Children are great consumers. They make little or no money but are walking revenue streams for companies, roping everyone from their parents to distant relatives to old forgotten family friends into buying them everything from diapers to strollers to baseball gloves to GameBoys to clothing to chocolatey cereals to ... well, you get the point. They might not know it, but children are a huge presence in the economy, and any exposure to advertisements in the coming month will remind you a stake in the kids market means big bucks to any number of corporate investors.
And wherever there are big bucks to be made, you can be sure the Pentagon will be getting involved. In this case, though, the Pentagon is spending a large amount of money, time and energy to go after something else: bodies. A steady stream of new recruits is the necessary fuel that keeps the nation's military running like a well-oiled money-making machine for the defense contractors and military industrialists that stand to benefit from an American policy of war-making.
But the quagmire of Iraq, frequent call-ups to active duty and orchestrated deceptions like the Pat Tillman coverup have prompted a decline in the number of young men and women so willing to make the Faustian bargain of entering the military, even as college money has been increased, standards for aptitude upon admittance have been lowered, criminal backgrounds have become less of an impediment for induction, and the maximum allowable age for new recruits has been raised.
So, the Pentagon has turned to a new and more aggressive ad campaign, trying new slogans and methods of persuasion on television, radio and expanding its presence online. Moreover, additional resources and energy have been focused on the advertising ground war -- face-to-face meetings with potential recruits. In streets, malls, at concerts and gatherings, and especially at school.
In response to this stepped up campaign, groups like the Wage Peace Project have begun to raise their voices in concern over military recruiters' presence in school hallways, cafeterias and classrooms, spheres of influences that marketers from soft-drink companies to booksellers crave. To whom are we giving unfettered access to our children? Are high schools halls of learning or centers of commerce?
In a move that comes as something as a surprise to observers of the school system, and even to members of Wage Peace itself, the Lee County (FL) School District is placing new restrictions on when and where military recruiters can have contact with students at school.
It's a move worthy of applause, but a meaningless gesture if bird-doggers like Wage Peace as well as parents and concerned citizens ensure the new policies are enforced and any loopholes that arise are quickly closed. No one should have to die at 18 for a decision they were pressured into making at 17, 16, 15 or younger. Such needless carnage is, to put it in terms so often incorrectly used to describe those like the Wage Peace Project, unpatriotic and un-American.