Sunday, January 28, 2007
The 'Supporting the Troops' Mantra
Is the fact that all modern politicians feel obligated to preface and conclude any remark on the war with testimony to their deep and profound support for the troops based on a lie? Jerry Lembcke, a sociologist at Holy Cross College, researched and wrote a book on the phenomenon of people spitting on Vietnam veterans. His conclusion? It never happened (see here for a Slate review of the book). And nobody even claimed it did until 5 years after the last Americans came home. Writes Lembcke: "A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war." Given how politically powerful the notion of people defiling the troops has become, Lembcke's findings are frankly astounding to me. It makes for quite a study in memes and conventional wisdom. This urban legend has left a deep mark on the way we think and talk about war in America, and I don't doubt in the least, has had an impact on the general lack of resistance to Bush's Iraq policy. And it could very well all be bullshit. Wow!