Monday, May 31, 2010

Bill's Curious "Support"

I have come to the conclusion that Bill Gnade is basically dishonest. This conclusion is derived not only from what he writes at his own blog, but from his comments elsewhere. His answer to my observation that he misunderstood me on "stealing concepts" was pretty funny, and revealed something disturbing about his character, but even then, in attempting to save face, he didn't get it quite right.

But no matter, I'm on to more important things, such as Bill's strange way of supporting the troops on this Memorial Day.

He starts his little pedantic essay with a lesson on the flag, and the meaning of the red, white and blue. What Bill wants us to focus on though is the red. It stands for blood spilled for freedom, he informs us:

...this country is built on the blood of others, countless, mostly faceless and nameless others, who fought and died for ideals we are free to mock and rebuke in legal and social safety, if we choose. We are free to live because others freely died; their loss being our gain, and therefore their gain as well.

Notice the not so subtle scorn and contempt for real dissent (not the phony "dissent" that Gnade only seems to express when a Democrat is in the White House) in those words. If he wants to say the country was born in rebellion that resulted in bloodshed and loss of life, I'll agree, but what was established once the Constitution was ratified was a system within which were the seeds of an oppressive federal tyranny. And it is more difficult still to name any war that followed in our history that was fought so that we would be "free to live".

I've almost no doubt that Bill is an admirer of Abraham Lincoln (though he could prove me wrong by stating otherwise) and thus believes the War of Northern Aggression was just and good, in spite of the untold suffering and death on a mass scale that it caused. We became less "free to live" after that war due to the establishment of ultimate Federal supremacy over the individual states, with the result that centralized rather than decentralized government became the norm in this "land of the free", with all the constraints on liberty that followed as more and more choices were taken away from local governments and individuals. But I guess we must still be grateful for all that bloodshed and death of that most costly in American lives of our unending wars, either that or be labeled mockers of the holy religion of the almighty American State.

Bill also wants us to know that we can't really support the troops while opposing any war our leaders choose to start. I must point out first that I have no trouble at all allowing the words "I don't support the troops" to pass my lips, but I'll make allowances for others who can not bring themselves to delve that far into blasphemy against the god of American militarism.

While Gnade asserts that to say you support the troops while opposing the war is a contradiction of some sort, I think you can easily make the case that those who look with seriousness at the conflicts our government sends those troops to fight are the more supportive in the only way that really matters. Are the troops there to invade any country in the world just because our leaders in Washington decide that's what they're going to do? In one sense, yes, but that only makes the case for "supporting the troops and opposing the war" stronger. An individual solider doesn't make the decision as to where they will be sent, they sign up and join the military knowing they will be following the orders of their commanders. But they also sign up believing (one hopes) that they will only be sent to battle where and when absolutely necessary, with many no doubt under the delusion that that will only be to protect and defend the freedom of Americans. When therefore they are used for purposes other than defending the United States against aggression from foreign enemies, they are being misused, and to speak against that misuse is to support them in the role for which they were intended.

Bill makes an analogy to emphasize his statist view, comparing those who say they support the troops and oppose our current imperial wars with bad, abusive parents.

It's not unlike telling your child that you support his interest in playing baseball, you just don't support the game. You find the game stupid, immoral, illegal, dishonest -- but -- you support his participation. Yes, you just love your daughter's interest in the cello, you just think the cello and Beethoven and Bach are all lies and abuses of power:

One wonders how such parents could ever cheer at baseball games, or applaud at the end of cello recitals. Most parenting experts would consider such duplicity bad parenting, sending out the double-binds of mixed messages. Undoubtably it would be considered by astute therapists a form of child abuse.

Now, there are several approaches one could take in exposing such sophistry, but I won't go into that much detailed analysis. To start, the analogy is terribly flawed, equating something that can be considered inherently good or at least neutral with how that thing is used. For example, I can support my daughter's cello playing wholeheartedly while objecting to her playing in a benefit concert to raise money for the Ku Klux Klan. To oppose her participation in the concert is not to oppose cello playing or her interest in it. And to oppose our wars of aggression in Iraq and other places it is not necessary to believe that military service is inherently bad, or that there isn't anything good in being a solider. As General Butler said "I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else", but to believe that, you would also believe that the troops can play an essential role in actually defending the country from invasion.

Gnade ends his post with a justification of the Iraq fiasco, and then lets us know that such death and destruction "makes protest possible", and though he may come back and deny he means any such thing regarding the Iraq war specifically, it's clear to me that in his mind, unless one is a knee-jerk enthusiast for any military adventure the President of the United States and his advisers decide upon, one is abusing the troops and opposing that which makes freedom possible. Let us not forget that we were defeated in Vietnam, and yet after that defeat, we were still free to live and to protest. I'll bet most of those whose lives were lost during that war would have been thankful if it had ended earlier, or not been embarked on in the first place.

The only real way to "support the troops" is to bring them home and get them out of harm's way, but to do that, you first have to stop supporting the war.


  1. We became less "free to live" after that war...

    We being... white people, I assume.

    I must point out first that I have no trouble at all allowing the words "I don't support the troops" to pass my lip...

    I'm actually going to agree with you on this one. I think soldiers should quit playing GI Joe on my dime and get a real job. That's just me. During times of truly imminent threats, the best of us step forward anyway. We don't need a standing army capable of world domination while we have children who don't even get two meals a day, or adults who cannot read.

    If soldiers joined the military thinking they were going to help people, I'm kind of glad they take fire and have to deal with IEDs. If you want to help people, become a fireman or a doctor or something constructive.

    If our soldiers were the only ones dying, I would feel indifferent about the war. Back in reality, many innocent people are being hurt and driven to the open arms of groups that oppose us. I think all US military involvement in the Middle East creates unfavorable results, from Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan to Israel and Iran.

    One thing about the Civil War: I understand the need to decentralize power. This is a concept I have been interested in for a long time, and I have long opposed decisions such as the conservative Supreme Court striking down a state's right to alter the legal status of cannabis.

    There's no doubt that many decisions are best made at a local level, but one must come to terms with the fact that a scourge like slavery cannot be allowed to fester in a dark forgotten corner simply because the economic interests behind it have a stranglehold on the government.

  2. Greetings,

    I read Gnade's piece and this response, and lieu of a long, poorly structured, off-the-coffee-stained cuff comment, I'll try to respond via a post early next week.

    Suffice it to say, I agree with some of what you say. I thought Iraq II was misguided but once involved, I wanted us to win it and get out, for example. As my mother always said, "if you make a mess, clean it up before you leave the kitchen."

    (As it happens, some time ago, I mentioned that Lincoln and FDR were the two worst offenders of the Constitution in our history which caused me to have to fort up and ward off pitchforks for a few days. As Ginx' comment shows, slavery overshadows everything, even though it was only a single issue representing a specific philosophy of governance. The Civil War was about slavery the same way Huck Finn is about a float trip. Of course, my ancestors were non-slave holding farmers who fought for the South.)

    Anyway, the problem which I think Bill was getting it, is that many people use the "support the troops, not the war" canard as cover for engaging in behaviors designed to demean/or insult their service and commitment to duty and honor.

    As for your substitute analogy, it works only if the cellist knows or believes that the concert is a benefit for the KKK. What if the cellist is unaware of the nature of the benefit or believes it's for a children's hospital? What if it's unclear whether/if some of the benefit money will be diverted to the KKK? Do you honor the cellist's practice and performance under those circumstances?

    Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking post.


  3. Thanks R. Sherman,

    I apologize for the delay in publishing your comment, but we've got a relentless spammer that returns frequently. I still try and have moderation of comments off as much as possible.

    Thanks again for the comment.


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