Sunday, April 20, 2008

Doubt. Ew.

Doubt is a scary thing. Just the word doubt conjures up images of indecision and low self-esteem. Doubt. Ew. Besides, why is there a “b” in doubt anyway? Overall it’s just a terrible word. Relevant to this blog however, how does doubt play in to the lives of those involved with West Point? Up until junior year, cadets have the option of leaving the United States Military Academy without financial or military commitments. One of the cadets I interviewed noted that following junior year attendance there’s a sense of finality, and people begin to more fully believe in the military. During a cadet’s freshman and sophomore years, questioning commitment to the military is accepted, however following the obligation that comes with getting so far into your junior year, there’s no turning back. Then what? My guess is that you’re expected to believe fully in the military, no doubt allowed, but my question is: really? Is that possible? We’re all humans, which often means that we’re never fully satisfied. Isn’t life just an ocean of questions? Am I really supposed to be in this field? At this college? With this person? Are my goals achievable? Are they noble? I’ve decided to take a moment and investigate how doubt plays into the United States Military Academy.
It’s just an educated guess, but I’d say that the last thing the military wants is someone who doubts their participation in the army. As stated above, the first two years don’t matter all that much, but once you’re in, you’d better be all the way in. It makes sense; you don’t want someone operating on your brain who doesn’t really want to be a surgeon, why would you want someone in the army risking their lives against their will? In Absolutely American, author David Lipsky describes a mandatory speaker the senior class attends, where the cadets are “assured that their work is important, challenging, of selfless value to their country” (14). Keeping doubt at bay is a crucial task that requires the military’s attention.
I guess I’m a free spirit, because for me the idea of being locked into a certain lifestyle makes me nervous. Many people would look at that and say I’m undisciplined, or undedicated, but it’s just how my mind works. It takes a different kind of person to lock his or her future in place. Then again, maybe it’s a sense of security, which sounds just as reasonable. In his article “The Futile Pursuit of Happiness,” Jon Gertner presents evidence that “challenges our common assumption that we [are] happier with the option to change our minds when in fact we’re a happier with closure” (3). Therefore, maybe knowing what the future holds shouldn’t be considered imprisoning, but rather a promise of stability.


Gertner, Jon. "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness." New York Times 03 Sep 2003 : 1-7.

Lipsky, David. Absolutely American. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

1 comment:

E. Greene-Colozzi said...

Your blog is really great because it shows how you have gradually changed your conception of your topic, which was the point of these blogs in the first place. In the beginning you ask a lot of questions about the military and different points of view on it, and you work your way up to answering these questions as you learn more about the military. I think it’s especially good that you have received comments from actual West Point graduates; their comments are probably the most constructive and helpful that you could get. You’ve done a really great job of interpreting your own views of the military into cultural relativism, particularly in your latest entry about doubt and stability versus rigidity of military life. I don’t really have much constructive criticism because your blog pretty much fulfills the requirements of the assignment. Maybe you could mention your personal interest and motivation in researching West Point and the military. Nice job!