Today is Memorial Day. This national holiday was set aside to honor the memory of the men and women that have laid down their lives in the name of God and Country. Today we will see a panorama of American Flags and passionate calls to Patriotism and the overwhelming message to honor our fallen heroes and support the men and women serving currently under our flag both here and abroad.
Today car salesmen, furniture stores, mobile home dealers and restaurants will turn a pretty dollar in a carefully crafted marketing plan draped in red, white and blue. Flags will fly, grills will be fired up and alcohol will flow… and somehow lost in all of the pseudo-patriotism is the real meaning of Memorial Day.
Another sad fact that will be on full display is that patriotism seems to have been hijacked by the right wing nut jobs that, due to a disproportionately loud voice, seem to have completely overrun the panorama of Americana culture.
I love my country, I support the men and women that serve in uniform and I solemnly respect the memory of our honored dead but I cringe to be called a “patriot” in today’s political climate. Sadly, it has come to represent a stereotype of white, uneducated, ill informed, gun toting, Bible thumping, Fox News spewing, Rush Limbaugh ditto-heads. I do not want to be identified with that stereotype, but I still want to scream at the top of my lungs to these ignorant fools that I love my country and support our troops.
And this is where I had an epiphany, a revelation of sorts… We have different definitions of what it means to support our troops so maybe it’s time to clarify what it means to support the troops as a Progressive.
1. Stop sending our troops to die in unnecessary, illegal and ill advised conflicts
Let’s face it, old men don’t fight wars they just control the politics that send others to die for their own self interest. The late Senator McGovern famously once said, “I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” Former President FDR once said, “War is young men dying and old men talking.” In ancient Rome as the legions left the city on their way to war the citizens of Rome would stand in throngs to watch them leave cheering them as the men went off to war and to their deaths. Unfortunately, that is the extent of right wing support for our men and women in uniform.
If you truly support the troops then stop voting for the moron that talks about carpet bombing the oil fields in the Middle East and having Exxon go on and clean it up. If your big idea is to build a wall and “make” Mexico pay for it, then please, shut up about supporting our troops. Supporting unnecessary military actions that sheds the blood of our sons and daughters is a far cry from supporting our troops.
2. Fix the atrocious mess that is the VA medical system.
If your answer to the terrible mess that is the VA medical system is to blame President Obama then please, stop right there and stop claiming to support the troops. If you spend more time complaining about a transgender student going into the “wrong” bathroom, or which week a woman can have an abortion, or whether or not she should be forced to have a funeral for the fetus (here’s looking at you South Carolina,) than you are about our veterans getting the medical treatment they need and deserve than please stop talking about how much you support the troops.
If you are ok with your elected officials voting down an increase in spending on the VA system in favor of continued or deeper tax cuts and loopholes to their millionaire and billionaire cronies then, again, please stop pretending you are supporting the troops.
3. Fix the social safety net programs and stop trying to cut funding to them.
According to Washington Times:
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit D.C.-based think tank, estimates that as many as 340,000 veterans rely on federal or state rental assistance. About 900,000 veterans live on food stamps, and an additional 5,000 active-duty service members are food stamp recipients. (Dec 9, 2013)
It may come as a surprise to you nice white, Christian, Right wing Conservatives but it’s not just minorities that depend on the social safety net programs such as food stamps, housing, Medicaid and Medicare. Without even going into the false assumption that it’s just blacks and illegal Mexicans that are on these assistance programs the truth is that there are also a lot of men and women that served our nation in uniform that, for whatever reason, are in need of these programs. Every time your elected officials vote to cut those benefits so they can give more tax cuts and loopholes to their corporate owners and sponsors, remember their failure when you go to the voting booth and prove that you support the troops.
So next time your conservative buddies try to self righteously and indignantly yell at you how you hate America and how you fail to (unlike them) support the troops give them a blank stare, a good southern “bless your heart” and borrow a line from “The Princess Bride” and tell them, “you keep saying ‘support the troops’ I do not think that means what you think it means.”
Happy Memorial Day!