Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Honor to Serve, A short note about NCIS

Episode 13 in the first season of NCIS is called “One Shot, One Kill”. It opens in a video game arcade where some teen-aged boys are blown away by the skill of Marine Corps sergeant. We cut to recruiting office where the sergeant is giving the boys the hard sell about hitching up. He’s talking about Iraq: “Been in the corps 16 years. Closest I’ve ever come to a bullet is...” Shatter! Wham! Splatt! He’s shot. Slumps over on the desk.

Gibbs and his team are called in to investigate. In the course of their investigation the recruiter who replaces that first one is shot as well. In both cases, sitting at the desk, shot from long distance, through the window. Sniper.

Gibbs decides he’s got to go under cover on this one. He’s going to pretend to be the recruiter. The idea seems to be that they’ll place bullet-proof glass in the window and Gibbs’ll wear a bullet-proof vest. They place three microphones outside so that, when the shooter fires, Abby can pick up the sound and use it to triangulate the shooter’s location. They can then scoot over there and make the arrest.

Very clever, no?

But that’s not what I’m interested in, though obviously that kind of cleverness is part of the show’s appeal.

So, we’re in the recruiting office, Gibbs looking sharp in his old gunnery sergeant’s uniform, though it’s a bit tight on him. Kate’s in uniform as a captain. She’s there to profile potential recruits as they visit the office. The major who heads the recruiting unit wants to stay; after all, he’s lost two men to this sniper. Gibbs says no, he’ll just be in the way. The major insists.

Here’s what they say (c. 34:39):
Gibbs: Major, your job is to protect our country. Our mission right now is to protect you, and your marines. Allow us the honor of doing our job.

Major: Good luck Gunnery Sergeant.
That phrase – “the honor of doing our job” – may be the ideological heart of this show. It resonates with me. I can see why it resonates with Trump voters.

And, you know, I can imagine that it would resonate with Trump himself. It kinda’ makes you feel good, doesn’t it, the thought of a job such that doing it is an honor? What kind of job is it that ennobles the person who does it? I fear, though, that when the aspirational moment passes, Trump will revert to himself, the deeply insecure man who feels entitled to the Presidency and diminishes those who would serve the country by serving him.

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