Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why are cowboys angry at each other? 

I'll try not to be mean, because Isaac Ardoin, writing his opinion piece in "The Oklahoma Daily" ("The independent student voice of the University of Oklahoma since 1917"), sounds like a nice guy and probably means well:
It has been very disturbing for me, in recent years especially, to watch rampant partisanship tear our nation apart.

Less than two weeks ago, I was in a Wal-Mart parking lot and was walking toward a man unloading groceries into his truck. A second man, driving a truck of the same model, parked next to the first man's truck. As the second man walked past, he pointed to the ribbon - "Bring 'em home" - on the back of the first man's truck, rolled his eyes and shook his head. The first man saw him and lifted his hands in the air as if to say, "What?" The first man looked at the ribbon on the second man's truck - "Support our troops" - and then got into his truck angrily and sped away.

This was disheartening to say the least, especially because the two men obviously had a lot in common. They both drove the same truck and they both wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots.

In any other circumstance, the two men probably would have been friends, but they let the stickers on the back of their trucks decide their relationship. As soon as the second man read the first man's ribbon, all hope for friendly conversation was lost.
I don't know anything about Ardoin, but if he’s studying journalism, he's got a fine career ahead of him in one of the respectable major dailies, writing occasional anthropological pieces for the sophisticated East Coast audiences about the strange folk in Red States: all cowboy-looking people must be friends. They're not? Oh. Let's investigate.
I then realized that just as the two men were so similar, the messages on their trucks were also similar. When you think about it, both sides are really after the same thing.

People who "Support our troops" know that our soldiers are risking their lives for America every day. They want our soldiers to feel like we back them 100 percent and that we fully appreciate the sacrifices they make.

People who want to "Bring 'em home" also know that our soldiers are risking their lives for America every day. They want our soldiers to stay in America where the chance of dying is much smaller. "Bring 'em home" people usually think America should just mind its own business.

Both sides want our troops to be happy and safe; they just show it in different ways.
Well yes, and it is very nice and useful to focus on things that unite us - although if you follow comments on Democratic Underground and Daily Kos you realize very quickly that not everyone - albeit they are a small minority - wants our troops to be safe. More importantly, a rather larger section of that same side doesn't really give a stuff whether the troops are happy or not, having a tendency to look at all thing military through Vietnam era colored glasses (including, most recently, the funnyman Bill Maher, with his remark that the army has already recruited all the "low-lying fruit" - add that to the list of motivations behind liberal anti-military bias: a class-based snobbery).

Be that all as it may, the point is not that we all like (or should like) our soldiers - it's not even about the military per se, but about the foreign policy. The disagreement here between the two truck-driving cowboy-looking fellas is over America's role in the world. One of them thinks the United States should be deposing tyrants and helping to spread freedom and democracy, the other thinks we should rather stay at home and mind our own business. And that's a huge chasm of opinion, too big, too basic, I'm afraid, to paper over - or indeed find a common ground.

Still, Ardoin has the solution to all the sorry partisanship:
People who want to "Bring 'em home" need to realize that their opinion sounds unpatriotic to some people. They need to constantly reiterate that they are not anti-American, they just do not think the war is worth the lives of our young men and women. Instead of attacking people who "Support our troops," ask them if they know anyone in Iraq right now, and if so, wouldn't they rather have that soldier home right now.

People who "Support our troops" need to realize that it is OK to disapprove of the actions of our government. We are paying for it and we can criticize it. When people badmouth our government, it is not the same as badmouthing our country. When we question our government, we are really showing that we care about the actions it is taking.
So yes, the solution involves bringing the troops home like the left wants to, but maybe they'll promise to be pleasant about it.


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