Sunday, December 19, 2004
Back in the U.S.A.
This visit was also by rental car, and we spent most of the nine-hour drive in Red Voter chunks of New York and Pennsylvania. Not that it was obvious from the road, as the election seems sufficiently long ago that there was little Bush/Cheney signage left. Instead, we saw a diner in New York that advertised both hot dogs and tripe (the latter illustrated by a large, red steaming bowl), and were amused to note a Pennsylvania road sign warning against aggressive drivers that was immediately followed by another sign bearing the silhouette of a horse and buggy.
The most obvious reminder that we were back in the U.S.A. came at the supermarket. Now that I’m used to grocery shopping in Canada, the variety of goods in American supermarkets seems both dazzling and numbing. At the SuperFresh my mother shops, there were at least 60 varieties of canned soup, almost triple what can be found at my neighbourhood Loblaw’s. Such abundance is something I took for granted when living in the States, and while there are some products I can’t get here and miss — navy bean soup, for instance, does not seem to be a Canadian taste — I don’t particularly feel that my life is harder for not having so many items to not buy.
Having the LCBO become more like American liquor stores, on the other hand, would definitely be an improvement.
What most puzzled us, though, were all the yellow ribbon magnets we kept seeing. When did this phenomenon take root? And is Tony Orlando getting a cut?
Seriously, while publicly avowing “We Support Our Troops” is certainly more civil than jeering “Baby Killer!” at returning G.I.s, it’s more than a little disturbing, nonetheless. Proclaiming “I Support the War in Iraq” may be more controversial, but at least it’s honest. The yellow ribbon, on the other hand, seems disingenuous, even if taken as a sort of “love the soldier, hate the war” reaction. For one thing, the Iraq occupation is far from the clean, white-hat operation Donald Rumsfeld would have us imagine. Not only has Abu Ghraib sullied the U.S. forces’ good-guy image, but testimony at Jeremy Hinzman’s asylum hearing in Canada suggests that further atrocities — such as the killing of unarmed civilians — remains unreported and uninvestigated. Do the ribbon-bearers support those troops as well?
Feel-good patriotism is enough of an American tradition that I probably shouldn’t cavil at its current manifestations. Still, it bothers me to see so many Americans respond to the war so insipidly. If you really support U.S. troops, how about asking harder questions about American foreign policy? Or about staffing levels in Iraq? Or about the Pentagon’s refusal to honor contracts with reservists? Or about Bush administration cuts in military pay and benefits?
That’s real support. The rest is just the political equivalent of a Hallmark card.