Everywhere I go, I see signs telling me to "support the troops". Yellow ribbons on every car, handpainted signs on every overpass- I wonder sometimes if the Captain and Tenille ever wish they hadn't written that song.
Don't get me wrong- the ribbons and bumper stickers are all nice and well. But, honestly, I have yet to meet someone who is actually opposed to the troops. And I work in academia. What point are you making when you say that you support the troops? Am I supposed to be impressed for some reason? You support those people who protect you in their job of protecting you, and I'm supposed to care? It's like saying "I support doctors!"
Whenever I ask people about that, they tell me, "Yeah, well during Vietnam, people spit on the troops and called them baby killers!" And, you know, that was terrible of them to do, but what can you expect from an era that invented bell bottoms? Please, please, please. Enough with the sixties! Are all middle-aged Americans so fixated on their childhoods?
I think what bothers me about those stickers is that they allow people to hide behind the troops. They get to pretend that everyone who is unhappy with the war is secretly opposed to the troops instead. They can displace the argument onto those troops, who already have to take up the fight over there, and make them take up their own fight here. Don't disagree with me about this war, or you're not supporting the troops! Shut-up and support the troops! You wouldn't want to seem like you don't support the troops, would you? There's something really bullying about that imperative phrase.
And, yes, I do support the troops, because they sacrifice their lives to protect mine. And they work the shittiest job on earth without a gripe. And most of them are kids like the ones I teach, with the same hopes and dreams and surprising capacity for kindness.
But, do I have to support every single troop? I mean, do I have to support these particular troops?