"Warriors and Wusses" – Joel Stein

Reading a Joel Stein article in Time magazine led me to this piece he wrote which got quite a lot of attention and controversy early last year.  It’s about what a cop-out it is to be anti-war but to say you “support the troops.” 

When you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you’re
not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you’re
willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for
better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic
genocide in Kosovo, but other times it’s Vietnam.

It’s written from an American perspective and a bit awkward because he’s writing about something which is deadly serious while being known mainly as a humourist.  (Truth be told, I don’t think a lot of the humour in the piece works and in fact, weakens it significantly.) 

But I’m glad to find somebody who’s enough of a “hero” to say this.  (Hero, by the way is another extremely overused phrase in our society which, like “support the troops” is a major cop-out position.  To me, the people who died in the World Trade Centre attacks were not heroes and I would argue that 99% of the firemen and policemen who died weren’t either.  They were brave.  They were dedicated.  They were selfless.  But they weren’t heroes.) 

Anyhow, if you’re against the war in either Iraq or Afgahnistan, the only way the words “support the troops” should be part of your vocabulary is if you say “I support bringing the troops home.”

(Now, where’d I put that “rant” tag?)

Here’s the full article:

Warriors and wusses – Los Angeles Times

[Edit: 2013-08/26 – here’s another article I came across making similar points about the many problems with “Support The Troops”.]

Comments 5

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Particularly on the “Hero” comment.
    It's an interesting perspective on the US war on peace. On another hand, is it the same thing in Canada? Can we say “I support the troops and wish they'd go to Darfur”?

    Posted 17 Jan 2007 at 2:17 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Everybody will have their own definition of course but for me, there are times when I think force is justified when my country is at war and I would support the troops (WWI and WWII are the obvious examples) and UN-type interventions like we should've had in Rwanada and should have in Darfar fall into the “I'd support the troops” category for me as well.

    Posted 19 Jan 2007 at 9:01 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Uhm, we did have a UN intervention in Rwanda but if you've read “Shake Hands with the Devil” or seen “Hotel Rwanda”, you know how ineffective that was compared to what it should have been.

    Posted 19 Jan 2007 at 9:02 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Yeah; those latter two were what I was getting at.
    I've been thinking for a few days now about your comment about heroes, and have been trying to figure out why you wouldn't classify the firefighters, police, etc., at the WTC bombing as heroes, and why that makes so much sense to me. I think, but I can't put it in to words yet, that it might have something to do with heroism being something *over and above* what you're “expected to do”. And that sounds all wrong. But if you sign up to be a First Responder Emergency Person, you're signing up to be the first guy into the building if there's a fire or a flood or a Big Problem; it's your *job*. Am I on the right track here?
    And that the heroes in the WTC bombing were the people who were, say, janitors or office workers in that building, who sacrificed their own safety to help others?
    Or is heroism something even more?
    Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about what you've said.

    Posted 19 Jan 2007 at 7:29 pm
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    Exactly. It cheapens the word to apply it to everyone including those who are doing what they want to do. A fireman who was killed simply because his truck was called to the WTC isn't a hero. If he did something heroic (“above and beyond” as you say) then that's heroic. Maybe they run into the building to save someone in a wheelchair after the evacuate order has been given.
    Usually, I'm a very “language is fluid and evolving” kind of guy. But at the same time, I hate Orwellian manipulations of language like this which in turn, manipulates people. Not sure when the last time you were in the States was but there are a lot of “Honour Our Heroes” signs up still in windows and storefronts.
    (My blog made you think? I've got to try harder. More YouTube videos of people shooting themselves in the foot to come!)

    Posted 23 Jan 2007 at 5:12 am
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