Let’s be clear about something: putting a flag on your pickup truck is LITERALLY the LEAST you can do to show that you “support our troops.”
The most effective use of propaganda during American wars is to slander those who oppose the war by calling them “unpatriotic.” For the first few years of the U.S. military adventure in Iraq, most Americans were afraid to express any sentiment other than blind support for the war efforts, as opposing the war in those early days was assumed to mean one did not “support our troops.”
What a brilliant maneuver by chickenhawk neocons like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. As they ruled the world from their air-conditioned think tanks and watched their wartime profits climb, all that was needed to sustain support for the war was the promise that anyone who spoke out against it would be smeared. Now we all had an excuse to be ignorant, so long as we put yellow ribbons on our cars and wore red, white, and blue to televised parades. What a convenient break for Americans who love our country… but not enough to educate themselves about how it is disintegrating.
Then the troops started coming home with missing limbs and post-traumatic stress syndrome, and talking about their experiences. To Iraq vets (the majority of whom are not provided the medical attention they need) “support” does not mean blindly reinforcing the executive regime that deploys them into hostile lands like disposable pawns on a chessboard. A grateful nation owes more than a bumper sticker to the people who die in its honor.
If you are a pro-war cowboy who claims to “support our troops,” then please take the time to listen to what they actually have to say. A good documentary to watch is “The Ground Truth,” made entirely by veterans of our current war.
Another option is to talk to people you know personally who have seen this war firsthand. I myself have several friends who served in Iraq and none of them understand what exactly they’re doing over there. Or, better yet, go to your local base and welcome the troops home. Talk to them. You’ll be shocked at how many of them are against this war.
It’s not enough just to say “thank you.” To some soldiers, in fact, saying thank you merely reveals your ignorance. Saying thank you lets them know that you were too busy watching American Idol to realize U.S. soldiers have been dying for absolutely nothing. As long as we have American citizens who question nothing, we will continue to have American soldiers who died for nothing. There is no democracy without dissent, and now is a better time than ever to show that you give a damn. Instead of honoring the troops with a cursory “thanks” tell them “welcome home” to show them “home” is where you’d rather have them be.