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Mindless and Extravagant "Support Our Troops" Display Doesn't Help Soldiers, But Does a Lot for Those Who Profit From War

It's time to examine the "support our troops" rhetoric and understand it does little for those whose lives are at risk.

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The selflessness of our troops is particularly sacred. Not only do they bring order and democracy to lesser peoples; they also risk (and sometimes give) their lives for the good of others, so that civilians might continue driving, shopping, dining and watching movies, the hallmarks of American freedom. That these notions of sacrifice connote a Christ-like narrative of individual-death-for-collective-pleasure only endows them with even greater cultural power.

Whether or not our son ever joins the military, questions about the deployment of mythological slogans in the service of socioeconomic iniquity need to be addressed. His joining or not joining will have no effect on that need, which will remain even if he becomes a teacher or doctor. I want him to enter into adulthood in a world where people impeach and diminish the mystification of corporate plunder. More than anything, I want him to participate in the process, whether he does it from a barrack, a cubicle or a corner office.

It would be wise to avoid countervailing slogans, such as the assertive but nonetheless meager Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home! One goal is to disrupt and rethink, something much easier to accomplish in the absence of shibboleths. Another goal is to continue exploring why support for troops as prescribed by sports leagues and conglomerates actually does a great disservice to the human beings who comprise the military and reinforces a plutocratic imperium for those who do not.

Next time you are asked to “support our troops,” then, remember that in a country where wealth decides the fate of so many communities, such an uncritical gesture isn’t even worth the change from a broken dollar.

Steven Salaita is an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He tweets at @stevesalaita.