewer fatty foods.  As a result “…infant mortality declined and life expectancy increased.”

I love carrots. I’m eating them right now.

To close, here are some kids eating carrots on a stick:

Via Retronaut.  For more on life during World War II, see our posts on staying off the phones and carpool propaganda (“When You Ride ALONE, You Ride With Hitler!”) and our coverage of life in Japanese Internment Camps, women in high-tech jobs, the demonization of prostitutes, and the German love/hate relationship with jazz.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the black press solidified its role as a pillar of the community and an anchor for popular opinion. In the tumultuous period between the Great Depression and the first stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement, World War II forced black Americans to rethink their struggle for equality as well as their position in the international political arena.* Editorial cartoons became a powerful forum for airing views on the war, a lens through which the readership could view domestic race relations in the context of America’s geopolitical stature and the specter of colonialism and fascism.

Two major black newspapers with national readerships, the Chicago Defender and the New York Amsterdam News, were largely supportive of the war. Black Americans broadly supported World War II. The so-called Double-V campaign rallied black community groups and media under a banner of patriotism, with the aim of encouraging racial integration and equality. But despite the overall pro-war sentiment, the black press also featured cartoons that offered a platform for critiquing blacks’ paradoxical position in the war on a domestic and global scale.

One cartoonist, Bill Chase, reflected early isolationist sentiments among blacks. An Amsterdam News cartoon from June 8, 1940 titled “Be Careful Uncle Sam shows a pensive Uncle Sam staring across the Atlantic at plumes of smoke. He stands upon strewn papers marked “lynching,” “lack of equal educational facilities,” “unemployment” and “no social security menials.” In a pointed reference to past wars and current national priorities, Uncle Sam says, “George Washington once said—’no entangling alliances’”:

In the June 17, 1944 Defender cartoon, Jan Jackson used a feminine metaphor to portray a double-standard in the politics of government intervention. A half-naked black woman chained to a post, arms outstretched in desperation, watches as two soldiers, labeled “liberation forces,” scurry across the Atlantic toward a mirror image of an endangered white woman on the distant shore of “enslaved Europe”; the headline is the soldiers’ empty promise, “We’ll Be Back”:

That the feminized white Europe is depicted ironically as “enslaved,” while the rescuers turn their backs on a refugee of actual slavery, reveals the absurdity of aiding a “just war” while ignoring a  homegrown humanitarian crisis.

A Defender cartoon published on June 16, 1945, just before the armistice, directly aligns the U.S. with the smoldering legacy of Nazi rule. Under the headline “Blind Leading The Blind,” a haggard America  steps forward from the ashes of bombed-out Europe, leading a disheveled, bloodstained Germany by the hand. Both men wear spectacles with blacked-out lenses displaying the words “race hate”:

As the war effort shifted from Europe to Asia, editorial cartoons took on an anti-colonial dimension. The Defender‘s September 8, 1945 cartoon elucidates Japan’s dual identity as both a fascist power and a non-white challenge to the global order. The inspiration for the cartoon is a report on the same page that a battleship from Mississippi docked at Tokyo Bay displaying “the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy while on deck the band played Dixie”:

The paper quips that the commander might as well have added “another bit of ‘Mississippi culture’ to the exhibit—perhaps a lynched Negro hanging from the mast or Senator Bilbo filibustering on the poop deck.”

The cartoon displays a hodgepodge of Americana: a ship, a cowboy, a rambunctious marching band, and the offensive flag.  The details expose the irony of a racist America exporting its warped civilization to a non-white country. The black soldiers walk out of a separate entryway marked “for colored.” Heading a parallel procession of white soldiers is a farcical southern vigilante holding rope and a rifle. A black soldier pats a disheveled Japanese civilian on the shoulder and says, “I know just how you’re going to feel, bub!”:

The Japanese rulers may have been fascists, but the visual satire suggests that blacks were in solidarity with Japanese civilians, who were now being invaded by another colonizer. As the cartoon headline notes, “Asiatics Are Colored Too.” Yet the black soldier’s complicity in this metaphorical lynch mob is underscored by the tool he carries: a shovel in lieu of a gun.

Despite broad support for the war in the black press, these editorial cartoons convey America’s peculiar hypocrisy through powerful imagery of suffering and anger. Yet the subtlety of the messages expresses measured, subsurface criticism—perhaps acknowledging that World War II, for all its ethical contradictions, provided a touchstone for concentrating black solidarity and political capital. In deploying these visual idioms to motivate the struggle against fascism, the images succeeded, even if the Double-V campaign itself fell short of redeeming the struggle for “victory at home.” The fight against fascism and Nazism overseas didn’t translate into enlightenment of the American body politic of race. But by mobilizing around the the Allies, black America, and its media, cast a new light on racism in the global context—a perspective later reflected in the strands of pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism in civil rights campaigns. A “white man’s war” could not serve as a real vehicle for black empowerment, but as it stretched to every corner of the globe, the trauma of modern warfare generated a new race consciousness, and new visions, that redefined blackness on the world stage.

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Michelle Chen is a doctoral student in history at the City University of New York Graduate Center. In her plebian life, she is a contributing editor at In These Times, a co-producer with New York’s WBAI, and an editor at CultureStrike, a project focused on the intersection of the arts, immigration and activism. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Colorlines.com, Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

 References after the jump:

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Yesterday the Pew Research Center posted a graph showing the proportion of the overall U.S. population on active military duty since 1940. From a high of almost 9% of the population during World War II, we’re down to roughly 0.5% of the population on active duty today (shaded areas are periods when the U.S. was actively engaged in a war):

According to the full report, of those in the military, about 2/3 are under age 30. Racial/ethnic minorities make up 36% of the armed forces today. As standards for recruits have increased, so has the educational level of troops: 92.5% have graduated high school, compared to 82.8% of civilians in the same age group.

The Pew Research Center points out that the reduced proportion of the population in the military at any give time means fewer connections between civilians and military personnel, which may influence the experiences of veterans as they re-integrate into civilian life, as well as the degree to which the population is aware of the impacts of military duty — physical, mental, financial, and otherwise — on those who serve.

Thanks to Shamus Khan for the tip!

Americans are familiar with seeing the phrase “In God We Trust” on our paper money.  The motto is, indeed, the official United States motto.  It wasn’t always that way, however.  While efforts to have the phrase inscribed on U.S. currency began during the Civil War, it wasn’t until 1957 that it appeared on our paper money, thanks to a law signed by President Eisenhower.

1956:

1957:

The motto wasn’t simply added in order to please God-fearing Americans, but instead had a political motivation.  The mid- to late-1950s marked an escalation in the Cold War between the U.S., the Soviet Union, and their respective allies.  In an effort to claim moral superiority and demonize the communist Soviet Union, the U.S. drew on the association of communism with atheism.  Placing “In God We Trust” on the U.S. dollar was a way to establish the United States as a Christian nation and differentiate them from their enemy (source).

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

NPR’s Planet Money blog posted this image showing changes in major categories of federal spending over the past 50 years. Notably, though defense spending (which includes veteran benefits) is still the largest category of federal spending, it’s a much smaller proportion of the total budget than it was in the ’60s; spending on interest on our debt has also fallen quite a bit since the ’80s. On the other hand, spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which didn’t even exist in 1962), and safety net programs (including food stamps and unemployment) have grown. The somewhat reduced “everything else” category includes everything from education to space exploration to agriculture and more:

Via The Sociological Cinema; data available at the Office of Management and Budget.

Yesterday, in honor of May Day, Anna North at Buzzfeed Shift posted a set of photos on the history of women in the (mostly U.S.-based) labor movement. One that I found particularly interesting was this 1918 poster urging women to be both thrifty and productive industrial workers as they play their role in winning World War I:

Note how patriotism is clearly connected to the idea of women having more opportunities:

To woman, the possession of a home, the opportunities of education for herself and her children, the betterment of her own social conditions, should always be the dominating thought.

But the poster simultaneously warns them against using their freedom for their own pleasure at the expense of the nation:

…restlessness urges the breaking up of home life and the shifting of occupations. It is for her to think well before jeopardizing the future for the sake of temporary gain…it is hers to show industrial stability and check the dangerous tendency to shift about and gamble with the future. America’s women can best serve American by being steadfast — bending to their task and holding it — and by saving all they can from today’s pay envelope for future needs.

So women are encouraged to think of themselves as empowered workers, with increased opportunities available to them, but only to the degree that this makes them reliable, productive workers and thrifty citizens, drawing on ideas of women’s special role in the home. Just as women are the “custodians” of their homes, they must also ensure “industrial stability” by sticking with their jobs for the good of the nation — a choice which might, of course, conflict with a woman’s efforts to improve her own or her family’s social conditions by, say, taking a job that pays more or has better working conditions. The poster encourages women to consider their opportunities, but ties those opportunities tightly to the common good of the nation and the family, ultimately warning women against too much pursuit of individual self-interest.