Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Do Bumper Stickers Reveal About Us? Part 1

Although I have never affixed a sticker to my car bumper, I am fascinated by those who do. When I was young, it was very common to see bumpers proudly proclaiming travel to lands both near and far, I Drove The Alcan Highway and Rushmore Aerial Tramway being just two examples. Then, over time there was a movement toward signs that raised awareness for causes or beliefs, such as Think Pink (breast cancer) and Honk If You Love Jesus (evangelical promotion)

However, the sticker that most intrigues and disquiets me is one I see with some regularity: If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops, Feel Free To Stand In Front of Them.

I saw it again just the other day, and my immediate desire, not acted upon, was to approach the driver to ask how he interpreted it. The first part may seem clear enough, the expectation that we will support the troops, but exactly what does supporting our troops mean in the minds of those who purvey this sticker?

Is it the equivalent of the tired absolutist phrase, America, Love It Or Leave It? If so, it is demanding that all citizens adopt an unquestioning, unthinking, uncritical acceptance of all things military including, one would have to assume, actions and policies that may violate personal values and norms, for example the euphemistic collateral damage that sometimes occurs in battle and is usually explained away by government and military command as 'a regrettable but unintentional event.'

Broadening the consideration, does a failure to support the troops include asking whether the loss of young soldiers' lives in a place like Afghanistan is worth it? Indeed, does a healthy debate about such matters constitute a betrayal of the sacrifice that they have made? That certainly seemed to be the mentality that earned Jack Layton the sobriquet 'Taliban Jack' for questioning the Harper regime about its military strategy in Afghanistan a few years back.

Moving to the second part of the sticker, Feel Free To Stand In Front Of Them, I assume, although I stand to be corrected, that we are being told raising any kinds of questions about the military is tantamount to treason and therefore warrants execution.

You perhaps begin to see that there are wider implications to this mentality, which I will address in Part 2 of this post.

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