Friday, January 12, 2007

maybe they could give out social worker bobblehead dolls

So, as a bit of a caveat, I should say that as I write this I'm looking at and listening to old video of Jean Luc Ponty and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Jazz/rock played on a violin. Pretty trippy. I think this makes me what atrios calls a "dirty fucking hippie." So be it.

What I want to write about tonight is a bit sensitive. I feel like I should duck while I'm writing it. Since it has to do with "supporting the troops," I open myself up to obvious ad hominem style attacks. But it's not just the fairly obvious idea that authorities tend to use the message of "supporting the troops," as cover to make people feel guilty for not supporting policies that send troops to their death, such as the Iraq mess. My awareness of this fact made me feel a bit sheepish when I was home for Christmas driving around in my dad's truck with his "Support the Troops" bumper sticker on it.

Really, honestly, genuinely, of course I support the troops. I have general issues about how armed forces like the army or the police can be used to enforce the will of powerful minorities over the wishes of unarmed majorities. But at the same time, I recognize that in many, many situations the police would be the first people I'd turn to for help if I were in trouble. I have the luxury of running away from an assailant and allowing the police to protect me. Police officers have agreed to risk their lives for schmucks like me. In a different way, so have soldiers. That's awesome. Thanks. Seriously. I'm glad there are people willing to do this.

But one thing I long admired about Canada was that it traditionally hasn't fetishized the military in the same way as the U.S. We haven't really needed military jets flying over the Grey Cup to make us feel like big men. But I fear that I sense that changing. One way I've noticed it is by watching the NHL this year. Every Canadian city with an NHL team, it seems, is taking one night this year to honour the troops. I was reminded of this tonight while waiting for the subway, and seeing Toronto is doing it before this weekend's game against Vancouver.

Now, by itself, these kinds of "honour the troops" nights are fine. Soldiers have what seems to me a shit job. Especially ones in battle zones like Afghanistan. I guess what I find weird is that soldiering as a profession seems to have been singled out for this kind of an honour. Again, I am grateful for what soldiers do, but I'm grateful that there are people willing to engage in a whole bunch of professions.

Where would we be without social workers, for example? They often clean up society's crap, are underpaid, and work in dangerous and hostile environments. But, of course, social workers are mostly women, and they deal with problems not by "fighting" them but by nurturing. Isn't it odd that we are supposed to so regularly pay hommage to and be grateful for those who fight while those who nurture go unrecognized. Thanks Dad. Now go make me a chicken pot pie, Mom. Y'know?

So, I know what soldiers do is tough. But lots of people help in different kinds of ways and also have it tough. And it seems like it's only soldiers who are deemed worthy of being lauded in these kinds of most visible ways. Ways that ultimately reinforce values that support aggressive responses to the world's problems. It reminds me of reports of the recently announced Iraqi plan to escalate attacks against insurgents, that was described as a "war on violence." I mean, once you declare war hasn't violence already won?

I won't hold my breath for a social workers night at the ACC. But it's important to remember, I think, that institutions that use care and nurturing as a response to the world's problems deserve at least as much respect as those that use violence.

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