Troop support of ribbon warriors is mostly hot air

April 16, 2006|By TOM MATTHEWS

Anybody else tired of being lectured to by the backside of a Ford Windstar?

Every morning, while I'm out there with the carpool warriors, there they are, those ubiquitous ribbons taking me to task: "Support the troops." As if it would slip my mind without their hectoring.

Saying "Support the troops" is like saying "Support the firefighters." Of course, we appreciate their service, admire their courage and hope they all make it home safely. We do not, however, support the fire, nor do we support the man who started it.

Do you want to really support the troops - those on the ground now and today's middle-school-age kids who will represent the next wave in the next war for oil? Get rid of your Hummers and your Tahoes, and see if you can't suffer the searing anguish of wedging your families into more fuel-efficient vehicles. For the troops.

But that would require sacrifice, something we Americans are not too keen on. Better to leave your devotion to a maudlin, $2 bumper sticker.

The other day I saw a van with two ribbons; one said "Support the troops," the other said "Go Packers!" The juxtaposition was as perfect as it was cruel.

What bothers me most about those ribbons is the thing that you can't see: Most of them are magnets. When this war finally does end - most likely around the time that Chelsea Clinton is mulling a run for the White House - those proud troop boosters can pluck off their ribbons with all the effort of taking last year's report card down from the fridge.

But many of the troops we have so blithely sent off to war - if they come home at all - will suffer physically or mentally, or both, for decades. Too bad for them that the attention of the American public tends to have the life span of a season of American Idol.

Want to really show your support for the troops? Get out your super glue, go out to your minivan and make that ribbon permanent. Do the same for every new vehicle you buy for at least the next 50 years, because that's how long many soldiers in Iraq will continue to suffer for this war. And that's how long it's going to take - if we're lucky - to undo the damage that's been done to this country as a result of our actions.

How about it, ribbon warriors? Willing to make that kind of commitment to the troops?

Will you at least mar your 12-miles-to-the-gallon behemoth forever to prove that you'll care about these soldiers for the rest of their lives and not just for as long as it serves your immediate political needs?

If not, then the back of your car is just where those ribbons belong. Because that's where the hot air comes out.

Tom Matthews wrote the film "Mad City" and the novel "Like We Care." His e-mail is tmatthews1@wi.rr.com.

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