Yesterday was Veteran’s Day and, just like always, I was inundated with “support the troops” pictures, posts and other such nonsense. Yes, I said “nonsense”. It’s nonsense because the phrase “support the troops” doesn’t mean a damn thing. As Noam Chomsky said
“…the point of public relations slogans like “Support Our Troops” is that they don’t mean anything […] that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”
Of course, none of us really wants to hear that. And I’m sure more than one person will discount everything I say here because I’m quoting Chomsky, a man many on the right consider a communist and even a traitor to the United States. That’s bullshit, of course. People have a remarkable ability to minimize someone with temerity to point out uncomfortable truths. And, Chomsky is a master at that. But, no matter how you try to marginalize the man, his message rings clear.
I wish the same could be said of the “support the troops” meme. That tired, old cliché rings hollow, if at all, because spewing it is about all we do to support the troops. I mean, seriously, if we actually supported the men and women who serve in our military, would we continue to elect politicians who have no problem sending these fine folks off to sacrifice life and limb in foreign adventures calculated to enrich a select few?((Don’t get haughty, Democrats. All too many of you have, at best, acquiesced (and, at worst, endorsed) these adventures)) And, after they return from rendering the service we claim to be so thankful for and supportive of, would we sit idly by while those craven politicians use their benefits as a political football, allow the Veteran’s Administration to become the place where hope goes to die and ignore skyrocketing suicide rates, all the while plotting the next adventure that will squander the lives of these dedicated military professionals? I think not.
If we truly supported the troops, we’d acknowledge the fact that the bulk of our armed forces are poor/working class kids with limited options and do everything in our power to give these young people a chance to improve their lot in life without giving up so much. We’d make affordable education a priority, along with decent jobs and living wages, instead of keeping them poor to ensure a ready supply of cannon fodder.
Finally, if we truly supported the troops, sending them off to war would be our last-ditch effort in dealing with our world’s trouble spots. We, the people, would rise up if the government tried to use our sons and daughters as hired muscle for “Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers“. The linked quote comes from Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, who also said “There are only two reasons why you should ever be asked to give your youngsters. One is defense of our homes. The other is the defense of our Bill of Rights and particularly the right to worship God as we see fit. Every other reason advanced for the murder of young men is a racket, pure and simple.” Name one time in the history of this country when either of those two items were the criteria for one of our wars. You can’t, because we haven’t.
Make no mistake as you read this, I am not a pacifist. I want to be, I yearn to be a pacifist. As a follower of Christ, I believe I am called to be a pacifist. At the same time, I am realistic enough to realize the world we live in requires that “rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm” so that we can sleep peacefully. Until we finally eliminate the need for those “rough men” (and women) to stand ready, we should try actually supporting them for a change instead of mouthing meaningless platitudes. At the very least, we could stop actively shitting on them. I think they might appreciate that.