Monday, July 31, 2006

Reply All

I got an email today. It’s like many others I’ve received since 2003, inviting readers to drop by a particular website and drop a “thank you” note into a group of messages destined for our military personnel overseas. I don’t doubt you’ve gotten similar messages.

But for whatever reason, today’s really stuck with me, wriggling under my skin like a persistent itch. So, I sat down, intending to hit “reply all” and send my rebuttal to some 2 dozen co-recipients.

After typing most of it, I thought better of my breach-of-etiquette and thought I’d just send it off to the individual sender. But that didn’t seem like enough, as if it's a violation of Blogger Law to write anything longer than 2 paragraphs and then fail to post an entry about it.

So, here 'tis. Everyone in my address book got a copy. I'll let you know if I get any (unlikely) negative responses.

Today’s email:

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Click on the web address and send a card to one who is serving our country for your freedom......
This was just sent to me. How AMAZING if we could get everyone we know to send one.
If you go to the web site at you can pick out a thank you card and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services. It only takes a second and wouldn't it be wonderful if they received a bunch of these.

Please tell all your friends about this site!

This was my reply:

I love ideas like this, to be sure, and have heard stories from soldiers that are immeasurably grateful for these kind of supportive gestures. I don’t mean for a minute to discount them in any way. Please do participate. Send your packages and your love every chance you get. It’s the very least we can do.

That said, this is exactly that, the “least”. There is more we can do for these brave men and women that are dying in droves for our country.

What, precisely?

Hold our executive and legislative branches accountable for what is a horribly and incompetently managed war.

Whether you supported the initial incursion into Iraq or not, whether you believed the Bush administration had noble goals for the region, it is hard to argue, credibly, that these goals have been achieved. Instead, over 2500 of our best and bravest are dead.

Plans for troop reduction are being shelved and these magnificent people are being relegated to a police action in Baghdad. Our resources are tapped while the entire Middle East becomes more chaotic every day. This is not solely a political problem. This is not a partisan issue. Only the most strident, and least informed, supporters of this effort maintain that Iraq has, and continues, to go swimmingly.

You and I, us “regular people” know different, though don’t we?

How many military families need state assistance just to feed and house their children? The numbers are shocking (25,000 families are eligible), and rarely discussed on the likes of Fox news.

How many soldiers have been literally blown to bits for lack of armor and equipment? According to some, a significant portion (80% of dead Marines for example) of the total lost.

How many returning soldiers are being cut off from desperately needed medical and metal health services thanks to callous cuts to VA funding? Nearly too many to count without being left with nothing but rage and despair. ($25 billion in cuts were just approved by Congress, in fact).

Supporting our troops can be much more than letters, flags and yellow ribbons. In fact, these are all hollow, meaningless gestures if we continue to elect those that enable, if not actively support, the kind of disgraces mentioned above.

Contrary to what our President would have us believe, “Staying the course” is not a strategy, it is not an ideal, and it is certainly not logical. As children, we learn to vary our techniques when old approaches fail. We learn critical thought and assessment in the hopes of learning how to respond to a changing world. And when one method fails, another is utilized. “Staying the course” is equivalent to refusing to admit mistakes, refusing to acknowledge the rising tide of public opinion (you know, those pesky constituents our leaders are supposed to REPRESENT), and refusing to take responsibility for our choices and our reality. This is not a complicated concept. Who do we respect more, the stubborn and recalcitrant or the creative and innovative? America was built by the blood, sweat and tears of the latter, if we’ll recall our 8th grade history lessons.

As such, I beg:

Get your news from multiple sources. If you must watch Fox, balance it out with, say, the BBC perhaps. Visit aggregate sites like this one that provide access to news from across the world. Read alternative press. Read blogs. There is so much information right at our fingertips that even our crowded, hectic lives can no longer excuse limiting ourselves to traditional corporate media. And remember: History is always written by the winners, and the winners are not always right (or truthful). There is far more going on than what we’re shown on Fox/CNN/MSNBC.

Get up to speed on Congressional races in your state. Our voter turn out is generally deplorable in a Presidential election, much less a Congressional one. Where do your local candidates stand on the war? On VA funding? On foreign policy? The people you send to Washington DC are the same ones that approve the decimation of VA resources and services, that approve wholly inadequate budgets for equipment, the ones that refuse to exercise their most critical responsibility: to serve the people. If you have any objection to the actions of your President, on any level, consider who made his actions possible: the United States Congress. (Well, aside for those 750+ “signing statements” in which Bush told Congress to “go &%$^ yourselves”, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

It shouldn’t take but a few moments with Google to find out these answers regarding your local representatives. In the time it takes to watch the current “American Idol”, you can learn crucial information about the people that represent your voice in your government. If their individual websites do not clearly outline their respective positions, send them emails and ask questions. If their staffers respond slowly or not at all, consider yourself warned about the candidates’ concern for their constituents. At the end of the proverbial day, our voices are all we have in a democracy. If you give up that right, give up your chance to be heard, then you give up your claim of patriotism and abandon your civic responsibility. Whether or not you have a ribbon on your bumper means nothing against that.

Listen to what returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets have to say. Turn off Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and listen to the words of ACTUAL VETERANS. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Soldiers for the Truth are good places to start. There are an increasing number of veterans running for Congress in the upcoming election. That the majority of them are running as Democrats should tell you something.

We can always send letters, fly flags, and decorate our bumpers with stickers and ribbons. And these are nice things, absolutely.

However, if you want to genuinely HELP these magnificently brave and selfless individuals, do something really meaningful:

Get Informed.
Ask Questions.
Demand Accountability.


tmp00 said...

Oh my darling, I fear that you are both preaching to the choir and spitting in the wind, but goddess love you for the effort.

Perhaps the tide is turning- even Fox pundits are starting to turn on W, hoping that the elections in November will be close enough to steal. But I am holding the hope that there are just too many right-wingers and flag waivers who have been up to the eyeballs in it, had enough people they know either not come home for over a year, come home in a box (delievered like fedEx rather than like a fallen hero) or come home without a few limbs, billed for the faulty body armor that they got shot up and paying for their own airfair home that even these people realise that this administration has been taking a gleeful dump on thier heads. Even the threat of homos marrying may not get them to the polls. I certainly hope so. I sincerely fear that we will be in a Margaret Atwood novel if not..

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Yes, you're right of course. As to choir preaching, yeah, that's a given, I think. It's not like I'm expecting Jerry Falwell to be reading. (But oooh goody, James Dobson's WackoRama is just down the road!)
I tossed this up in case anyone wants inspiration for such replies of their own, but more fundamentally, I wrote the thing (remember, intending to send it to quite a number of people I don't know at all) thinking of the Overworked, Underpaid & Exhausted people that really don't believe they have the time to "get involved" with politics. They barely have time to get an hour of "Me Time" in the evenings after the dishes are put away, the kids are in bed, the bills are ready to mail etc etc.

I sincerely sympathize with these folks, I really do. Hell, I can barely blog at all these days what with only one rambunctious toddler — and I’m not even working. Nevertheless, combine a busy life with brand-favoritism of Faux News, and out comes a frighteningly uninformed electorate.

And so I worry every time I see a car breeze by with the little yellow ribbon on the back. While these folks are trying to be decent citizens, trying to do the right thing by "supporting our troops", trying to make sure the whole "Spitting on Veterans" thing never happens again (its questionable veracity aside) I worry whether or not they take the initiative to think past the bumper stickers.

When these folks wander into voting booths, their choices shape our world. We political geeks just aren't that many, ultimately. We can make noise, but unless ALL of us make noise, I'm afraid we're just too few to make an impact. And if you'll forgive (and indulge) the rhetorical short-hand, the "Soccer Mom/Nascar Dad" votes are greatly responsible for putting this administration in power.

I don't say it to attack my own. I say it because if we don't ALL start getting our asses in gear with this whole One Man, One Vote thing, we're sincerely fucked.

I may be pissing into the wind, but better that, than sit here agonizing over a full bladder.

tmp00 said...

Good points, and I am holding the hope that the usual bugaboo of Homos getting married and darkies moving next door might not resonate as much now that gas is $3.35 a gallon and actual white people are living in Katrina trailers. Writing that, I would not be surprised if suddenly Osama is "found" (in his suite at the Watergate) or the twin towers in Century City are taken out by a convenient plane in late October.

I continue to live in hope, and spend what little extra money I have to help.

Renee said...

Glad you see you back CB. While you may be preaching to the choir, your post is a good reminder of why progressives need to get off the sideline and take action - each and every day. It's like a nagging mom telling her kids to pick up their toys - sooner or later; you just pick the shit up.

And when you do get your news from multiple sources, you will find nuggets of good news, such as Lamont seriously challenging Joementum, and MO Senator McCaskill leading R-Talent, and Montana Senator Burns stepping in shit when he criticizes firefighters giving the Democratic challenger momentum.

I feel it's my duty to pass on the hope to the idiot that shares a cubicle with me. We can all do that.

Keep preaching! It serves as my kick in the pants.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Thanks, Renee. Glad to see you're still around. Next time I feel a hiatus coming on, I'll have the decency to announce it. :)~

RTSO said...

Of course, it doesn't help that many of these messages never get delivered to the troops. Story

"One recent effort is a campaign to get people at major league baseball games to "text-message" their support to the troops on their cell phones... even though those messages aren't actually sent to the troops."

Good to see you back!!

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Well, that's shitty news (the story, not your lovely parting enthusiasm). Though, sadly not surprising. $2.7 mil? Ah, what the hell. -flush-

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