Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Support our troops? I didn't know I owned them.

So there's been a big kerfuffle down at Toronto City Hall because that broom waving Mayor of ours put the idea of removing the "support our troops" stickers from emergency service vehicles to a vote. Showing their backbone -- and by backbone i mean lack thereof-- Toronto city council voted against removing the stickers. There are two issues here: one negligible and one substantial. The negligible is that Miller and his crew who originally supported the idea backed down due to public outcry. Sure they are politicians and they have to listen to the public, but if they believe in something, show some character.

The real issue, however, is these stickers. I, for one, don't like the idea of these stickers on these emergency vehicles. Warren Kinsella -- whose blog I've read almost everyday for the last three years -- is strongly in favour of keeping the stickers. I admire the punk rocker's ideas very much, but this time i have to disagree. First, anyone who says it's not a political statement needs to think it over. These stickers became prevalent in the US during the post 9/11 terrorism era, and now they're in Canada during the Afghanistan era. Canada's been in many conflicts before, but just conveniently this time we need to support our troops. These troops have been in grave danger before, but not until the current state of world affairs did it become the mode to flaunt one's support. This is a signal of support for a war many Canadians do not agree with. Let's be honest as well, we can support them as much as we want, but that won't protect from the unfortunate danger they face. What would be more sensical is to support our troops being in a well planned mission that doesn't prove their efforts futile.

Second, why do I need to support the troops. Why not support women who play a huge role in social reproduction but go unnoticed. Why not support teachers who don't have permanent contracts and struggle to meet ends with a summer of Employment Insurance. Hell, why not support EMS workers? They do brave work everyday. There are a lot of poeple out there who do great work that should be mentioned, why should public support be reserved for the military. Why not support the police who raided all the gangs in Toronto recently? Don't get me wrong, it's admirable to want to serve your country, but in the end, it's a personal choice just as all other admirable career options are. Not because they chose danger, do they deserve my support. Sure people can say it's for my freedom and protection etc, but if I had the choice, they wouldn't be providing this current service.

I'm not a big supporter of military action. Of course it's necessary sometimes, but it's certainly my personal feeling that we should have as little of it as possible. With that outlook, I'm not very enthusiastic about someone who chooses to enter the military life that has a strong possibility of deployment. Kudos to them on being what everyone calls brave, but I don't support it. In the same vein, as a Toronto tax payer, I don't want my tax dollars making what I see as a political statement for an ill conceived mission. It's bad enough that my federal tax dollars are going there. Give the money to homeless people or something, at least that would make a difference because I have to be honest, a yellow sticker won't change the body count. Very sad.

Let's be clear as well, I'm not completely insensitive about the issue. If the stickers said support the spouses, children, and family members of our troops, I'd be a bit more open because those people likely didn't choose to have their loved ones in the line of fire. Additionally, if the stickers said support our veterans, I'd be much more open. For instance, in the great wars many people had no choice but to serve, so they should be commended for putting their lives at risk without the option of refusing to do so. Still, with all we've learned about war, and all the "lest we forget" stickers that pop up around Remembrance Day, I can't help but wonder if some of our military personnel and our leaders who send these people on these missions have forgotten the horrors of war detailed by our honourable war veterans.

Another thing I want to clarify is that supporting our troops isn't a bad thing. It's simply not my preference. It's the preference of many people, and it's also not the preference of an equally sizable faction. Each side has the right to their position, but in a Liberal democratic society, one side shouldn't force their view on the other... especially not supported by our public institutions.


Anonymous said...

Canada's been in many conflicts before, but just conveniently this time we need to support our troops.

Congratulations on writing the dumbest line I have read on any blog in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Couple things I would like to point our. First your point that there are alot of other groups and causes to support is a good one, I saw the Vancouver Fire Chief last night state that is the reason why they do not put the 'support our troops' sticker on fire trucks. I can understand that point. Think of this though; many of the troops are not here. Unlike say a nurse that you couls say thanks too. I have some friends that have gone over and they have comment that they hear about the stickers from family and friends and they are proud. Also on their return since they have been cut off from home it makes them feel proud of their work. Further I would like to state I do not agree with anyone that says this sticker is in support of the war on terror. Besides being in Afganistan we have troops in many other countries. As well as doing work at home. How about the work they do protecting our natural resources at sea on the Coasts. Or their search and rescue work. In general everyone should be proud and support our troops. They do great work!

jeremy said...

I agree wholeheartedly!

Anonymous said...

My objection is to the word "troops". When did we stop calling our soldiers soldiers? Troops is such a Bush-ism.

Campbell said...

for the second anonymous commenter:

For the troops or the general population to assume that we DON'T support them simply because we DON'T have stickers defies the logic that "in general everyone should be proud and support our troops." How did the troops know that we supported them in Korea? Or France or Germany?
The point to me is that if our military is so weak minded that they need to see stickers on our fire engines to feel loved and supported, then they're like anybody else with a constant need for positive reinforcement: lacking confidence and insecure.
But I don't think that the military needs to see these stickers. I don't think it makes the slightest difference to them at all. The fact is, our military is filled with people who have chosen their career because they think what they do is right regardless of what the public thinks. It is not the military that needs to see the public support. They're grown men who will get their paycheck either way. It is the government who sent them there who wants to see public support -- as well as the population who seem to have been media-brainwashed into believing that these "support our troops" stickers have some magical effect half a world away.
geez this is stupid. I love our military, but I would lose respect for them if I ever was lead to believe that they weren't professional enough to get the job done without overt visual aides back home in Canada. sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Why troops? Why not military which includes army, navy, reserves, pilots, etc.

I think supporting their families would be a better idea.

Who makes the decals/ribbons? How much profit and where does the money go?

Just curious.

Meany said...

Dude, "These troops have been in grave danger before" we've had more casualties in this mission than any other since the Korean war and WW2. Guarantee you if during the Korean "conflict" or WW2, anyone dared to do anything that had even the whiff of not supporting the troops, people would probably throw rocks at them. You can't compare this mission to any of the others we had in the 90's.

A. Carlton Sallet said...

Politics 101:
Deciding to remove the stickers is not the "undoing" of putting them on.

When the stickers went on, it may indeed have been a fifth-columnesque, neo-con plan to make the squishy dipper set cower in their crocs. I'm sure even we cons couldn't have anticipated the media coup that said dippers would gift wrap for us though.

The decision to remove the stickers is an entirely different political animal; no amount of spin will change the optics of removing them - namely that the City of Toronto does not support our troops.

Their complete lack of political acuity notwithstanding, City Council's swift backpedal was the only real option here.

LeGioN said...

I must agree -- I personally am no fan of our city council but such is the result of liberlaism run amok for 30+ years. I'm loathe to admit it but I think their decision to rescend the order is the smartest thing to do and it should be applauded not fought. I call them out on their crackpot schemes as I see them but when they make a correct decision I must commend them accordingly. Conservatives such as myself may be hard on liberals for what we see as wrong but when the right thing is done we are, honourable and wish to acknowledge good moves as well.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting piece, highlights a few key issues. I'd like to add also, in the context of the first paragraphs: the stickers reduce an extremely complex issue to a question of knee-jerk, right/wrong dichotomies that do no one any service.

Second, I have no issue if individuals want to place the stickers everywhere, but institutions, and that includes first responders, should remain neutral in all instances. If the cars in the parking lot of the Fire Hall are festooned with stickers, great. But the trucks should not have any symbols, regardless of their intent.

D. MTL said...

I admit that I strongly disagree with most of your posting under any circumstances, but to top it off the facts are wrong: "not until the current state of world affairs did it become the mode to flaunt one's support"? Check the back of Blue Jay and Expo helmets from the early-90s Gulf War era - there were CDN and US flags as a show of support for the UN-led coalition. How soon we forget...

deDam said...

In short .
Canadian guys in uniform /representing our Country/ are a special profession what many Guys LOVE.. it is about love the guns love the ACTIONS love the camaraderie what comes with it.. little warriors who see a war as a Chance of a lifetime...
I Know this sounds somewhat cynical and ungrateful but that is how I see it.
lets face it it is a guy thing mostly . Weapons are extremely attractive for some of the guys.
Take chances if necessary but they want it.
the whole thing is a sheltered managed safe life you go For it .

I am sorry To say this loud but it is the male thing ..

those damned weapons.. and itching for Actions..
just look in the mirror

So I am NOT supporting any war actions it is frivolous male act ...and it Costs a lot..

They are NOT DEFENDING our country in far away places is a boldfaced lie..

marta from vancouver

m5slib said...

wow comments...

maybe I should just address a few.

to the first anonymous poster, you're welcome. I suggest you read a few more blogs. next.

to Meany, you're correct we can't compare this "mission" to any during the 90's because this one is so poorly run and thought out that it's doing a disservice to Canada's own military personnel. Is it a wonder why most other countries are reluctant to be doing what we're doing?

To D.Mtl, well I am young and I've lived in this country for just under 15 years so I didn't experience the support by Canada's then two MLB teams. There's no problem with those two MLB teams doing it because those are private institutions. To show the degree this has gone though, is when public institutions take it upon themselves to represent the populace in a way they might not want to. This is where we are.

I go back to my bottom line, that this support our troops sentiment is born in the current post 9/11 context to deflect attention for an ill conceived war. during the gulf war or other missions, this might not have been needed because usually there was greater international consensus on how to act. These rebuilding/fight against terrorism missions are the military equivalent to Paul Martin's assymetrical federalism. Just ask Jim Flaherty, that's not gonna bring you to a good place.

Joel said...

I listened to the Vancouver Fire Chief on the news yesterday too. His subtext is that every good cause had it's wishes met, every state vehicle could be plastered with stickers.

The Toronto City Council made a stupid political mistake. Over a period of months these stickers would have worn out, fallen off, and no one would likely notice. But they decided to "take them off after a year".

E. Heron said...

As someone 50 years older than you, I was impressed by the maturity and depth of your analysis. I do have one comment. My daughter and her husband (an American), both academics living in US tell me that "support our troops" is code for "support George Bush's militarism." So in Canada, it seems logical that "Support our Troops" can also be interpreted as "support the New Government...."

RHP said...

Hey Marta, it's not that soldiers are there "defending Canada" in a direct sense, but they are there to give some assistance after the Taliban needed to be pushed from power. The members of the CF serving there stand (along with our Allies)as a bulwark against the return of a regime that has provided aid and shelter to Al Quaeda in the past. Criticize all you want but it is not like you are ever in danger of having to don a uniform and stand in the line... and you can thank countless soldiers in the past who fought in wars that weren't "defending Canada" for that. I wish all the people wailing about the need to "bring the troops home" would actually ask those who serve what they think.

Anonymous said...

Individually, soldiers signed up to defend our country and our interests. They swore an oath to protect Canada, not to advance capitalism. They are now in many places around the world and notably in Afghanistan. None of the locations where our troops are posted are they fighting to protect Canadians, or democracy. Not one soldier in Afghanistan could look each other in the eyes and believe that they are defending Canadians. Our soldier are fighting a war against their oath and in defiance of their intended purposes. When we kill other soldiers or enemy combatants we should do so because they are a direct threat to our interests.
We are in the middle of a conflict that we have propagated by sending our troops, we are advancing the interests of capitalism and not necessarily democracy.

Dan said...

Supporting our troops implies that Canada is making an active contribution in advancing a war that is at best questionnable, although very real. We have soldier that are being killed in a conflict that has very little to do with defending immediate and obvious Canadian interests and very much to do with capitalism. The reality that all Canadians must now face is that we will have to attack to advance the general business interests of Democracy. Everytime you complain because gas is a buck a liter at the pump just remember that it could be three bucks a liter if we don't go to war. Now the question is, are we willing to kill and have our troops be killed in order to save a couple of bucks a liter? For those of you who think that we should look for another solution consider this, if Canada was to let rogue regimes thrive around the world, like drug cartels, you would loose your lifestyle and your rights as an individual once you pulled your head out of the sand.

Like it or not, there is a price to pay, a price our troops are paying everytime one is killed.

Say thank you or move to Switzerland, either way you will benefit from the efforts of our soldiers and watch your kids thrive at the expense of other civilians, such as the Iraqis who weren't so fortunate. Deal with it.

Daniel Deilgat.

Anonymous said...

How about if a teacher had a ribbon-sticker that said, "Support aboriginals" or a rainbow "Be Proud!"?

What would supporting aboriginals mean? Does it mean hoping that they have a better lot in life? Does it mean supporting their land claims?

Does a rainbow "Be Proud" sticker mean that we should all be proud of ourselves or that we should be proud of gays and lesbians?

People who favour having stickers in support of the troops would probably be the same ones who would oppose teachers wearing or displaying stickers in the classroom that supported aboriginals and gays-'n-lesbians.

I am not against Canada sending soldiers into any war. There are times in history when this is necessary. World War II is an excellent example on why we needed to send soldiers overseas. I hope that soldiers do not die in conflict. The number of soldiers killed has little influence on whether or not Canada should be involved in a particular war--and let's call it a war and not just a conflict. If 10,000 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan and the war reached a successful conclusion, I would be in favour of Canada sending soldiers to Afghanistan.

Why I cannot support seeing ribbons or stickers on fire trucks and police vehicles is that our "troops" are instruments of the state. To support the troops is to support the state. The troops that Canada has sent to Afgphanistan to defend our freedom may someday be the same troops that take our freedom away. Soldiers do not defend freedom; soldiers defend the Canadian government.

I may support or oppose the choice of the Canadian government to send soldiers to war in Afghanistan. I cannot separate my support of the "troops" from support or opposition of the government as the soldiers are instruments of the state no matter how good or bad the state is.

Anonymous said...

I support the Fire Dept (and now the police) in placing the stickers on their vehicles. Especially since 9/11, these services have felt a connection. That said, I would have understood and accepted any regulations disallowing this sign of support. What I cannot accept is changing the rule about the sticker once it is up there.

deDam said...

I think we need military power and to be able to defend ourselves and we need to be in allied with other Nations But since Harper put This “mission “in a whole new light and “put us up the plate “ of militaristic pro war stance .. and without properly assessing the chances of winning anything as a goal…. I abhor the way our “ troops” are used at this point.
I Do Not support this war the way Harper “designed “it. It is huge misuse our military. It became a reckless war act,.

I am supporting the troops when it used in a honest and decent way .



davey said...

Harper's war? I don't think so.
The Liberal's took us there under Chretien and moved the troops to the south into a combat role under Paul Martin. PMSH had a debate in the HoC (short, perhaps, but longer than the Liberals who had none at all) and a vote that supported the continuation until 2009. This is a UN sanctioned war led by NATO.