Monday, June 12, 2006

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Peace Sign

06/11/06

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.

5 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

Jerry, you were more fortunate than I. My father was an adamant supporter of the Vietnam War, whatever one supported when one supported that war. He wasn’t as old as your dad. He did his two years, 1946-48, and then got out. He, of course, could have returned for a second tour when he saw the threat from the world wide Korean Conflict. One more soldier might have been the difference between victory and stalemate.

Unfortunately, he didn’t contract patriotism until he was too old to reenter the service. I’m sure he was just dying to go to ‘Nam.

Well, enough about the difference between a brave man and an arm chair warrior. I wrote an essay entitled “Ignoring The Walk” and another entitled “Where Are the Rest of the Jean Rohes” which speak to the hypocrisy that you talk about in this column.

Lots of people “support the troops”, even if those troops have to die to receive that report. People just don’t seem to be able to grasp finality, the end of life, not being part of a family anymore. As long as they can support the troops, it doesn’t much matter what happens to them. “We’ll support you if you live or die.”

This column corroborates and reinforces the fact that we’re not limited by words. If we see a kid drowning in a lake, do we run to the nearest convenience store and buy a “support a drowning kid” sticker?

That sounds absurd and, in fact, it is. Jumping into that water and pulling the kid out of the lake is a hell of a lot more support than displaying “a support a drowning kid” sticker.

There are kids dying in Iraq. Getting the troops out of their lake of blood is the kind of support they need. Stickers don’t save lives.

I want to tell people who say they “support the troops”, especially via stickers, to please stop saying that!

Thanks for bringing this hypocrisy to light. Many of us see it for sure.

To friendship,
Michael

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