I almost didn’t post this because it meant admitting I’m watching The X-Factor. The show is a train wreck, with Brittany Spears delivering every line like she had Frosted Xanax Loops for breakfast, Khloe Kardashian fumbling with her mic as if she she’s not used to holding 10″ long oblong objects and Mario “Autopilot” Lopez maniacally grinning during tales of contestants’ personal tragedies.
The highlight of one show was Khloe falling into a trance and stroking a girl’s hair as if she was a cherished pet Pomeranian.
Strangely, something disturbed me more than The X-Factor‘s laughable hosts. Contestant Vino Alan dedicated a performance to the U.S. Military and mentioned that he’d tried to join the Army, only to be denied due to his extensive tattoo collection.
I paused the TV and screeched “SERIOUSLY!??” to Mike,who sighed and resigned himself to my indignant tirade. As if it happens two or three times a day.
Admittedly, Vino does have some crazy tats, on his neck, face and his entire scalp. But the U.S. Military turning down able-bodied persons for body art? It was our very U.S. military men who embraced tattooing as a means of brotherhood, remembrance and a touch of menace.
In 2006, the Army relaxed their tattoo policy to allow people with ink on their hands and the back of their neck below the collar to join. Face, head and neck above the collar line still remains forbidden.
I understand why racist and otherwise inflammatory tattoos are forbidden. There are a lot of people who might not feel inclined to save the life of a soldier with a swastika on his forehead. But a cheesy tribal tattoo over a guy’s eye (i.e. Mike Tyson), while regrettable, isn’t something that should cause trouble in the ranks. If anything, he’d be twice as menacing to the enemy, or, while the enemy is laughing at him, he might gain the upper hand.
I also understand why the military aims to instill a sense of propriety and order. Having a panther running across your cheek that you can’t hide beneath a t-shirt is a bit disorderly. But today people are nearly numb to the novelty of such tats, and if a guy with a teardrop under his eye has survived the streets to set himself on a new path via the military, I don’t think we should toss him back because of a little ink.
And yes, the potential enlisted person can opt to have the tattoo removed, but for many, the cost of removal could be out of reach or just enough of a hurdle to keep him or her from making a change. The military won’t pay for it.
This is all what I wanted to say. What I actually said was:
Me: That’s bullshit. Dude can’t fight for his country because he’s got a squiggly on his temple? And shit on his head that just looks like really, really flat hair?
Mike: Yep. You done?
Me: Yeah… NO! And January Jones is a shitty actress, but I like her on Mad Men and it’s confusing!
Me: And the batteries in the Wii controllers go dead at an alarming rate!
Me: Now I’m done.
Mike: Maybe Vino HAS offensive tattoos. Have you read his scalp?
Mike: Exactly. Now hit play and give me the remote.
Me: Fine. Bullshit.