National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  October 10, 2003

A Navy promotional mailer targeting graduating high school students
Using high-tech dreams to seduce our kids

A strip of golden sunlight shimmers over an expanse of calm ocean and leads the eye to roiling blue water in the foreground, where the sun’s rays are picked up again and reflected off the brawny back of a diving submarine. In a digital font, three lines frame the sub: “Top-secret operations. Mind-blowing technology. And 6,900 tons of muscle.”

In the bottom right is the Navy logo, and written over it is the command: “Accelerate your life.”

On the left, just below the address window: “Experience the most powerful search engines on the planet.”

The piece of mail came to the home of one 18-year-old in the Midwest and, presumably, went to tens of thousands of others across the country.

This is slick and clever stuff. On the backside of the oversized mailer is a study in intense indigo, a serious young man against a backdrop of a high-tech wonderland and the same digital lettering asks: “Has anyone ever offered you a high-tech job that requires no experience?” And answers: “We just did.”

The seduction of our children in plain view.

Not long after that mailer arrived, the stories began appearing that a slumping U.S. economy was helping recruiters in all branches of the armed forces meet their goals. “That’s the driver, the economy,” Maj. Gen Michael D. Rochelle, head of the Army Recruiting Command, told The New York Times.

Several days later, the headlines announced that the 2002 numbers were worse for both the number of Americans living in poverty (an increase of 1.7 million) and median household income (a 1.1 percent decline).

Most recently, in what the Catholic Health Association calls a “national disgrace,” census figures revealed that an additional 2.4 million Americans were without health insurance in 2002, bringing the total to 43 million, or one in 7 Americans.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree to read the signs: bleak job market, increasing poverty, no health insurance and skyrocketing college costs.

The Navy knows the scenario well, and in case a prospective recruit isn’t clear on just how miserable the choices might be, the scenario becomes quite clear on the inside of that mailer.

“Car payments. Health-care costs. The cost of living on a mediocre salary. In a mediocre job. Not the after-high-school rush you envisioned, right? Where’s the freedom, financial independence and excitement you hoped you’d have by now? Put your life on course. In the Navy.

It goes on to promise training and a college degree “and up to $50,000 [in bold type] to help you earn it.” That $50,000, again in bold type, is mentioned a few paragraphs later.

And finally, comes the see-the-world pitch, listing Hawaii, Iceland, Italy, Japan and Spain. All aboard for the cruise.

That’s just one branch of the service. They’ve all got their glamour pitches.

Kids know how to follow the money and the money these days is not enticing them to schools or trades. We are becoming hyper-militarized:

  • More than a billion dollars a day -- more than $400 billion a year -- to the Pentagon.
  • A billion dollars a week so far in Iraq.
  • An additional $87 billion requested for continued occupation and rebuilding of Iraq.
  • And $950 million a month to the ongoing effort in Afghanistan.

Given this administration’s plans for American conquest, and the lack of response by the rest of the world to our request for help, the only conclusion one can reach is that a lot more U.S. troops are going to be needed in the near term.

Our kids know where the money is. The dangers can seem remote. They’ll need a lot of help to resist the seduction.

National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 2003

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