Debating "Support Our Troops"

Is the military's slogan a vacuous catch phrase or a valuable message?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The City of London voted Monday night on an initiative to put “Support Our Troops” ribbons on all municipal vehicles. Mike Hayes and Malcolm Aboud discuss the meaning " or lack thereof " in the slogan.

Mike " “Support our Troops” is the emptiest slogan one could possibly imagine for today. George Orwell would marvel at how miraculous an example this statement is of vacuous rhetoric. Because really, who in their right mind is against the troops? To say putting one of those stickers on the back of your car implies supporting military personnel rather than action is the definition of hypocrisy.

Malcolm " There’s a good case to be made for the distinction between supporting Canada’s troops and supporting its military action. People join the military for a plethora of reasons, and it’s absurd to assume every member of Canada’s armed forces supports the war in Afghanistan.

Mike " Granted, but at the same time it’s absurd to say the opinions of the men and women in the Canadian military factor into their actions. They’re doing what they’ve been ordered to do. “Following orders” is one of those little details they include when you join up. And remember, those who decide what happens in the military are still “troops.”

Malcolm " The fact that Canada’s troops have little say in their actions is exactly why they should be supported regardless of the missions they perform. If you disagree with Canada’s war efforts, don’t punish the men and women who risk their lives " punish the politicians who put them in that position.

Mike " Right, but approving of empty slogans isn’t the right way to “support” military personnel. As I’ve said before, a cheap slogan stating the obvious (because who really doesn’t support people who put their lives on the line daily) isn’t the best way to illustrate a point. There was a time where “supporting the troops” meant joining the army, or at the least purchasing war bonds. Nowadays, if all it takes for me to be “supportive” of Canada’s military personnel is to plaster a gaudy sticker on my bumper, then public support for the military is in rough shape.

Malcolm " Public support for the military is in rough shape " many citizens go so far as to cringe when soldiers are honoured on Hockey Night in Canada. That’s exactly why public campaigns are necessary in order to garner support. Many people don’t support the men and women who put their lives on the line daily, and it’s good to see the government doing what it can to solve that problem.

Mike " What the government needs to do is look at the reason why public support for the military has been reduced to empty slogans. In order to “solve the problem” the government needs to look beyond a sticker campaign and concentrate on fixing the military problem. People are disheartened with the military and are unsure about slogans like “Support Our Troops” because buzzwords don’t allow for a proper discussion about our role in Afghanistan.

Malcolm " The government has attempted to create a dialogue about Canada’s role overseas. It was a large issue during Canada’s last federal election, and was met with accusations of Americanization. As long as the public cannot hold an open discussion, its premature outrage prevents any intelligent discussion on the real issues facing Canada’s troops.

Mike " Really, is “Support Our Troops” an open discussion? If I don’t “support the troops,” then I must want good Canadians to die. It’s nonsensical. If you’re going to support the troops, you have to support their actions. People can’t look at the military on an individual basis, because when you join, you are blended in with your fellow soldiers. Though you’re still an individual to those you know back home, at the end of the day you’re still doing what you’re told, just like everyone else.

Malcolm " What a wonderful state of affairs when Canadian citizens are no longer afforded their individuality, but rather blended in with their fellow soldiers. If we cease to view our troops as individuals, we cease to view them as human beings, and if that’s the case then Canada certainly needs to be reminded to show their support.

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