Monday, January 10, 2005

THE MAGNET IS THE MESSAGE

The magnetic “Support our troops” ribbons on so many cars edge toward ridiculous from tedious as U.S. involvement in Iraq continues to bog down.

It’s always been tedious because it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t support the troops — hapless kids, many of them, trying to rise above lower-class origins by risking their lives following the orders of rich, safe people arguably responsible for their lower-class origins. Urging people via magnet to “Support our troops” has about as much point as urging them to “Appreciate democracy.” And it’s about as helpful as suggesting via bumper sticker that they “Visualize world peace.” For most, these are passive activities that end with the purchase of a magnet or bumper sticker.

The increasingly ridiculous aspect is that the ribbons are magnetic.

With our military “routinely talking about a major U.S. presence in Iraq that will last, at a minimum, into the next decade,” as Bob Herbert noted in The New York Times today, it would make more sense for anyone with such a ribbon to really commit. Those driving around with “Support our troops” on their cars shouldn’t be dilettantes. Either support the troops and get the message affixed permanently or just don’t bother.

The temporary nature of the ribbon is suspect because it suggests that the buyer’s support wavers: I supported the troops yesterday because things were going well; I don’t today because I’m in a bad mood; I supported the troops last weekend because the weather was good; I don’t now because I’m going to a wedding and need to show off the car.

Even more ridiculous is that after the U.S. military leaves Iraq — which some experts believe could come quite soon — its forces will still be somewhere, on some mission or another, probably at risk of death or maiming, loneliness and depression. Why would support for the troops ever wane? When would the need for the message ever end?

The worst thing is that pretty soon the ubiquitous ribbons will begin disappearing, fading as do all fads, just as American flags bought after 9/11 soon became dirty, unreplaced tatters. Supporting the troops shouldn’t be a fad. It shouldn’t be a magnet.

“Support President Bush,” on the other hand, would be a good idea for something that can be easily removed.

7 comments:

Indri said...

Yow! Marc nails it again!

Although there's an underlying piece that I think is important--namely, that those kids don't come home (those that are coming home) to the kind of reception our Vietnam vets got. But we can let them know we're thinking of them by saving the magnet money and buying things like instant coffee, magazines, phone cards, flak jackets--you know, all the comforts of home--and sending them to our troops through something like anysoldier dot com.

Scape7 said...

Thanks, Indri. You just reminded me of a joke I shared years ago that grew out of a conversation with ... someone. It started with the implausibility of finding someone who didn't support the troops and wound up with the idea that instead of supporting the troops, plural, you could support a troop, singular. That you could select a soldier, as though you were adopting, and perhaps there could be a Web site with which you could shop around. It's an idea whose time has come, I think.

Indri said...

That's actually exactly what this is. You can choose the unit your soldier's in, you can choose what gender soldier you get. If they're looking for something specific, like the medical unit with the vegan, you can even pretty much choose your soldier.

I'm thinking of shipping my little box of hot chocolate, Tasty Bites, and tampons to someone in a medical unit, as it happens. I'm a little easier with that than an artillery group.

Scape7 said...

I guess it wasn't a very funny joke, then.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of this Support the troops’ Bullshit, It’s nothing but the Bush’s macho foreign policy agenda.
I haven’t seen a “Support the Truth” “Support the Peace” Sticker around.

So fuck the troops and whoever would kill for these crazy republicans.

This so “politically correct” nation is dragging a lot of resources into costly wars (to keep it’s oil supply) while hunger strike all around our planet. …in the news today: what Laura Bush and the Twins will be wearing for the next celebration.


"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."
-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Scape7 said...

I understand your position, Anonymous, but I try to keep in mind the possible origins of military experience in the same way I think of other distasteful things — including even crime, although the metaphor may be offensive to some. It's grand liberal behavior to look at something reprehensible and try to tackle root causes instead of hacking away fruitlessly at the weeds that result. Islamists attack for a reason; criminals hurt others for a reason; people join the military for a reason.

For the older, root causes matter less, because people almost always have a choice about such behavior. But the younger the person committing an act, the less an action stands on its own. The military is filled with very young people, and I suspect many of them did not join because they wanted to go somewhere and kill people. Even those that did, it can be argued, simply need to learn why that can be a mistake. They're probably beginning to learn it now ... in the most horrific way.

eric said...

I still have my shirt I bought 25 years ago...

"Join the army...
Travel
Meet interesting people

...And kill them."

Bought it at a flea market swap-and-shop for $2.50.