Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Individualism and Imagination: Part II

Written by  September 14, 2003

Veteran vs. Biker? Maybe not.

How does this story tie in to this veteran’s page? My childhood story reflects my early development and display of individualism and imagination; two character traits that would take me down a life-long path of bikes and a military career.

Over time, I’ve observed that many individuals with a military background share numerous traits as those who ride motorcycles. Traits such as individualism, imagination, a strong sense of adventure, risk takers, the need for speed, like being different, not afraid of being alone, seek out tight friendships, and will back a buddy in a tight situation; did I leave out enjoys drinking beer? These similarities began to show up in the early motorcycle riders, during the late 1940s and early 1950s. During this period, many motorcycle clubs began to appear throughout America, initially made up of many returning World War II GIs. A large number of returning war veterans felt out of sync with the average citizen. They discovered that good jobs were scarce, everyday life held no excitement, and no support structure was available as they attempted the transition from soldier to citizen.

Therefore, many GIs turned to something they greatly admired while in the war. This 'something' brought excitement back into their lives, created a common bond, and reinforced their rebel feelings. What was this something? The Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This powerful motorcycle was readily available as cheap military surplus, which most returning GIs could easily afford. This combination of society outcasts and dangerous machines, created the perfect setting for many ex-military citizen-rebels to be re-born as bikers.

So, maybe it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to understand why bikers and military veterans share much of the same characteristic traits; particularly individualism and imagination. A strong sense of individualism is shared by both groups, as each seem to struggle to prove their own mettle. They both share deeply rooted personal beliefs, though they tend to gravitate to a group that shares the same ideology. This kind of bond ties the group together, supporting the organization’s unity and identity, much like any military or biker group. Their shared imagination comes together in many forms: personalizing their military vehicles or motorcycles, seeing it as a norm to repair their machines along the roadside during a breakdown, trying to magically outguess Mother Nature, and not thinking twice about riding in constant danger, whether in combat or on the public roadways. The bottom line is that both groups leave the norm of what many refer to as mainstream society. Neither forces others to follow, but they won't let others keep them from defining and maintaining their chosen lifestyle and path.

Continue with Part III below.


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