Thursday, June 22, 2006

Support Your Troops

In the last three years since the start of the Iraq War, it has become common to see anti-war protesters standing on opposing street corners from pro-war activists. Sometimes there are visible differences of clothing and hairstyles. Generally the differing worldviews, above and beyond opinions on the war, are strong enough that you can taste them.

Both sides, however, have latched onto one common slogan: “Support Our Troops!”

This slogan is bandied about on either side of the street as though the other side somehow doesn’t get it. In spite of their fervor many of the rally attendees have, no doubt, stepped over the bodies of disabled veterans while walking to the rallies.

I got a call the other day from the Ranger newspaper asking if Bread & Roses had seen any veterans from the Iraq War yet. We haven't. I had to be honest with the reporter. I told her that it takes time for troops' families to give up on them.

People come home from war totally mangled in mind, body, and spirit. In spite of all the sloganeering out there, the responsibility for the welfare of veterans ultimately falls on their families. Many, many families are unable to shoulder the responsibility. This doesn't make them bad or irresponsible, nor does it mean that they don't love their veteran. It DOES mean that taking care of a person who doesn't sleep at night, who suffers from flashbacks, who turns to alcohol for solace, and who becomes sorely irritable, even prone to fits of rage, is EXTREMELY difficult and should not fall on family alone. But it does fall on family alone, because everyone else is too busy sloganeering.

With time, the families give up. I know this because we at Bread & Roses have fed, sheltered, comforted, and advocated for veterans of every war from World War II to the Persian Gulf War. And we are criticized for it.

Veterans who suffer from PTSD often turn to alcohol or drugs to ward off bad memories, as well as to blunt their emotional response to being alienated from society. Imagine enduring the horrors of war for your nation, and then being left to rot in the gutter as a reward. You’d start drinking too.

Homeless veterans experience not only homelessness, but also the stigma of being considered the “undeserving” poor because of their addictions and “anti-social” behaviors. Pedestrians yell at them, spit on them, call them names, and tell them to “get a job”.

This will be the fate of many of the troops that everyone wants to “Support!” when “support” means waving a sign.

I'm frankly sick of all this "Support Our Troops" bantering on both sides of the war debate. We should all stop yelling this mantra and start doing it.

1 comment:

One More Transience said...

Hello. My name is also Phil Owen. I liked what I've read here so far. I just thought it was cool that we had the same name, and both had a blogger blog. Keep writing.

Currently Reading:

  • Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America - Todd Depastino

Recently Finished Reading:

  • Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
  • Utopia of Usurers - GK Chesterton
  • Orthodoxy - GK Chesterton