We, through the governments we elect, send these men and women into harm’s way for a variety of reasons. But no matter what one’s personal views are of a particular war, it is not the troops that initiated it – they are only trying to finish a job that their governments have screwed up badly, to the point of war. It’s a dangerous job we ask them to do, and some don’t make it back.
I came of age in the 60s, when young American conscripts were booed, and in some cases spat upon, when they returned from Vietnam. My family has a military history through two World Wars as well as peacetime service, and I have been proud to wear the uniform. For those reasons and others, I am a huge supporter of our troops. I believe they need every advantage we can give them, and they deserve our thoughts and prayers as they literally put their lives on the line every day they spend in these dangerous places.
But I’ve about had enough of this faux patriotism and the feel-good ‘support the troops’ initiatives that are symbolic only and provide no support at all. Case in point: today an email message arrived (several times) in my inbox with pictures of soldiers petting kitties and holding babies. It included the following warning: “I BETTER NOT HEAR OF ANYONE BREAKING THIS ONE OR SEE DELETED” (sic). In case that wasn’t enough, there was this further incentive to not break the chain: “Something good will happen to you tonight. This is not a joke. Someone will either call you or will talk to you online and say that they love you. Do not break this chain. Send this to 13 people in the next 15 minutes. Go.”
I never have understood chain letters or the people who send them, but this seems to go beyond that as it implies we are somehow not supportive if we don’t send the message along to 13 people in the next 15 minutes. Why do so many feel a compunction to obey the implied threat that if you don’t send this, no one will call to tell you they love you? I mean, no one seriously believes it, but still it gets sent to everyone on their contact list, and I get 10 copies.
So why? Is this just a quick fix to assuage feelings of guilt for putting these fine young men and women in harm’s way in the first place? Is it simply easier to hit SEND than do something that truly offers meaningful support? I don’t know. But what I do know is that if you really want to support the troops, the best thing and most useful thing you can do is to make sure that the Canadian government does absolutely everything in its power to minimize the amount of time the troops are exposed to death or injury in any of the world’s hot spots. That doesn’t mean capitulation, or bringing them home right now (cut-and-run as the hawks of the day would call it), because sometimes you just have to fight for what is right – and as anyone with even a basic smattering of Canadian history will attest, we have never backed away from a fight when it was necessary. But at the same time, our government has to be working as hard or harder on finding ways to end the conflict as they currently are on improving the effectiveness of the killing machine. And I don’t get the sense that’s the priority for this government. That’s what we have to change if we are serious about supporting the troops.