By Geoffrey Rowan
TORONTO — Three days in a row, I’ve been sitting at a red light behind a car with a bumper sticker that reads: “If you don’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” You know the rules. Three times makes a trend.
By the way, chrome (the vehicular adornment, not the browser that is part of a plot to control the known universe) is an underappreciated social medium. It operates in every country and every language. It has hundreds of millions of users and has for decades. It’s mobile. And it pioneered near-field communication.
But back to the militaristic bumper sticker. That really is an uncharacteristically jingoist sentiment for Canada, isn’t it?
“If you don’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” What does that mean?
Is the driver saying that if you don’t support the development, maintenance and use of a military force he would be happy to see you murdered by that military force?
I bet the committed, highly trained professional men and women in our armed forces don’t appreciate being cast in the role of death squad bully. We saw in the Arab Spring that many of the soldiers of Tunisia, and all the soldiers in Egypt refused to make war on their own people. Who thinks less of our own military men and women?
Does the guy with the bumper sticker think that our professional servicemen and women, who join the services because they want to – and sorry for being redundant here – serve, does he think our countrymen would shoot their fellow citizens because they don’t support the military? Most people in service think more about the values they have sworn to uphold than the rest of us. They live them every day.
But perhaps the bumper sticker is meant in a different way. Maybe the drivers aren’t saying that our brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and sons and daughters should mow down their countrymen for having a different point of view. Maybe they are saying that anyone who doesn’t support the use of military might should be willing to stand between our soldiers and harm.
Again, do they have no respect for the professionalism of the Canadian armed forces? Are they really suggesting that Canadian soldiers, peacekeepers who have volunteered to go into the hottest, most unstable areas of the world to separate combatants, are they really suggesting these men and women of integrity and courage would stoop to using human shields? That is an odious slur on one of the best trained, most skilled and professional fighting forces that has ever existed.
I don’t know how many characters a bumper can hold, but chrome Twitter has obvious limitations. So do other social media platforms. They all make it too easy to promote simplistic ideas. The world is a complicated place. When we allow ourselves to be seduced by simple-minded answers, we end up creating bigger problems.