Thursday, January 26, 2006

So I finally got around to reading the editorial by Joel Stein where he starts out with the ultimate in flame bait, "I don't support the troops."

I disagree with some of what Stein said - the implication that all pacifists are cowards and all who disagree with this war are pacifists, for starters. Most importantly, it's completely false to say it's impossible to oppose the war but support the troops - groups like Veterans for Peace, for example, would disagree. I don't see any harm in parades either - it may not be a G.I.'s top priority, but it would still be appreciated. For that matter, Stein refers to Vietnam veterans getting spit on, which seems to be at best metaphor or exagerration, if not pure urban legend.

But to me, his main point seems simple and indisputable.

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices... We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

I don't support the troops. There's no draft, there are no increased taxes, there's no wartime rationing and I'm not taking part in something less formal, my employer has nothing to do with the military, I don't know anyone who's currently overseas and when a friend of mine does go overseas, to be brutally honest, chances are I won't do anything except write to him now and then, and my political activism, limited to begin with, doesn't target programs for soldiers or veterans any more than any other group.

If "support" just means "hopes they're all right" or "wishes them well, if it's convenient" or "quietly agrees with policies that would help lots of people, including them", then it means nothing at all. What's that competing parody bumper sticker, "I support meaningless jingoistic slogans?" It's sad but true.

I don't support the troops, but I'm aware of it and honest about it. I find it hard to believe that most of the people with the yellow ribbon magnets on their cars can say the same. In that sense, I agree with Joel Stein completely.

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