#99 - The Sound of One Hand Clapping
My friends E and K told a story about the crowd in a Texas airport clapping for American soldiers headed off to Iraq. K made a brilliant point about the tautology of how we now define patriotism in the United States. You support the troops and show your patriotism by clapping for them at the airport. What is patriotism? It is clapping at the airport to support the troops going off to fight in Iraq. It is an echo chamber of thunderous applause signifying nothing.
The real (and perennial) (and really difficult) issue is: can you support the troops if you do not support the war? I am not talking about spitting on troops returning from Iraq, a myth about what happened to American troops returning from Vietnam (there are few if any substantiated stories of this actually happening). I am talking about blind support for the waging of a war that one does not view as morally or strategically worthy.
Since approval ratings for the Iraq invasion are currently below fifty percent, some percentage of the airport clappers did not support the Bush administration's war, but they still support the troops. Their disapproval is drowned out by their patriotism. What does one say to these people? What if one even identifies with their confused but well-meaning sentiment?
The answer may be found in the story of First Lt. Ehren K. Watada a precocious young Army officer who is refusing to be deployed to Iraq (this New York Times article may require a log in or purchase). These are the troops we should support, troops who follow commands and are disciplined -- but only up to a point. When their individual reasoning about justice and morality and ethics reaches a tipping point, we should support their courage in voicing dissent and taking a stand.
For that I clap.
24 July 2006