July 04, 2019

Horse 2566 - Support The Troops - How Exactly?

I am an Australian. I live in Sydney. I was issued at age 3 with a set of suction cups, so that I wouldn't fall off of the Earth. I say this by way of preface to point out that I am not American and that I find that republic both confusing and insane at times.
One of those times is the annual event on the internet, where across all forums and social media (especially Twitter and Facebook), America has its super hyper patriotic holiday, where its mythologising leaks out all over the place. I think that if you do bleed red, white, and blue, that you should seek urgent medical attention because you appear to have something more serious than diabetes.
That annual event isn't reserved for Memorial Day weekend but Independence Day; which is of course, today.

If constant streams of pictures of Abraham Lincoln riding a bear, whilst holding a shotgun and the US Constitution, on the moon, while shouting 'Murica', is weird (which is totally a thing on the internet), then the thing which I find really weird and which has made a come back in 2019 with a vengeance, are pictures of ribbons with the vague directive: Support Our Troops.
My big question is: How?

As an Australian Australian who lives in Australia, I have a pretty good idea of the military history of my country. We fight in wars that we don't start and our foreign policy since before the Commonwealth was constituted, has been to go to every war that our big brother tells us to. I totally get that we are a small and spineless nation, who makes about as much impression on the world stage as the rear end of a pantomime horse.
What I don't get is that the United States of America who had a somewhat dubious and isolationist policy for the first half of the twentieth century, and which spent the second half of the twentieth century and the opening part of the twenty-first, engaging in stupid wars with virtually no net benefit except to keep the magic pianos of the arms manufacturers playing their favourite song (ka-ching, ka-ching), should then want to redirect any and all scrutiny into a faux hyper patriotism.

In my country, the notion of 'supporting the troops' extends to the idea of paying them handsomely, and providing adequate training, medical care and education when they demob. We do that through the mechanism of taxation, and through the Department of Veterans' Affairs. After the Second World War, DVA was also interested in providing low cost housing for returned service personnel, and even today it still provides things like transport for people on Veterans Pensions.
'Supporting the Troops' means practical aid as a nation, to people as valued employees. I don't get how it can be anything else.

So I just don't get what exactly the vague notion of 'supporting the troops' in an American context is supposed to be. As I understand it, the GI Bill acts similarly to our programs of demob for ex-service personnel and there is a degree to which Medicare and Medicaid provide limited services to veterans in the United States but looking from the outside, it seems woefully inadequate.
America has chosen repeatedly to do health care in particular but government services generally, really terribly, and mainly seeks to reward the rentier class for ensuring that the systems which could help the people generally and veterans especially, remain completely broken. I just don't understand what 'supporting the troops' is supposed to mean other than a display of super hyper patriotic pictures on the internet and/or bumper stickers if they are still a thing.
America seems to have a distinct class of veterans who after going where Uncle Sam has told them to go, come back seriously traumatised; which is to be expected in the horrors of war. Uncle Sam however, doesn't seem to want to care very much for ex-service personnel when they return, and far too many end up with serious mental health issues and falling into homelessness. It as if Uncle Same himself, lets people fall through the cracks semi-deliberately.
It is almost as if the preamble to the US Constitution to 'provide for the general welfare' and 'secure the blessings of liberty' are the punchline to an unfunny joke; and as an afterthought, rather than the opening salvo to the constitution of a nation.

Admittedly we don't have that kind of super hyper patriotism in Australia because it would be seen as an act of withdrawing the mictruate. If someone were to ask us to 'support the troops', then we'd probably want to know why the DoD and DVA weren't doing their job. As for the RSL Association, their local branches are mostly in rude health and have become cathedrals to the pokies.
I do not know to what degree the VA or the Legionaries in the United States have support from the government but I imagine that it is as inadequate as the current policy of supporting the troops.

The call to 'support the troops' just seems hollow to me. From the outside it looks very much like a campaign by Coca-Cola, which is catchy, and sells stickers but actually achieves very little. The Congress doesn't appear to be willing to fix any problems; as they're on the take from people who want to cause wars, so that they can sell arms.
This is case of where your heart lies, there your treasure shall be also. America likes to say 'support the troops' but her treasure is elsewhere. Uncle Sam yells louder than Columbia, who it must be said is taking a nap.

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