Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Peace Sign
Driving throught the artistic Cape Ann, Mass., community of Rockport last weekend, I saw a minivan with two yellow "support the troops" ribbons and a peace sign. My first thought was, "This guy is confused." But then maybe it's the rest of us who are.
White and bellicose America, the anti-immigrant and anti-gay marriage brigades, has long usurped the symbols of pride and patriotism. The yellow ribbon is one example. The flag another. I count the pro-Bushie Republicans in my neighborhood by looking for houses that fly their flags every day. And it ticks me off. My parents were New Yorkers, liberal, inclusive and very much pro-American. My dad, a German refugee of Jewish descent, came to this country by hiking over the Alps into Czechoslovakia with enough money in his shoes to live until he could learn a new language and get a job. He served three years in the U.S. Army in World War II, leaving as a staff sergeant. He loved parades, flew a flag on every holiday and sang the Star Spangled Banner at baseball games, loudly and badly.
But he'd have been even louder in denouncing an administration that tramples on the law, spies on Americans in their homes, leads by division and marginalization, and flexes its muscles at any opportunity.
Pomp should not be a circumstance restricted to the right. Perhaps that was the minivan driver's message. We should all support our troops. Not that they're always squeaky clean.
But they're dying and losing their legs and minds in a country and for a cause we barely notice.
Each day they awaken in a country so indiscriminately violent (although we only seem to see blood in the news when a top-gun terrorist gets killed) that even our best-trained fighting force, the Marines, faces allegations that some among its number went nuts in a town called Haditha last November and over a period of hours assassinated 24 civilians, including women and children.
There's no excuse for slaughter. But there may be even less excuse for leaving our troops as targets in a shooting gallery. We did that once in my lifetime, in Vietnam, feinting and faking a "peace treaty" withdrawal for a half dozen years while more than 25,000 more of our troops died.
Mr. President, this is your chance to avoid a replay. Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. That's given you mileage and cover. This is your perfect opportunity to declare victory, pull out our troops and wave more flags. If you're lucky Iraq will stay glued together through the 2006 midterm elections, and most Americans won't much care anyway.
Those who do might consider the minivan driver's counterattack: Go out and buy a yellow ribbon and mount it with a peace sign.