There has been an insane susceptibility to the military propaganda of “supporting the troops” in the past 10 years. A good deal has to do with the Bush drums of war, some has to do with repetitious political rhetoric, and plenty comes from patriotism/near-nationalism. (Not that this whole idea doesn’t pre-date Dubya.) I’ve never been a fan of it. It isn’t that I hate the troops or anything. It’s that I don’t, nor could I, love them all. And why should I? “They’re defending the country!”, supporters may say. To that I ask, really? Offer me enough money and economic incentives and I might do the same thing. But that isn’t really some virtuous defense of one’s country, is it? It’s more like defense of one’s bank account.
Another issue I have with all this is that these people, whether there for their own gain (many) or there for some misplaced sense of virtue (also many), are there by choice. Of course, plenty of minorities go into the military in disproportionate numbers because it’s more reasonable than working for minimum wage and more feasible than other ways of getting money for college, so it wouldn’t be unfair to say they are hardly there by choice, but that aside, there is no draft. We are not North Korea where the alternative might be starvation. Why should I support someone who is choosing to do something simply because there are people in their field who find themselves in harm’s way?
Speaking of those in harm’s way, I do find myself sympathetic to their situation. The people who actually have to walk the streets of dangerous cities or who have to invade enemy compounds are in impressive danger. It’s impossible to not respect that, even if they knew what they were signing up for. So I do support a good number of our troops. I just don’t think every single person in the military is doing something amazing and dangerous, all in the pursuit and maintenance of freedom.
And that’s my real problem with all these ugly yellow ribbons and magnets. They’re offering up blanket support for a bunch of strangers who necessarily have various reasons for doing what they’re doing. Some of those reasons are going to be in conflict with each other. How can someone reasonably say they support that? That’s like saying I support William Lane Craig and Bertrand Russell because I also support philosophy. It’s logically incoherent and borders on blind patriotism, which itself borders on simple nationalism.
All that said, I do support this guy: