If you’ve attended any kind of action movie over the past couple of weeks — if, for instance, you were one of the 7 billion Americans who checked out I Am Legend — you probably saw the above music video/PSA, called “Citizen Soldiers” and sponsored by the National Guard. In it, 3 Doors Down plays some truly awful post-grunge while singing from the perspective of the archetypal Guardsman: brave, vigilant, and selfless. “Hope and pray that you never need me,” front man Brad Arnold sings, “but rest assured, I will not let you down.” As the band plays, the video shows brave Guardsmen helping bedraggled disaster victims, rescuing prisoners, and fighting.
We’re sort of surprised that the Guard has basically given up trying to sugarcoat things. There’s no talk about money for college or building skills for the workplace; most everyone in this video — with the exception of 3 Doors Down — is in the shit. The video includes expensive-looking scenes of brave soldiers fighting Redcoats in the Revolutionary War and storming the beach at Normandy. (In the WWII scene, one soldier even nervously kisses his wedding ring before he charges; he’s filmed in jittery, washed-out Private Ryan–O–Vision.) Combine that with scenes of contemporary Guardsmen in an unspecified desert nation, and the message is clear: If you join the Guard, you’ll be sent to Iraq. But you’ll be joining the proud American tradition of shooting people! Oh, and helping people. Different people!
All in all, it’s a fairly expert piece of propaganda perfectly pitched at its target market; at the movie theater where we saw it, a certain kind of audience member — the young, well-muscled guy kind — responded positively, one of them even shouting, “Fuck yeah!” The YouTube clip above currently features over 2,100 comments, many of them along the lines of this one from “Patriotsremain”:
To begin with, I call the young men and women who serve the U.S. military my brothers and sisters. Their blood is strong, their minds are strong, their spirits devoted. The battlefields of our history are painted with that blood. Their courage and commitment will not be forgotten, neither heroes fallen nor veterans remaining. To all of you anti-military trippers, whether young and ignorant, brain-washed, or enemy I say this: Your not anti-war/military; You are anti-freedom.