Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hey Mr. W Sticker!

This is a little blast from those glorious days of 2004.

Hey, guy with the W sticker on your truck. Yes, I’m talking to you. I notice you look like you might be between the ages of 18 and 42. I can also tell by the way you carry yourself, or by your facial hair, that you are not in the military right now.

Follow me to the nearest US Armed Forces Recruiting Center. I’ll make sure you’re introduced to a recruiter from a branch of your choice. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, they are all fine institutions with proud and glorious histories. I’m sure you support them as you have that inevitable yellow ribbon magnet you bought at Wal-Mart alongside your “W” sticker. And there’s no better way to support our troops than to take a place alongside them in Iraq or Afghanistan. A lot of these folks have spent very little time with their families over the last three years and would love for you to take a spell in their Humm-v or bunker so they can go home for a while.

What? You don’t want to join the military? I don’t understand! Since you left that sticker on your car, you must be proud of your choice for president in 2004, and you must fully support his policy of fighting a global “war” on terrorism with an all-volunteer military, right? And you know that the military can only meet its recruiting goals now by lowering its quotas, which means the military is experiencing a severe manpower shortage right now. Do you support our troops or not?

You have a bad knee, huh? Oh, and a bad back, too? Well, I don’t see a handicap placard hanging from your mirror, and it looks like you get yourself around pretty good. There are plenty of soldiers in right now with very severe injuries and handicaps. Some are even mission limbs. Just lie on your entry physical. That’s what recruiters are telling folks to do, anyway. As long as you can walk in a straight line and run for more than two miles, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Oh, you have kids, huh? So do most of the people in the military right now! Are you more important than they are? Is your fatherhood somehow more valuable than the hundreds of thousands of fathers (and mothers) serving right now? Most of the moms and dads fighting your war for you would rather be here in the Target parking lot arguing with me, I’m sure.

You say you are really needed in your job? About 60% of the people fighting your war for you are reservists. They were taken from their jobs and from college so they could supposedly make YOU safer. Ironically, many local fire and police departments are understaffed because of troop deployments, which I think would hamper local communities efforts dealing with natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Federal law will ensure you are re-hired when you get back, with the same wages and benefits.

It just sounds to me like you don’t want to go fight in this Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Does that mean it’s not important to you? I mean, if you don’t go to fight this war, who is supposed to fight and risk their life in your place? Me? I’ll go, but I think everybody who thought this was a good idea and supported the war and the president should go first. Then there should be a draft, and if I’m selected, I’ll go. But you first, please.

Our soldiers in Vietnam felt abandoned by the American people because they were fighting an unpopular war. And if you’re a soldier in the field, it doesn’t matter if people back home are ideologically opposed to the war or just apathetic about the whole thing. Out of the millions of military-aged men and women who both voted for George W. Bush, and by extension, this endless War on Terror, only a tiny, tiny percentage of them joined the military to participate in their war. What kind of message does this send to our troops? If you ask me, it’s a worse one than one of active opposition. At least the antiwar movement has an opinion.

Here’s the message I see from chickenhawks like you: only a sucker actually fights in a war. Ha, ha! Or how about this: I’m much more important and indispensable than the idiots who actually were dumb enough to go fight this war. Here’s another one: you guys go fight this war...I’ll be right behind you, as soon as it’s over.

Obviously, I’m against the war. I was firmly against it before it started. I thought it was just about the worst possible avenue for our foreign policy, and I grieve for a generation of servicemembers who will come home damaged, spiritually, psychologically and physically. War is an ugly thing. It’s personal and viscous. It destroys on many levels. To ask someone to fight in a war you are unwilling to fight in yourself is cowardly and wrong. It’s like asking someone to care for your sick relative, or to clean up your vomit. To have to inform people of this fact reveals a level of ethical bankruptcy I didn’t even think existed. It’s like asking a friend to donate a kidney to your mom when you have a perfectly good one you could spare.

You have three options, in my mind. One, you can join the military. If you don’t want to get your delicate and oh-so-valuable body injured, try to join a branch where you will probably not be exposed to too much personal risk, like the Navy or Air Force. Two, you can join the peace movement and support our troops by getting them home, out of harm’s way.

Three? You can move to another country. Move to a country where it’s acceptable for the fortunate and well-off to send young men and women to die for their whimsical decisions. We don’t need or want your kind here.

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