Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What Does the "Support Our Troops" Ribbon mean to You?

 
Since last October emergency vehicles in Toronto have been displaying a decal in support of our troops in Afghanistan. The decals were placed on the vehicles at the request of firefighters and paramedics, whose unions are strong supporters of the soldiers. The original deal was that the decals would stay on for one year and then be removed when the vehicles came in for routine maintenance this Fall.

The issue has turned into a hot political fight that will be decided today at a City Council meeting [Time limit for 'Support Our Troops' ribbons is up].

As you might imagine, there are some city councilors who want the decals to stay on the ambulances and fire trucks.
Some councilors believe the decision to remove the decals is a black mark on the city.

"I was stunned this morning to hear on the radio that some official at the city had ordered emergency services, particularly ambulances, to take off the decal that supports our troops in Afghanistan," city councilor Brian Aston told CTV News on Tuesday.

"These decals are on there and it makes a very strong statement. To take them off, Toronto is the largest city, would just be an outrage. It would be a black eye on the reputation of our city," Ashton said.
It should also come as no surprise that some councilors want to stick to the original agreement and remove the decals in September.
Coun. Janet Davis said just as many councillors want to see the decals removed as those who support their presence on emergency vehicles.

Mayor David Miller said while emergency crews should continue to support Canadian troops, the one-year time limit for the decals was enough time.

"It's controversial on both sides. There are people who see it as support for the troops and there are people who see it as support for war," Miller said.
I'm one of those who believe that the "Support the Troops" ribbon is a political statement. I don't know very many people who are opposed to the war but have this sticker on their car. On the surface it seems like a no-brainer to offer support to our troops while opposing the mission. But, in fact, the term "no-brainer" is quite appropriate in this case. By blindly advertising support for the military you obscure the true difficulty in making rational decisions about how to deploy our army. It's no secret that most people who "support our troops" are also conservatives who are in favour of the war.

The idea that the "Support Our Troops" yellow ribbons are politically neutral is something that only a supporter of the war would say. It's ridiculous. It would be like putting peace symbols on the trucks on the grounds that surely everyone supports peace.

I am very supportive of individual soldiers who are posted to Afghanistan. It's not their fault that our government is insane. They have to follow orders. But that does not mean that I "support our troops" in the way that the decal signifies. As a matter of fact, I do not support our mission in Afghanistan and I would withdraw the troops tomorrow if I could. Every soldier who dies in Afghanistan will have died in vain. That's hardly a way to offer support to our troops.

Having those decals on city vehicles sends the wrong message. For those of us who oppose the war it signifies that the fire fighters and paramedics are on the other side of the issue. That makes me uncomfortable since these are people who deserve my respect and admiration but they're not going to get it if they push a political agenda through advertising on their vehicles.

Take the decals off. It's no place for politics.

32 comments :

  1. Same here in the US and yes, the idea that these ribbons make a statement that's neutral with respect to support for the war(s) is way beyond ludicrous.

    I support getting our troops (as well as yours) home where their asses won't be shot off for nothing more than the inability of corrupt, useless politicians to admit they were wrong. I don't know what could be more supportive than that!

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  2. "What Does the "Support Our Troops" Ribbon mean to You?"

    It means that Canadians lack imagination, sicne the ribbons are identical to those used in the U.S., except for that little flag sticker.

    You should be grateful though that you don't have Scalia on your highest court

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  3. I like the parody version mocking all of these useless ribbons:

    "Support the Chinese magnetic ribbon manufacturers"

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  4. I don't see why firefighters and paramedics, many of whom are ex-soldiers or reservists, can't make a political statement. Unions do it all the time. The only point of contention is implicating the city of Toronto into a very indirect insubstantial connection to our mission in Afghanistan, which isn't support at all. Indeed, the decals became more substantial than they really because of this reflexive reaction from those opposed to the mission.

    Pragmatically, it would be best just to let the decals stay for the period they were alloted. It's temporary, it doesn't cause any harm, and taking them off will make a bigger political statement while doing absolutely nothing to the presense of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

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  5. We have lots of ribbons for all kinds of causes. Mostly they serve as guilt avoidance--a very flimsy kind of politics.

    The best one I ever saw was a green ribbon that said "Let's just pretend everything's OK."

    I nearly stole it.

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  6. I support our troops in the same way that I support our police, firefighters, and anyone else whose profession puts them at risk for the benefit of strangers. I contribute to their salaries, and I feel very badly when one of them is killed. This is rightly expected of me, and there is no need to advertise that I am in compliance. In some cases the stickers may be a wrongheaded effort to trumpet such feelings, though it seems likely that in many cases they also advertise support for the war. They have no place on public vehicles - if they feel so compelled firefighters can stick them on their cars.

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  7. I still think it's a lot of fuss over nothing. Suppose I took offence to crosses on Roman Catholic public schools in Toronto. Shall I demand that they be stripped down because they make a religious statement? Suppose I had a grandfather who was tortured by the Japanese in WWII. Shall I demand that the Japanese flag be stripped down from Nathan Phillips Square because the Japanese still refuse to officially recognise their war crime history? Anyone can take any number of slights to any range of symbols, all in service to some putatively noble purpose like neutrality. Yet symbols are clearly unavoidable, thus it is really the degree to which symbols can be shown that is at issue. I would object to a civil worker displaying a party flag, yet I wouldn't do the same to a decal which has to be interpreted to be found guilty of political statement.

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  8. I always see them as a political statement: "I'm with Harper/Bush."

    And I interpret it as meaning, "Support the War."

    Supporting the troops, to me, means bringing them home at the earliest possible moment. And then making sure they're well cared for when they get here.

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  9. One could always go the route of equal time, and put a whole bunch of "Support the Iraqi Resistance" bumper stickers on these emergency vehicles.

    I'm sure that would be greeted as the completely non-partisan message it's intended to be.

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  10. Larry's absolutely right.

    If you haven't seen this video I think you'll like it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmsOIjzQ1V8

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  11. John Prine takes one down from the mantle at George Bush's request:

    Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore

    Live. This kind of easy Patriotism has been going on fer a long time, the yellow ribbons are just another symptom.

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  12. One could always go the route of equal time, and put a whole bunch of "Support the Iraqi Resistance" bumper stickers on these emergency vehicles.
    This is disingenuous, no? The decal says support our troops, not support unequivocally the presence of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Even if the idea of sticking a decal on a car is ridiculous to your sensibilities, it's a debate on whether firefighters and paramedics can stick them on city-owned vehicles.

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  13. dunbar says,

    Even if the idea of sticking a decal on a car is ridiculous to your sensibilities, it's a debate on whether firefighters and paramedics can stick them on city-owned vehicles.

    And the answer is ....

    YES!

    Three Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan today so the Toronto City Council voted unanimously to keep the yellow ribbons on public vehicles indefinitely.

    Democracy in action, don't you love it?

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  14. It means that Canadians lack imagination, since the ribbons are identical to those used in the U.S., except for that little flag sticker.

    Somehow I doubt that the American versions have "Appuyons nos troupes" on them.

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  15. This is disingenuous, no? The decal says support our troops, not support unequivocally the presence of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

    If anything is disingenuous, it is pretending that the "Support Our Troops" decals are completely decontextualized and would even be on the vehicles in peacetime.

    Even if the idea of sticking a decal on a car is ridiculous to your sensibilities, it's a debate on whether firefighters and paramedics can stick them on city-owned vehicles.

    Yes, I can read, and the point I was raising in this context (there's that word again) is that placing these stickers on city-owned vehicles, at this particular time, without any sort of other, mediating statement (like "Support the Taliban") makes it a clearly partisan gesture and is inappropriate on vehicles which are paid for, through taxes, by people of every political persuasion and which are to serve people of every political persuasion.

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  16. It's bullshit to think everyone shares your interpretation of context. Afghanistan is one of the largest Canadian deployments, and one of the most dangerous. I've already alluded to the fact that paramedics and firefighters, who work in a potentially hostile environment, have a number of ex-soldiers and reservists. It may be simply that these civil employees wish to express solidarity with soldiers in Afghanistan. The fact that you have to insert political baggage into a decal in order to accuse it of having such is weak. I too doubt that the stickers would be on the vehicles on peacetime, but only by virtue of the soldiers not being in imminent danger.

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  17. It's bullshit to think everyone shares your interpretation of context.

    I don't have to think that for the decals to be inappropriate. As I pointed out, these emergency vehicles are not to serve only the needs of those driving them, but are there to serve the needs of everyone in Canada. Everyone in Canada would include a sizeable portion in that group of people who do not try to deny the obvious.

    Afghanistan is one of the largest Canadian deployments, and one of the most dangerous. I've already alluded to the fact that paramedics and firefighters, who work in a potentially hostile environment, have a number of ex-soldiers and reservists. It may be simply that these civil employees wish to express solidarity with soldiers in Afghanistan.

    There are two words for this: tough shit.

    If they wish to express solidarity with soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, then they can do it on their own time, in their own vehicles. By placing them on city-owned vehicles, it obscures any sort of statement of "solidarity" and indicates instead that the city, more accurately the polity of Toronto supports the war.

    The fact that you have to insert political baggage into a decal in order to accuse it of having such is weak.

    This is a substance-free accusation, since the political baggage is already there. These decals do not adorn, in an unmodified form, the vehicles of those who do not support the war. Instead they have bumper stickers like "Support the Troops: Bring Them Home" precisely because the basic "Support the Troops" slogan is so closely associated with warmongering.

    I too doubt that the stickers would be on the vehicles on peacetime, but only by virtue of the soldiers not being in imminent danger.

    So if they're not in a war, then they're not worth supporting? I'm glad these ex-soldiers and reservists have such a great sense of solidarity with their fellow soldiers.

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  18. Dunbar, just out of curiosity, do you think the peace symbol has no political significance? After all, everyone supports peace, no?

    I don't know what planet you live on but on my planet there's a very strong correlation between displaying a "Support Our Troops" sticker and political conservatism. This does not mean that everyone who has a yellow ribbon on their car supports the war on terrorism but I'd be more than willing to bet you $100 per car to find out the politics of the driver in order to see if the correlation holds—as long as you agree to test 10 cars. Deal?

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  19. While there may be a correlation, your suggestion to empirically test it is fatuous. I don't have the money :)

    And if you ask whether a peace sign decal on a firetruck has any political significance, I would say not much. Like you say, everyone supports peace. At least this would be the case in Canada. I believe oolon is projecting the US presence in Iraq onto the Canadian presence in Afghanistan. Canadian soldiers are not trying to calm an uncontrollable sectarian civil war, or fighting a proxy war with Iran. Canadian soldiers are not dying by the hundreds, or facing a breakdown in discipline resulting in gross human rights violations. The Canadian government did not unilaterally invade a sovereign country with obfuscating hawkish assertions, but rather went to Afghanistan at the behest of the Afghan government and with the support of the UN to fight the remnants of the Taliban and other elements who would rather have Afghanistan as a failed state. The war on terror does not have quite the same significance in Canada, Canadians are not controlled by a culture of insane fear delightfully colour-coded, and quite simply American political baggage is not ours.

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  20. Dunbar saus,

    While there may be a correlation, your suggestion to empirically test it is fatuous.

    fatuous: Of persons, their actions, feelings, utterances, etc.: Foolish, vacantly silly, stupid, besotted. (Oxford English Dictionary)

    I don't have the money :)

    But if you believe in what you say you'll earn money! Lots of it. :-)

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  21. I didn't say the correlation didn't exist though. I said testing it is silly. I'm sure I could go to CFB Trenton and take a few photos of decals while cherry-picking those who didn't vote Conservative. I'm sure not all soldiers and their families subscribe to 'conservatism'.

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  22. What gets me is the people who drive around in the huge gas-guzzling SUV's with 3 "support or troops" ribbons on the back.

    A bunch of oxymorons.

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  23. Please, someone tell me how putting a magnetic ribbon on your vehicle supports your troops. Is this supposed to be some sort of indicator to the public at large that you support our troops?

    Do you suppose it makes some of those that display them feel more patriotic?

    Do you suppose those that see them on others vehicles stop and think to themselves, "now THERE'S a patriotic individual?"

    Quite possibly. (sheesh)

    Use your head people, isn't supporting your troops an ingrained part of your existence in your country? It's pathetic, insulting, and beyond shallow that people (any peoples, civilians or otherwise) feel they MUST state the obvious with a stupid little magnet.(or 2, or 3, or 4.)

    You bet I support our troops, I don't have an eyesore of a ribbon on my car, and the lack of one has no relation whatsoever to my support.

    It's become overkill folks, nothing more than advertising. If your one of those who has one, I apologize if I've offended you, but the magic was lost a long time ago. Consider this - where does the monies spent on such ribbons go? Does it help support your troops? Hardly.

    In my opinion, it's all become superficial, exploitation, nothing more than advertising.

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  24. if you love your freedom thank a vet!!!!! Any from the ,Boer, WW1&2, K, V, DS91, A03 & I 03, without their sacrifices the bastard backpackers of Radical Islam supported by hate mongering Immans,spewing Foul fatwahs/ messages on our soils[western] is dispicable!! They should be all arrested , charged with hate crimes as would most others spewing such vitrolic insanity say against/negroes/women/hispanics!!! Think people/they are our voluntier soldiers fighting for us civilians/and being killed by ragtag/educated/brainwashed/hasish druggies!Kill them now before they activate sleeper cells already here in Can./USA !!! God Bless Our Troops overseas!!

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  25. I can see why the above post was anonymous.

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  26. "If you cannot stand behind our troops, then stand infront of them"

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  27. In reply to Matt...
    The magnets are not eyesores.Not everyone in America actually supports our troops. As a military spouse, seeing a ribbon on a car or our flag proudly displaying means a lot. It's shows that while your military member is far away what their doing is important.It's worth every single second of your life spent away from that person. It's not that it makes our troops more patriotic but it gives them a sense of pride. I do believe that when other drivers(who support our troops) see the ribbon on a car, it does make them think, maybe not ""now THERE'S a patriotic individual?" but more like, "hey they support us". Supporting our troops is a choice you can make. It is not pathetic showing your support for those fighting for your country. I'm guessing you have never served our country by being in the military or as a military spouse.If you have not, What they sacrafice is something you will never understand.Just incase you have never been on the other side, I would love to give you a personal inside view. It's tough loving a military man/woman. For the weeks that turned to months and those months that turned into years, for the phone calls that never came, knowing your mailman by name ,waiting up all night for a single 30 second phone call that brightens up your whole entire day. The holidays, anniversary, birthdays all missed. Yes, it is a choice that our men and their spouses make to serve our country - but someone has to. It's not about money it's about support. A little magnet/pin/flag goes along way.

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  28. Thank you for your post, Sept 2007. Thank you for bravely trying to explain how very much it means to so many of us military family members and veterans to see the small token of awareness (vehicle ribbon magnets). As a broken hearted Iraq widow I know first hand how meaningful any show of support can be. My husband died for each and every American, regardless of their views/feelings.

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  29. I am not a conservative, and I did not vote for Harper.

    However, I wear a gold-plated 'support our troops' pin on my purse each and every day.

    Whether or not I personally want the war to be going on - it is going on, and there is nothing I personally can do to change that.

    Thank God some people in our country have the courage and compassion to get out there and fight for us.

    To me, it's not about politics, it's about showing your support for the soldiers, and their families. We wouldn't be where we are today without our countries soldiers, and god knows there is no perfect war. There will always be the people who think it's right, the people who think it's wrong, and the people who really don't know enough to care.

    But someone has to go out there and fight it - so give them support, and pray they come home safe.

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  30. AMEN TO THAT. I dont like that I have loved ones over there or that my boyfriend leave in 4 months to go back there but I will proudly display my "Support the Troop" ribbon, they are in my prayers every night and it reminds us all that there is someone on the other side of the world laying their life on the line so we can move on with ours, the ribbons are not about politics, they are about showing our love to the men and women that are not here to enjoy life with their families. To let their families know that their loved ones sacrifices are remembered and always will be.That they are honored for the sacrifice made or continue to make every day, these are our true hero's of today, really i think a little ribbon is just a small thing that we can do to show our support and love.

    To all the men and women out there fighting for our freedom....I bow down to you, my hero's, you are always in my heart and prayer's.

    Ashley

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  31. All I can offer is this: my wife (we're in CA) has a yellow ribbon on her car because she sympathizes with the fighting soldiers and because a couple of them have been family friends. She does not support the war; she thinks Bush is a boob; she wants our men and women to come home as soon and as safely as possible. Maybe she's an exception to the ribbon=war-supporter rule; I don't know. But I put a sticker on my car, too, and I feel the same way as my wife.

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