Monday, April 7, 2014

Should soldiers play by different rules?

That's the only conclusion I can reach after seeing this story pop up about Motel 6 turning away a 20-year-old soldier because he didn't meet the age minimum to book a room.

Here's the angry message that resonated with people enough for them to share it online:

Dear Motel 6. Just wanted applaud your patriotism. My son, who is an active duty soldier in the Army had to fly out today from Atlanta to Anchorage Alaska to report in to his new duty station. He drove down to Atlanta yesterday from Fredericksburg a day early so he wouldn't miss his flight. Of course he needed a place to stay and chose Motel 6 because of your low rates. He thought he was set because he made a reservation in advance. Low and behold he was turned away at midnight when he arrived because he is only 20 years old. Even after showing his military ID he was sent packing. Only place he could find at that late hour was hotel that charged the young Private $150. Way to go Motel 6. He is old enough to defend your freedom but not old enough to rent one of your stellar rooms. Leave this on your time line. I dare you. Motel 6

I added the bold text to highlight the parts that assumed that military members should be exempt from age rules because of the sacrifices and dangers associated with their jobs. It's not saying that military members are more responsible or stable than other people their age (which I find plausible), but that the rules shouldn't apply to them.

Snopes reported that some Motel 6 locations do indeed have policies requiring a minimum age of 21 to book a room, which means the company was simply being consistent when they turned the young soldier away

Since then, the company has issued this statement:

We have spoken directly with this guest and we are reimbursing him for both the cost of the Motel 6 room and the costs incurred while staying at the other hotel. Furthermore, we have re-communicated to all Motel 6 properties our check-in policy; we welcome military personnel of all ages.

So in the end Motel 6 will treat soldiers differently than everyone else. They didn't lower the registration age for everyone, just members of the military.

Will other age restrictions be waived for military members in the future? I agree with the argument that it's nonsensical to let an 18 year old fight in a war, but not drink a beer with his friends when he's being deployed, but what do we do about it? Should military members have their own drinking age?

What about other age restrictions, like the 25-minimum to run for congress? Doesn't that "old enough to fight in a war" line apply here too? What about the minimum age companies require to rent a car, will there be a future campaign against the car company that wouldn't rent to a young Marine?

Why not just lower every age restriction to 18, for everyone?

That's what we did with the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 for everyone. The idea was that 18 year old were fighting in wars, with many of them forced into it through male-only conscription, but couldn't vote for the representatives who decide when the country goes to war. The country lowered the voting age for everyone in response, not just military members or the young men who were at risk of being drafted.

I'm reminded of the social structure in Starship Troopers, where people are born as civilians and have to earn the right for full citizenship, often through enlisting in the military. Only citizens can vote and raise children. It's not something to aspire to.

We already have an abundance of programs that are only open to current and former military members, including health care for life, special job training and employment assistance, loans for buying a home and tons of other benefits added piecemeal over the years. Some of their benefits are clearly compensation for enlisting and serving, such as money towards college, and medical services to help them recover from physical and mental trauma they experienced in war are a no-brainer, but many others are programs added after their service was completed.

Giving veterans special rights and services is politically popular. It starts with the notion that those who died  or risked their lives can never be fully repaid for their sacrifices. That is true in terms of gratitude, but that doesn't stop politicians and voters from trying to repay them with taxpayer money through an endless march of military-exclusive programs to pay an open-ended debt.

Non-veterans are on their way to becoming second-class citizens, and America is headed towards becoming an on-the-books caste system. It's not there yet, and there's nothing to scream and shout about yet. I don't think civilians will lose any rights but I still don't like where this is headed.


  1. Why not get rid of age limits...for everything?
    To other readers, this may sound sarcastic. But, I'm very serious.
    With the exception of sex laws (though those are a little too restrictive, as well, why do we need government-enforced age limits for freaking everything?
    I realize the blog entry is regarding a private age limit. But the post evolves to age limits of all kinds.

  2. You don't have to be 25 to be a representative, it's not like anyone checks birth certificates or anything. Well except racists, obviously.

  3. Young hip and conservative, Young hip (?) and conservative. Soldiers are required to travel in the SERVICE of their country. Motel 6 was wrong, admitted they were wrong and cheerfully refunded all the young soldiers expenses. Bravo Motel 6. If you spent the time you have spent throwing your opinion into the wind serving and sacrificing your personal life for your country, and putting your ass on the line for the rest of us, you would be happy to give our brave soldiers every benefit they get and then some.