This evening Calgary City council voted down a proposal to place Support Our Troops decals on city vehicles. The vote was 11-4.
I thought about it last week and decided that I was opposed to the proposal for a number of reasons. While I was pleased that they were sensible enough to see through this pro-war nonsense, at the same time it is unfortunate that the debate and its tone can end up sending the wrong message.
Support Our Troops is a political slogan invented by the Republicans in the United States and co-opted by Canadian Conservatives not long after Canada's New Government was elected.
Like all political language, as George Orwell pointed out, the meaning is not literal. Support Our Troops is a euphemism for supporting Mr. Harper and his pro-warfare policies. Deceptive language is used to confuse people and get them to buy into things without having to explain all the details.
This type of political language is also intended to divide people into good vs. evil factions, based on a delusional sense of self-righteousness. If you don't agree with the slogan, you will likely end up being accused of many things. We know from the American experience with the Iraq war that people who did not support the war were accused of bizarre things, such as supporting terrorism. To me this is a reprehensible thing to do to a fellow citizen.
I think you would have a hard time finding a Canadian who does not believe in the literal premise of supporting the troops. What does supporting our troops literally mean when you strip away the brain dead jingoism.
In my opinion, it means:
1. Providing them with the skills and equipment they need to do their jobs safely.
2. Providing them with a proper salary so their families don't have to live in rat traps or use food banks.
3. Support their families while they are on mission.
4. If a soldier should be killed in action provide proper death benefits.
5. Providing proper health care to injured soldiers.
6. Providing proper pensions and health care to veterans. Don't make an 80 year old spend years in court suing the Government for an entitlement.
7. Not putting soldiers in harms way merely because you as a politician believe in an outdated notion of the glory of war, or because you think an agressive war posture will get you more votes.
You could easily argue that our Government has failed on any number of the above requirements. And you could also argue that pushing decals with slogans does nothing to actually help the troops.
The City Council's compromise was to allow the sale of the decals in City Of Calgary facilites. And yes, I know that the proceeds of those sales go to a well know charity that helps military families. And yes, I agree with this compromise.
However, I'd like Canada's New Government to explain why military families have to be supported by private charity while Mr Harper's supporters and the frat-boy tabloids lecture the rest of us with bumper sticker slogans. Apparently they don't support the troops, at least not literally.
It seems ironic that many of our war dead gave their lives because of a threat to our basic freedoms, the most basic of which is the freedom of opinion. Something to think about the next time the Calgary Sun tells us all how we have to think about our troops and Harpers war.
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