For every Hitler comment, there is an equal and opposite “support the troops” comment. “My husband/brother/father/uncle/cousin is in Afghanistan” has become code for “Shut up, you don’t know what you are talking about, and I am morally superior.”
Argue against somebody’s military connection, and you are an anti-American asshole who is probably a terrorist at heart. A soldier in Afghanistan shot and killed 16 unarmed civilians, and articles run about finding sympathy for the murderer. Can you imagine if somebody in America murdered 16 innocent people, many of them children? How many articles would be written that sympathize with the shooter? Oh wait, that’s happened. Remember Jeffrey Dahmer? There is no doubt that mental illness played a role in his 17 killings, but he is unequivocally seen as a monster. Robert Bales, on the other hand, is a U.S. soldier. People talk of the shootings as a tragedy, and even as he is in jail, his lawyer says, “If I was in a life threatening situation, I would want him next to me.” You see? He’s a soldier. Soldiers are irreproachable.
Some comments on the Huffington Post article about Bales:
Even as I type this, I feel the need to explain myself. I am not anti-soldier! I support our troops! I considered joining the Army for about 15 seconds at the end of high school, as a way to pay for college, and 15 seconds was all it took for me to be sure that this was not a sacrifice I was capable of making. I am a coward, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who are willing to put themselves at risk for the good of the country. Even when I disagree with tactics of the military, I am completely supportive and appreciative of those who put their lives on the line for the defense of the country. I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, just like everybody else.
There is a caveat, though, in that “just like everybody else” statement. “Support our troops” only seems to pertain to one sex. Want to guess which one? That’s right, it’s the men. In the abstract, men and women are all lumped under one label. ”Troops,” after all, is not gender specific. The ribbon magnets that people put on their cars do not specify male or female. What, then, is the problem?
The military itself.
Everybody supports the troops. To say otherwise is socially unacceptable to the point where criticism is not allowed. But the female troops themselves are being sabotaged from within, and people are willing to turn a blind eye to it because, well, who cares about women anyway?
Rape and sexual assault are rampant in the military: twice as many veterans report having been assaulted as civilians, and that number is likely to be much higher, as something like 80-90% of assaults go unreported. And why would you report? According to a new report, “CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern — a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.” It is tough to report sexual assault in the civilian world; this evidence is suggesting that even if women do report assault, they could end up with a psychiatric discharge. You were assaulted? Poor baby. You are probably making it up because you’re crazy, and also, you’re fired, and your record will forever report that you are mentally unstable.
It’s the ultimate in gaslighting, and it is abhorrent.
And because any sort of criticism of the military is seen as anti-American, this can’t change. Looking at the comments on the CNN page makes it clear that for some people, supporting our troops means supporting the men no matter what, even if it means kicking the women out. Oh, there is a problem with rapists? The obvious answer is that women should not be allowed in the military.
Anybody who reads this bullshit and says that we don’t live in a rape culture, or that feminism is pointless because we have reached equality, or that women should just stop getting their panties in a bunch is being blind on purpose. The U.S. military is fucking over women, systematically, and nobody can call them out about it because, you know, patriotism.
The only way we can change this type of thing is by being willing to talk about it, being willing to look at it critically. I support our troops. I support the men, and women, who sacrifice for me. The only way to support our troops is to be willing to admit that the military isn’t perfect, isn’t even close, and things must change so that all of our troops can be supported from those that they count on the most.
“I support the troops” is a worthy slogan, and it’s a worthy cause. But the word “troop” isn’t gender-specific, and if people are honestly supporting the troops, they should be supporting all of the troops equally. The military isn’t going to get better as long as people are willing to pretend “troops” is a masculine noun. Supporting the troops means when there is an assault from one to another, support goes to the victim and against the attacker, regardless of gender. Otherwise, the bumper stickers should say “I support our male troops,” because, even though that is despicable, at least it’s more reflective of reality.