I was in the grocery store parking lot yesterday and saw this sticker attached to the back of your minivan:
If You Don’t Stand Behind Our Troops… Feel Free To Stand In Front of Them.
I’ve seen this bumper sticker before, and not just on your vehicle. But I have to say: it offends the shit out of me, because behind your rah-rah-rah jingoism what you’re really saying is: If You Don’t Agree With My Uncritical Ultra-Militaristic Hard-On I Will Advocate Your Government-Sanctioned Murder By Firing Squad.
First of all: Fuck you. I ought to be allowed to think for myself and make my own decisions without being threatened with death for doing so. I’ve heard that’s a little thing called “freedom”; you might want to look it up.
Second of all: Have you considered that maybe the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces might not appreciate the suggestion that they should be used as death squads? I’ve never served in the Armed Forces myself (and I’m guessing neither have you, since I didn’t see a “veteran” license plate on that minivan) but I know a couple of serving members of the military and more than a few veterans, and none of them have ever indicated to me that the reason they chose a career in the military was to slaughter innocent civilians whose only offence was holding a differing political opinion. Quite the opposite, in fact: by and large they seem to be calm, hardworking professionals who get kind of upset about that sort of shit.
Third, and this is one of my major pet peeves: How exactly are you standing behind the troops, sir? I see a lot of bumper stickers in this country about supporting the troops, and yet I check the news and see a lot of bullshit like this. Have you ever gone to a demonstration? Have you participated in a support group for veterans suffering from PTSD? Have you written to your MP asking for government funding for injured and disabled veterans? Have you so much as bought a damn beer for an active serviceman?
Because I have.
Despite the fact that you’ve probably pegged me as the sort of hippy-commie queer who should be first up against that wall, I’ve done all of those things at one time or another. Sure, I might lean so far to the left that I keep knocking cutlery off the table, but I still support our troops: I support the hell out of them. And the biggest thing I support is their right not to have their lives uselessly squandered by callous and uncaring politicians who couldn’t give two shakes of a drippy dick about properly equipping soldiers in the field, or about paying men and women in the Armed Forces a living wage, or even about providing veterans the post-deployment support they so desperately need… but who are more than happy to wave the flag when it’s politically convenient.
Because that’s is what your asinine little bumper sticker is really saying: It says that you find it convenient to make a cheap political statement on the backs of the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces… without ever once considering them as people. And that tells me that you’re just as bad as the politicians who do the same thing. It says toe the line, and don’t talk back. It says that you don’t understand a goddamn thing about how democracy works. It says you have no understanding as to why soldiers do what they do, or even how to show you appreciate it… if you really appreciate it at all.
That’s right, sir: With that bumper sticker it seems to me that you’re insulting the very troops you’re claiming to stand behind. Maybe you should have stuck with a yellow ribbon… or with that poppy you’re still wearing on your lapel in May.
But hey, maybe I’m the asshole for pointing it out.
Update 7 May
So I cross-posted this yesterday, and triggered an enormous number of comments on my Facebook page. As the day progressed, it became clear that large number of those comments were written by people who either hadn’t bothered to read my blog post, or hadn’t gotten the point.
So let me spell it out: This sticker is not, under any reasonable interpretation, a statement of support (unconditional or otherwise) for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. If it was, it would say something like “If You Don’t Stand Behind Our Troops You Should Try Standing Beside Them.” In front of the troops is traditionally where the bullets go. This is, as I’ve pointed out above, pretty obviously the sentiment that you can toe the line or get shot.
Several people pointed out that maybe it isn’t advocating shooting people with differing opinions, but instead using those people as human shields (with the implication that holding those opinions makes you unfit for any other role.) I have to confess that interpretation didn’t occur to me… but now that it’s been pointed out, I’d like to say that it’s just as problematic, but in a different way.
Unfortunately I was forced to erase several comments. I was accused by a now ex-Facebook friend of being “un-Canadian” and a coward because I was daring to comment on this bumper sticker even though I’d never served in uniform in my life.
Which actually brings be to the point I was trying to make, and clearly didn’t get across well enough: The blind fetishization of the military isn’t patriotism. It is, in fact, the opposite of patriotism. It’s allowing your self-determination and free will to be co-opted; allowing social pressure to silence dissent; it’s the odious and undemocratic statement “My Country Right or Wrong.”
Here in Canada the military has been put on a pedestal, particularly by the current government, which has deliberately, and I would argue callously, equated criticism of the government with disloyalty to the troops. The intention of my post was to be critical, not of the troops, but of the callous and cyncial manipulation of public sentiment by a government, which takes advantage of the kind of mindless aggression and uncritical hero-worship by this sort of so-called patriot, to implement policies which are actively harmful to the very soldiers they claim to support.