Lysistrata redux?As I've written before. the phrase 'Support our troops' is a ruse. It's a smokescreen. It's passed off as a non-partisan way of supporting the men and women in uniform. In reality, it's proven to be an ideological bludgeon to silence opponents of the president and his policies.
When the phrase originally started coming into popular use, I was a bit uncomfortable with it, because cutesy little 'patriotic' phrases just get my antennae up. But I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Some opponents of the Iraq aggression argued that if they adopted the phrase ('Support the troops, not the war'), they could prevent it from being used as demagoguery. They were mistaken.
Many people DO use the phrase 'Support our troops' in a neutral, non-partisan way. My mom, for example, has such a bumper sticker on her car; I know she opposes both the president and the Iraq occupation. But individuals like my mom are clearly swimming against the current.
As I wrote earlier, 'Support our troops' rallies started happening only AFTER anti-war rallies. If they were in response to anti-war rallies, then how can you NOT see the two as at odds?
Many Americans have denounced ANY criticism of the president and the occupation as 'demoralizing the troops.' They contend that by saying the Iraq aggression was a bad idea, you're suggesting that the soldiers' sacrifices were wasted, were in vain. Thus by arguing that the troops should be removed from harm's way, in an Orwellian twist of logic, you become 'anti-troop.'
If you wonder what the government is doing to help the soldiers who suffer from psychological and physical trauma from their war experiences, you are accused of exploiting the troops.
The War Department is fighting the release of more photos from Abu Ghraib because it might harm troop morale and help the insurgents. Those who want such apparent US war criminals punished, so as to preserve the reputation of the majority of soldiers who are decent men and women, because troop-haters. The demagogues seem to be suggesting that the troops are too stupid and unsophisticated to realize that in a democracy, not everyone is going to agree with the Leader or the Leader's policies.
'Support our troops' thus has clearly and unambiguously become, 'Shut up and support our troops.'
Most of you have probably heard about a woman named Cindy Sheehan. She lost her son Casey in Iraq. She is protesting outside the president's ranch in Crawford, TX, where he's been vacationing for a while. She said she will stay there until the president agrees to meet with her. The president's advisors say this won't happen because he already met with Sheehan last year; she points out that this was before it was revealed that faulty intellgience was the basis for the aggression.
The point of this essay is not to comment on Sheehan's protest. I'm not going to slam Sheehan for protesting either; if my kid were killed in the unprovoked, unnecessary, counterproductive aggression, I'd be pissed off too and want to find an outlet for that anger.
But I'm not going to slam the president for not having multiple meetings with the families of the almost 2000 troops killed in Iraq; the time would be better spent figuring out how to wind this mess down. Besides, it's not his refusal to meet again with Sheehan that makes him 'insensitive.' It's his repeated and casual disregard for human life (unless it's embryonic, fetal or in a vegetative state) that makes him insensitive.
Though it is a bit farcical to read this piece which commented: The president has so far refused to meet Mrs Sheehan, although he says he has given her plea for troop withdrawal serious consideration.
As though anyone actually believes he considered it, even vaguely.
It must be tough for Sheehan considering that her modest protest was disturbed by a lunatic neighbor firing a gun in the air in her direction. The lunatic said he was preparing for 'dove-hunting season'... though he refused to specify if he meant doves with wings or doves with protest signs.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, to see if this is the start of a modern Lysistrata. It's easy for the patriotically correct to demonize the twenty-somethings as hotheads and long-haired types as warmed over 60s hippies. But when you start pissing off the ordinary, suburban soccer moms, they're a lot harder to slander as America-hating radicals.
But what's interesting is this. In her blog, Sheehan reports on a counterdemonstration. Sheehan and her group put crosses in the ground to represent the Iraq war dead.
[A] busload of counter demonstrators visited the camp and laid flags in front of the crosses. The [Sheehan] camp sang America the Beautiful as the counter demonstrators chanted "we don't care."
Why did the counterprotesters cover the crosses with flags? Were they ashamed of how many there were? Were they aware of the symbolism of using the flag to shroud dissent?
And why were they chanting 'we don't care'? This is a mom who unwillingly sacrificed her son for an unnecessary aggression that the counterprotesters clearly approved of. Is she really the person to whom they should be saying, 'we don't care about your sacrifice'?
This just shows the hollowness of 'support our troops.' Whatever the intent by some well-meaning individuals, it's clearly one of the most important instrument used by demagogues to shut up political opponents. Sheehan quite clearly supports the troops, because her killed son was among them. But since she was a vocal opponent of the president and the Iraq invasion, then suddenly the 'support our troops' brigade boasts of the fact that they 'don't care' about her son's death or her objections. I suppose it's too much to wonder how many of the demagogues served in Iraq.
'Support our troops' is non-partisan? It couldn't be any more partisan.