Scopes, Monkeyed

« January 2010 »

Memo to Trijicon: YOU GOT BUSTED.

One of the most unnerving stories that grew over the past decade was the increasing Christianization of the U.S. armed forces. A trickle of stories about religious hazing, Bible distribution, Jesus coins, and the like added up to a terrifying picture of an American military that, no matter how much it presented itself as an impartial, professional fighting force, was chock-full of people who thought they were doing the Lord's work by shooting unbelievers in the face.

Now, admittedly, we no longer have a Commander-In-Chief who thinks God picked him to lead, and throws around words like "crusade". But it's still troubling on all kinds of levels when stories come out about America's armies humming "Onward Christian Soldiers" under their breath and meaning it literally. Such is the case with the awkwardly-named military contractor Trijicon, a Michigan company which produces rifle sights for the military.

Apparently Trijicon sees itself as a value-added company. Or rather, a Judeo-Christian value-added company. Because every sight they put out, for years and years, featured an abbreviated reference to a Bible verse after the serial number. The serial number you see every single time you put your eye up the scope. Which is creepy. Especially creepy when you pair it with the company's vision statement. I admit, "creepy" and "vision statement" are concepts that are rarely paired in corporate America, but bear with me. ACTUAL VISION STATEMENT TIME!

"Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom. We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals."

See what I mean? It's the unholy spawn of a right-wing blog post and a corporate team-building exercise. It's a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of two of the things I hate most - proselytizing and business-speak. Honestly, with a vision statement like that, I'm surprised the Bible verses are coded reference, and not printed verbatim around the outside. I guess they were trying to be subtle. But not subtle enough.

Last week, ABC broke the story about the Jesus Scopes. Within days, the military pledged to look into it. Within a couple more days, New Zealand, who's been buying the scopes as well, said this bullshit would not stand, and said they'd have the Biblical inscriptions removed. And as of yesterday, Trijicon had caved, and will be scrubbing the codes from all its outstanding inventory, and providing field kits so that the military can remove the codes on already-shipped rifles.

There was a predictable hue and cry from the red-blooded, God-fearing, Islamophobic, shoot-everyone crowd, of course. Cries of political correctness run amok. Claims that this is no different from suicide bombers shouting "Allahu Akbar" before they explode, a comparison whose problematic ironies were completely lost on those making it. That noise, of course, can go get fucked. What Trijicon was doing was icky, wrong, and possibly illegal. But it wasn't just wrong in the abstract sense.

After all, what's our official goal in Iraq and Afghanistan? Training the locals to provide their own security. Which means, among other things, handing them American guns with American sights and showing them how to use them. Which means every time a Muslim local puts stock to shoulder, and eyepiece to eyeball, what does he get? Coded subliminal conversion propaganda! It probably won't work, of course. But that doesn't make it any less tacky.

As with all the other incidents of military evangelism, this one evaporated as soon as it saw the light of day. But as with all the other incidents, this didn't stop anyone. Trijicon didn't read the news about soldiers handing out Jesus coins and think that maybe their Jesus scopes were a bad idea. They just kept cranking them out until they got caught. How many more stories like this are there, waiting to be uncovered? Like owls and lollipops, the world may never know.