I am breaking this one

I recently received the following chain email.

You stay up for 16 hours
He stays up for days on end.

Troops 1

You take a warm shower to help you wake up.
He goes days or weeks without running water.

Troops 2

You complain of a “headache”, and call in sick.
He gets shot at as others are hit, and keeps moving forward.

Troops 3

You put on your anti war/don’t support the troops shirt, and go meet up with your friends.
He still fights for your right to wear that shirt.

Troops 4

You make sure you’re cell phone is in your pocket.
He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

Troops 5

You talk trash about your “buddies” that aren’t with you.
He knows he may not see some of his buddies again.

Troops 6

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls.
He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

troops 7

You complain about how hot it is.
He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

Troops 8

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong.
He doesn’t get to eat today.

Troops 9

Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes.
He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean.

Troops 10

You go to the mall and get your hair redone.
He doesn’t have time to brush his teeth today.

Troops 11

You’re angry because your class ran 5 minutes over.
He’s told he will be held over an extra 2 months.

Troops 12

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight.
He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

Troops 13

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday.
He holds his letter close and smells his love’s perfume.

Troops 14

You roll your eyes as a baby cries.
He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they’ll ever meet.

Troops 15

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything.
He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

Troops 16

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him.
He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

Troops 17

You see only what the media wants you to see.
He sees the broken bodies lying around him.

Troops 18

You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don’t.
He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

Troops 19

You stay at home and watch TV.
He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

Troops 20

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.
He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long.

Troops 21

If you support your troops, send this to 7 people.
If you don’t support your troops well, then don’t send this out. You won’t die in 7 days, your love life won’t be affected, and you won’t have the worst day ever.
You don’t have to email this. It’s not like you know the men and women that are dying to preserve your rights.

Troops 22

REMEMBER our Troops, and do not forget them LATER

Lest we forget –


Troops 23

The subject line was “I am not breaking this one. Sorry!” Sorry?!

I’m surprised that these types of emails are still going around, and are still, apparently, effective. But effective in what? This particular missive reeks of sanctimoniousness. According to a Feb. 2008 CNN opinion poll, 64% of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq. Would my feeling guilty somehow raise the troops’ morale? Perhaps the author thinks that if we all focus our Support for the Troops and “put it out there,” we can affect the outcome of the war in some way, much like the hippies who tried to levitate the Pentagon through meditation.

The whole “support our troops” movement is, of course, a backlash against an attitude of the Vietnam war era, when war protesters spit upon returning troops and held them as responsible for the unending horrors of Vietnam as the politicians who sent them to war. By drawing from the mistakes of prior anti-war movements, supporters of the Iraq war have created a powerful holy water to neutralize the arguments against the current occupation. Those opposing the Iraq war are then seen as being somehow responsible for the suffering of the men and women deployed by the U.S. government. Thus, the myth that the troops fighting in Iraq are fighting for our freedom still leaks through, and in some circles, like those circulating this email, prevails.

The thing that bothers me the most about this email is the assumption that I, in any way, thought it was a good idea to send anyone off to Iraq in the first place. As if I asked for W. to ship thousands of men and women halfway around the world to kill people who didn’t want us there in the first place, and now I’m acting the ungrateful child by not shouldering the responsibility of this intangible Support. The anti-war movement has been tricked by this Trojan moral high-horse, and now it seems that any protest is greyed out by the idea that being anti-war is equal to hating those who are still fighting it.

In forwarding this chain letter, the senders are playing into the sanctimoniousness of the author. Having hit “send,” they lift themselves from the bubbling pit of “Them” toward the fluffy clouds of “We,” the smug, the guiltless, the morally clean.

25 responses to “I am breaking this one”

  1. Dave says:

    A sanctimonious and rhetorically incoherent email, definitely.

    It turns out the whole spitting-on-returning-Vietnam-vets thing didn’t really happen, as Ari pointed out over at The Edge of the American West.

    Maybe most annoyingly out of place in this email is the trope that the troops are fighting to protect our rights: “He still fights for your right to wear that shirt.” Of course — because what the Shi’ite and Sunni militias in Iraq really want is to censor the messages on the t-shirts we wear here in America.

  2. Scotty says:

    Goodness gracious! Talk about a strawman. The part that bothers me the most is the mention of wearing an anti-war shirt as the caption above protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church who blame 9-11 on America not stoning and burning our homosexual population. Of course, the irony is that the anti-war shirt caption is juxtaposed with the mention of the soldier clutching the cross around his neck. I guess, the soldier worships the right Jesus.

  3. Dave says:

    The soldier worships the Jesus who only disapproves of fags, rather than hating them.

  4. Scotty says:

    Oh. So you mean the Jesus who thinks that fags should only be denies their civil rights, but not the Jesus who thinks they should be tortued to death. Thanks for clearing that up Dave.

  5. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Dave, thanks for pointing out the “spitting” myth.

  6. bryan says:

    Is one of the free speech homophobes actually trampling an American flag as well? I’d say the photo was staged for this email in that case and is as incoherent as the rest of this crap.

    I’m interested in the construction of the sentimental soldier in these photos, though.

  7. Scotty says:

    Actually Bryan, the truth is more disturbing.

  8. Dave says:

    Yeah, I didn’t know the spitting thing was a myth until I read Ari’s blog post a week or two ago.

  9. swells says:

    My favorite post of yours ever, Jen. Four short paragraphs, but so concise, so direct, so cutting, so apt. love it. Very sharp and distilled, unlike that email which goes on FOREVER!! Those protest signs were so confusing that I lost the thread of the email (which isn’t exactly complex, either) while trying to figure out what the hell they were even arguing. God’s Rod???? So God is gay now? Doesn’t that make him self-loathing? Is the WTC his bitch? (or is that a photo of a giant dinosaur?) I don’t even get it. I DO get, however, how insulting it is to suggest that supporting the troops could mean anything but bringing them back rather than sending them over to become broken shards of themselves . . . but I believe I’ve posted about this before . . .

  10. Tim says:

    #6: I found this interesting, too, Bryan. It seems that according to these photos, when soldiers aren’t shooting, patrolling, or keeping their weapons clean (huh?), they’re crying, praying, hugging, or snuggling each other. (Check out photo #6, especially, and #20, the nap in the shade of a tank.)

    It’s amazing to me that anyone could think that forwarding this email to 7 people actually does anything more than momentarily spread the salve of sanctimoniousness over the sender’s sense of self-righteousness. (Say, that’s sibilant.)

  11. Ruben Mancillas says:

    for those interested (sorry, I can’t/won’t learn how/don’t link) but the spitting article I read is on slate by jack shafer dated may 2, 2000. good stuff

  12. Guenevere says:

    “your anti war/don’t support the troops t-shirt” Yes, because everyone who who is against the war doesn’t support the troops. Those “hate the troops” t-shirts are truly popular.

    The implication that those of us against the war are allied with the nutty Baptist protestors is bizarre. I mean they offend both left and right on purpose. And, fair enough, they have the right to do it. Damn First Amendment and all. Speaking of which, if anyone thinks that this war has somehow strengthened that ol’ Bill of Rights, read Molly Ivin’s Bill of Wrongs to get a sense of how this administration has used this perpetual state of war to suppress free speech [and invisibly watch anyone they want, without a warrant and do whatever else they want for that matter]. So who’s really sick? People who use the troops and war as justification of Constitutional violations, or we showering, eating, cell-phone using, mall-going, TV-watching, maid-employing anti-war activists. [And how dare we continue functioning during a war that we didn’t want and never supported–I suppose I would just have to give up my maid in honor of the troops, if I had one] .

  13. Dave says:

    My idea for a New Yorker-style cartoon (would have been better a few years ago, but still kind works): One plump old plutocrat says to another, over after-dinner cigars, “Oh, I’m all for the war; I just can’t bring myself to support our troops.”

  14. Demosthenes says:

    I bet the author thinks Jesus would support the troops.

  15. Gale says:

    There is no logic behind this chain email, obviously. It reminds me of those bumper stickers that say “freedom isn’t free.”

    Taken as a whole, the email actually makes a potent case for ending the war rather than prolonging it.

  16. LP says:

    13: That actually was a New Yorker cartoon a few years ago.

  17. Jen says:

    Dave: Interesting point re: troops being spat upon. I was actually using that more as a shortcut to the idea that anti-war protesters during Vietnam had a confusing mix of disdain as well as sorrow for the men who had to fight the war. Ari’s article seems to refute the actual act of spitting – do you think that the whole attitude behind it was a myth too? If so, then the propoganda runs deeper than I realized; if not, then it illustrates my point all the more.

  18. Jen says:

    Swells – thanks for the props! It’s interesting to see what people see in the photos. I missed the protesters ones until y’all pointed it out – I thought it was some kind of staged protest as well, but Scotty’s link proves disturbingly otherwise. Unless that’s a joke – hard to tell.

    Dave – I love your cartoon idea! I don’t care if it’s already been in the New Yorker – it’s still damn funny.

  19. I’m trying to figure out why I felt slightly choked up and heady after reading/looking at all this staged poetry and pictures. The intellect in me (the thing that finds this blog fascinating) doesn’t particularly support the troops’ occupation in Iraq. Most of these pictures look professionally taken, most likely by the photographers who accompany the journalists and politicians, and are obviously taken to arouse some sort of hero-worship. It definitely appeals to my emotions, and seems to make everything clearly good guy-bad-buy.

    Anybody been to arab7.com (on the bottom of one of those pics)? I can’t find any evidence of that pic on the site, except for maybe some stuff that might be political cartoons.

  20. lane says:

    “I’m trying to figure out why I felt slightly choked up and heady after reading/looking at all this staged poetry and pictures. ”

    It’s because you feel bad for those guys and their really, really, really shitty lives. That, coupled with the fact that you have a sentimental streak in your genetic make up that is deep as the day is long.

    It’s O,K to feel that way for the individuals, but it doesn’t mean what the author wrote was “true.”

  21. I think Kate was just feeling guilty for being a self-centered mall rat who makes fun of soldiers, texts her girlfriends, and spends all day (when she’s not doing her makeup or trampling on flags and hating fags) watching reality TV.

  22. jeez, kate — it’s a good thing you’re a good multitasker!

  23. Man, it’s such a good thing I’m so shallow or I would have been insulted by your #22, Bryan. :)

    Lane, I laughed heartily at that one. You’re right; the family does have quite a bit of sentimentaility. That must be it.

  24. Baz says:

    I too have received this e-mail. I took a look at the source code for it and unfortunately I’m no expert, but it seems to have a way of gathering e-mail addresses or phishing in some way. From what I can see, you have to click on the word ‘mobile’ that appears as a link (yours says ‘cell phone’). Needless to say I have not clicked.

    There are other ways of gathering addresses using e-mails and I had to abandon one address after a ‘friend’ kept sending me chains and my Spam count went up to over 3,500 per day. That’s all chains are – Spam.

    And no, I didn’t pass it on, but have ex-army in the family and have employed ex-army in the past.