Thursday, December 02, 2004

Support Our Troops

Let us examine the imperative "Support Our Troops". First of all let us examine the medium of the discourse. Invariably it is never in one-on-one situations, i.e. person A to person B. If somebody said "Support Our Troops" to me, I would say "Wasn't I?" or "How?" and then that would be the end of the conversation, because all they could say back is "Support Our Troops!" perhaps with a little bit more added emphasis, which ends up being a tautology. Instead of interpersonal discourse, the usual means of communication of this message is via bumper stickers, weird magnetic ribbons (!), buttons etc., where it functions as a signifier of the person's views rather than an exhortation to modify behavior.

A likely interpretation of the person's views who has a signifier device with "Support Our Troops" is that in fact they are in favor of the war in Iraq - which is an entirely different situation. A person could be in favor of supporting our troops (the question of how I will get to in a minute) and not be in favor of the war in Iraq. A person conceivably could be against supporting our troops and in favor of the war in Iraq. (This person is demonstrably our President who has cut Veterans Administration funding, has cut hazard pay, has extended stays of duty etc. all these are facts in favor of the notion that he does not support our troops in many meaningful ways - beyond the fact that he sent them into a hellhole of his own making.) However, it seems inefficient to say one thing to mean another - but of course, that happens all the time - for instance, "Support State's Rights" historically has meant, "Deny Civil Rights". What happens when a message that results in the same end has a more benign apparent meaning, then it can be more easily adopted because it functions at a remove from the base issue. I believe that this is happening with "Support Our Troops" - it functionally means "I Want War in Iraq And You Should Too", but for some reason this may be in bad taste plastered on the back of your white with gold trim Escalade.

The other function that displaying "Support Our Troops" serves is as a tribal signifier. People have always perceived a desire to belong to a group. They also like to belong to a group when there is a perceived enemy. Is there an enemy in this case, an enemy that the "Support our Troops?" group wishes to oppose? Is it the Iraqi insurgents that the soldiers are now fighting? If so, and I'm no media or propaganda expert, but I think that popping a magnetic yellow ribbon sticker on your minivan isn't likely to convince your basic Iraqi insurgent. Especially if they read "Our" as in "My Fellow Iraqi Insurgents". And here is where the key word, in this situation lies - in the word "Our". Ostensibly it means "America's" as in "Support America's Troops" and it certainly could and should be read that way. But I think it has another meaning - a political meaning that can be interpreted as "These troops are representing those of us presently in Power who chose to fight this war. If you are against this war, you are against 'Our' troops - with 'Our' now meaning the armed representatives of the Neo-Conservative regime." Read this way, "Our" does not mean the collective whole of every citizen of the United States, but rather those who have seized power in the United States and those who agree with those in Power. And it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination that this semantical game can be meant as a subtle clue that in moving the message from the geographically distant "Support the War in Iraq" to the locally significant "Support Our Troops" the war is being brought home to those and against those who opposed the war. In other words, "Support Our Troops" or they will be used against you.

Now that I've taken a look at the subtle and not so subtle messages that are signified by "Support Our Troops", let's take a look at it literally. I am being told to "Support Our Troops". Well then, how will I "Support My Troops"? Off the top of my head I will try to list the kinds of support possible: Spiritual, Financial, Parental, Life Support, Fan Support and the "I'll take your whining and pathetic calls even if its three in the morning and I've got a big day tomorrow" Support.

Spiritual Support: By that I guess that this would be like praying. Disregarding the fact that I'm not religious and that my only God is Neil Young and he won't take my calls, most religions frown on intercessory praying of the type "Dear God, I want a pony for Christmas". That just gives God the leeway to do his inscrutable "work in mysterious ways" shtick and that is just too much of a loophole. Proper praying should be more of the "I hope it is in your divine plans that I receive a pony on Christmas. And by the way, you're the best" kind. And, really, what is the point of that? He's already got it in his divine head what he's going to do, I'm just a fly buzzing around taking up his precious time - and if there is a God, I don't want to be known as a stalker.

Financial Support: Here is where it really gets interesting in the paradoxes of conservative thinking and government. It takes a lot of money to wage a war. This money is not raised by bake sales. This money is raised by taxes by the government. Now conservatives hate taxes more than anything in the universe save perhaps Jane Fonda. I solemnly believe that if every conservative was presented with the choice of 1) Lower taxes by 10% OR 2) Forcing Jane Fonda to leave the country and live in the paddy villages of Vietnam then they would choose 2) in a heartbeat. But I digress. Given that Jane Fonda is not hut shopping in Hanoi, then we are faced with a conundrum. Conservatives hate taxes. Conservatives want war. War takes money. War means taxes. But conservatives hate taxes. (And then Landru's head explodes and then the planet is free! Yay, Captain Kirk, Yay!). So anyway. To support our troops financially, that means I should pay my taxes - but it is un-American to pay my taxes. Am I a better American by paying my taxes (and supporting our troops) or a better American by not paying my taxes (like those who support Bush's tax cuts?). Or should I just send money to a random soldier? If so, shouldn't the bumper sticker say "Support PFC Gardner by sending money to this PO Box..."? And how do I know that the Iraq War is not just a get-rich-quick scheme for Private Gardner (or Private Halliburton or Private Bechtel or Private ChevronTexaco?)

Parental Support: I don't have any kids in the Iraq War. And my cats aren't going either. And I'm not adopting any soldiers either. So in this respect, I will not give support (parental) to the troops. Call me un-American. However, I could be talked into accompanying them to R-Rated movies if there are any under 18 troops who need adult supervision. Except they have to buy the popcorn. As General Sherman said, "War isn't a bag of popcorn".

Life Support: I heartily encourage any troop on Life Support to stay on Life Support. Unless they have a "Right to Die" living will. Then I support their getting off Life Support.

Fan Support: As in "I support the Knicks". Actually, I always go for the underdog in everything so they are asking me to betray my principles. But in this case, if the battle in Fallujah was at SafeCo Field, I would wave my "US Army" pennant at the appropriate times, do the Wave during lulls in the action and hope I'm not getting beer when something exciting happens. But I don't see going on any road trips to support the Army team - I think Iraqi insurgents are a bit tougher than English soccer hooligans. So, I will "Support Our Troops" at home games but not on the road.

The "I'll take your whining and pathetic calls even if it's three in the morning and I've got a big day tomorrow because you were my college roommate for one goddamn semester" Support. I pledge to "Support Any Troops Pathetically Whining Even If It's 3AM And I've Got A Big Day Tomorrow Because They Were My College Roommate For One Goddamn Semester". Because, ya know, when you get down to it, weren't we all at one time the pathetically, whining college roommate for one semester who calls people up at 3AM and ask for their support? You know what I'm sayin', it's the least I can do.

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