I have never been one to bandwagon on the latest government conspiracy, or to be sucked in to the idea that “The Man” is out to get us…not that I don’t believe there is some truth in these charges. I just choose not to indulge myself in a way of thinking that has the potential to take over my everyday thought processes like so many of my super-pro-Black brothers and sisters.

You know the ones that believe that everything disheartening in the Black community is a direct result of slavery and the master plan of the White man.

But lately one theory has really piqued my interest.

Within the last two weeks I have had four different African American male friends fall upon hard times with regard to employment, whether they were cut back, laid off, or simply not able to find gainful employment in the first place. The interesting part is that all of them (who have no connection to one another whatsoever) somehow came to the conclusion that joining the military was a logical plan B to remedy their difficult situations.

Personally, it rang like insanity to me. Angry with all of them as they let out that large exhale followed by, “I guess I’m going to just have to join the military.”

I just couldn’t figure out why that was such as easy choice for these men to make.

In reality what they seemed to be saying was, “well since I lost my job and can’t find another one, let me risk my life and sign my freedom over to a government that has never given a crap about me, or anyone who looks like me, since the beginning of my people’s existence in this country, and hope for the best.”

That’s when the conspiracy theorist in me started to bubble to the surface. Is it possible that this is strategy on the government’s part–make it so difficult for African American men to get a job and/or keep a job, make the trip to prison so easy, and make getting a good education so difficult that the military starts to look like this shining beacon of light in their otherwise dark tunnel of a life?

This way the government gets thousands of “willing” recruits to sign up to fight wars that they don’t understand. No need for a draft when you leave these men without options.

“When the economy slackens and unemployment rises, and jobs become more scarce in civilian society, recruiting is less challenging,” said Curtis Gilroy, the director of accession policy for the Department of Defense.

Records show that since we have been in recession, all sectors of the military have seen an increase in recruits and in most cases have exceeded their recruitment goals. This is the first time this has happened since the war in Iraq in 2004.

Even the Army, which typically has the most difficulty with recruitment, has met its quota every year since 2006, even resorting to accepting a greater number of people who have medical and criminal histories, who scored low on entrance exams, and who failed to graduate from high school. That sure opened up the doors for a lot of struggling Black boys.

I am not completely downing the military. I understand that we need to have armed forces to protect our country and to carry out the other vital services they provide. I am not discouraging all people from joining; I simply believe that it should be a choice rather than an indirect push.

If these guys had said, “I want to join the military because I want to be part of something bigger than myself; I love my country and I would give my life to protect our freedoms,” then maybe I would feel better about it because in that instance the man is in control of his own life rather than being governed by outside forces.

But that’s not the response I received.

Melquan Williams, a sociology major at San Jose State University, said:
“It’s definitely backlash from this recession. It was already hard enough to get a job before it hit, but now we have become disposable to employers because there are so many people who need jobs that they can fire us at will. Now, saying the wrong thing on your Facebook page can be grounds for termination. The feeling of being a disposable man conflicts with the idea of a man being the provider for himself and for his family. Basically, it is about stability. At least in the military you are guaranteed a steady paycheck.”

Troy Avery Jr., who has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Xavier University of Louisiana, said:
“In this terrible economy there aren’t many jobs that are suitable for me to get a decent paycheck that I can live on. After talking to a recruiter I just see it as another job. When I apply to jobs I either have too little experience or my degree makes me overqualified. I want to go to graduate school but can’t afford to pay for it and I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. Enlisting will give me more opportunities.”

Allen Wilson, a psychology major at the University of New Orleans, said:
“My number one reason is financial stability. I like the idea of not having to worry about where my next check is going to come from. Additionally, I want to travel and this will give me the opportunity to see the world, even if that includes Iraq, and it’ll help me pay for my schooling. Also, the benefits are very good. The way I see it, you are either killing yourself working two or three jobs or you are living paycheck to paycheck, and that is no way to live. Yes, you are giving up your freedom, so I’m not saying it is the best tradeoff, I’m saying it has become a necessary tradeoff.”

Donald Piper, a pharmacy tech graduate student from the University of Iowa, said:
“I’ve always had issues with the government and armed forces, from the scandals and discrimination to the plenty of other things I know they aren’t telling us. Before I lost my job and things got desperate I never would have considered the military as a means of survival, but they do offer a lot of options from education to job positions.”

These are all very intelligent, educated men who seem to have been backed into a corner. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I wish that I could offer a better plan B. But I guess they figure you have to do what you have to do to pay the bills.

Get that smile off your face, Uncle Sam!