Monday, February 12, 2007

On things that never really hit home

Okay, so Bush was recently asked, in an interview with Jim Lehrer, about the sacrifices Americans were being asked to make on the homefront. His response (my emphasis):
BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we’ve got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

And there you have it. Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice because we feel kind of sad every time we watch the news. We're "somewhat down." We sacrifice peace of mind. And that's without mentioning all of the shopping that we're expected to do to bolster the nation's economy.

In World War II, the war effort was a nationwide thing. The War Production Board actually influenced fashion in the 1940s - vests and cuffed pants went out of style for men, and the shorter, narrower pencil skirt was created for women, to conserve fabric for uniforms and other necessities. Nylon was needed for the war, so women took to wearing leg makeup and drawing seams up the backs of their legs to imitate the appearance of stockings. Gasoline, coffee, sugar, and meat were all rationed. Posters urged Americans at home to buy war bonds, conserve food and fuel and scrap metal, and even avoid vacation days and sick days from work. Women moved into the industrialized workplace to cover the jobs left by men going to war. Baseball was put on hold.

Now, we shop. We feel sad when we watch the news. We drive our SUVs. We sit safely behind our computers with a lapful of Cheetos writing heroic prose about our president and blindly praising the war effort. We don't go to war ourselves - some people are good for war, but our efforts are much more valuable as pro-war propagandists safe at home - and the most important thiing of all is that the war never touches our lives. If our lifestyles change in the slightest, the terrorists have won.

Conserve. Buy war bonds. Save gas. "Materials wasted means lives wasted." "Our men out there need our help." Somehow, "Gas up your Hummer or Hitler has won" never made it into the pantheon of World War II-era Americana. But Americans today seem to be making a concerted effort to remain as removed from and unaffected by the current war as they possibly can.

And that's what makes it so easy to conceive of a war without an end. That's why an open-ended commitment in Iraq, with no timeline, no real objective, no consequences for unmet goals, is still acceptable to nearly a third of Americans - because none of that touches us. Yes, some families - too many families - lose loved ones, and too many soldier and Marines come home with wounds you can see and wounds you can't, but the rest of us remain untouched. Our lives are no different while we're at war than they were before the war started. We blame the media for exposing us to the unpleasant realities of war instead of running constant feel-good propaganda. Because if we're inconvenienced by anything more than "being down" when we watch the news, the terrorists have won.

Patriotism, supporting our troops, loving America, has to become more significant than slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on your Tahoe and heading off to Wal-Mart to feed the economy. Our men and women in the Middle East cannot and must not be the only ones making any sacrifices so that we can live peaceful, undisturbed lives at home. Don't Humvees and personnel carriers in Iraq use just as much fuel as Jeeps did in World War II? Aren't our troops tooling around Baghdad with insufficient armor on their bodies and their trucks? Aren't injuried soldiers and Marines coming home to shoddy aftercare and poor medical benefits?

Just remember: While we, as a nation, are entirely capable of doing something to help, making some real sacrifice to change all that, it's vastly more important that our comfortable, easy lives remain unruffled - or else the terrorists have won.

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