Fetishizing the Bayonet
Bayonets may have become a symbol of outdated military technology, as the president suggested in his debate-night jab, but they have a darker history.
The blog-it, tweet-it, talk-about-it moment of the final presidential debate of 2012 involved, of all things, bayonets.
Monday night in Boca Raton, Florida, when Republican challenger Mitt Romney complained that the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any time since 1917, President Obama quipped: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.”
While many have already mined humor from the exchange, recent scholarship suggests that bayonets-which have suddenly become a symbol of outmoded weaponry-played a darker role in 20th-century history than many people realize.