Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A post so long it has to wear shades

Did John Kerry blow it for the Democrats in the final stretch? Some people think he did. Certainly George Bush and Dick Cheney hope so, judging by their last-ditch effort to milk a bonehead statement from a guy they BEAT who isn't even RUNNING. I think nothing reeks of desperation so much as these last-minute tactics by Bush et al. The New York Times is quoting our Glorious Beloved Leader as saying that "a Democratic triumph in the races for the House and Senate would amount to a victory for terrorists." Seriously, it amazes me people tolerate this man. And not to change the subject, but it's never really been made clear to me the various ways in which the Republicans are so much stronger on the war on terror, beyond perhaps the Patriot Act. Is there any evidence that the Patriot Act is actually effective in the war on terror? The President claims torture is also an effective tool, but last time I talked to Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, torture is what got us into the Iraq mess in the first place.

I'm also, honestly, getting really quite tired of people saying that criticizing the war is the same as criticizing our troops. I think it takes a unique paradigm to equate pointing out that George Bush and Donny R don't know fuck-all about running a war with wanting little Timmy to die face-down in the muck. That's an extraordinary leap in logic by my estimate.

What does it even mean to "Support Our Troops" anymore? Is there anybody out there who doesn't support our troops? It's like people who talk about how they support an AIDS cure. Is there anybody who disagrees with you? Is there anybody left out there who is still saying, "I think AIDS is a good thing" ? It doesn't mean anything to support our troops anymore, because everybody does.

So I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna take one for the team. I'm gonna be the guy who takes the unequivocal position of not supporting our troops. Why, you ask? Well, it's not because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and it's not because of the scattered reports that some of our troops like to rape terrified defenseless women. It's not because I think our grunts' gung-ho attitude, especially during the initial invasion, is part of the overall problem. It's not even because I think the strict disciplinary nature of the military stunts people's intellectual develop (a perception supported by post-military people I've met in law school, who have good work ethics but don't seem to possess particularly creative minds).

No, the reason I'm not gonna support our troops is because we put them on a pedestal, and the contrarian in me finds it tiresome. I ahve to hear about how our troops are so patriotic and self-sacrificing. Even that America-hating Michael Moore says at the end of Fahrenehit 9/11: "They fight so we don't have to." No, that's wrong. That might be the EFFECT of why they fight, but it's not WHY they fight. It's not like these kids had the options of a recording deal with Jive Records or a scholarship to Harvard but chose to ship off to Iraq instead because, goddamit, they just love their country too much. This wasn't their career of choice. They're not all Pat Tillman. In fact, most of them aren't. Many of these kids didn't have any other options. They were forced into this by circumstance. We should admit it.

In The West Wing Leo says that kids go into the military "for advancement." Certainly that's the angle many of the Navy commercials try to plug. Training for life, etc. But I actually think Charlie came up with the real reason:

Gangs give you a sense of belonging, and usually, an income. But mostly, they
give you a sense of dignity. Men are men, and men'll seek pride. Everybody here's got
a badge to wear. "I'm the Deputy Communications Director." "I made Presidential Classroom." "I know the answer, I'm going to Cornell." You think bangers are walking around with their heads down, saying, "Oh man, I didn't make anything out of my life. I'm in a gang." No, man! They're walking around saying, "Man, I'm in a gang. I'm with them."

That's why people go into the military. The quest for pride and dignity. We all have these badges we pursue, ultimately meaningless but which we utilize as a misguided barometer of our own self-worth. And there are only so many "law student" badges to go around. Service in the military helps make people feel like somebody, like they're part of something great.

At any rate, I'm not sure at what point we decided that observing something has faults - or even suggesting it has them - means you don't support it. My father wanted me to get better grades in high school, but I don't think that meant he didn't love me. The whole conservative stance on patriotism drives me up the wall, frankly. The stance that Americans who criticize our country don't love it. What is this? The only way to love something is to wilfully ignore its shortcomings? That's not love. TRUE love is noting the faults and accepting them, not fixating on a one-dimensional caricature, a pale shadow of the real thing.

I was watching that "In God We Still Trust" video on YouTube, cause it's such a kick-ass song, and one of the YouTube comments said that those people who thought the video and its sentiment were stupid should "Love my country or leave it." Actually, what he said in full was, " Maybe you need to research why people came to America in the first place. The Nation was founded on Christian beliefs. Love my country or leave it," which is really pretty stupid, for several reasons, such as...

1. People didn't "come" to America. They were already here. We know them affectionately as "Indians." Perhaps you've met?

2. I'm not sure what looking for a trade route to the Indies "in the first place" has to do with Christian beliefs.

3. Then there's the whole ideology-of-the-Founders debate, which I find less interesting than just pointing out people's ethno-centric bias...which is the Oxford Debating Society's way of calling them a racist.

Anyway, yeah, why is it that thinking my country has faults means I can't love it? And what the hell makes it YOUR country anyway? I was born in the fucking capital, so you can kiss my ass. I also think it's a great testament to that incorrugible American spirit that conservatives suggest those who find fault with America should leave it. That's a great life philosophy: when you encounter a problem in life, don't try to fix it, just run away from it. I think that's called "cut-and-run."

But I've totally gotten off-point here. Basically, I hate our troops. What did they ever do for me, anyway?

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