Before leaving the States (in April), I spotted the following bumper sticker on a big 4x4 (what else?):
"FREEDOM HAS A TASTE THOSE WHO HAVEN'T FOUGHT FOR IT WILL NEVER KNOW."
I had to guess:
Butterscotch? Chocolate? Banana? (My favorite! Gimme two scoops of freedom, please, with liberal -- sorry -- lots of sprinkles.)
OK, so maybe the guy knows better, considering his he-man vehicle also sported military insignia and here I was, a lowly peace lover who, really, should have been thankful just to occupy the same world he and his military kin have helped make safe for, you know, virulent anti-Americanism.
Don't misread me. While I'm not keen on the military, I am on the Constitution, and one thing it says (or said, before it was cut into iddy widdy pieces) is that it was, in part, "ordain[ed] and establish[ed]" to "provide for the common defense..."
Anymore, however, with neo-imperialism all the rape, er, rage, America's $1.4 trillion military outlay (for fiscal year 2009, per War Resisters League) isn't about common defense; rather, it's uncommonly offensive.
Ditto the bumper sticker, with its smug implication that only soldier types truly understand what liberty means, thereby leaving us oblivious civilians to wonder what the fightin's really all about. The least we can do, then, I suppose, in our wimpy naiveté, is -- all together now! -- "support the troops."
Here's an idea: How about supporting them by not senselessly sending them a-warring to begin with? One couldn't have found a larger group pleading that very case than we millions who desperately protested the Iraq disaster before it commenced. Every assertion of ours has long been proven true. Yet we're the ones who don't get it?
Contrast this up-front awareness with the eighty-five percent of U.S. troops in Iraq who, when polled in February 2006 (Zogby International), still believed Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11, and tell me who knows what. Funny how the so-in-tune military, possessing the unique skinny on the flavor of freedom, makes no effort to dissuade its very own from "fighting for it" under utterly false pretenses.
Then again, if I were the self-aggrandizing collective goon for the Halliburtons, Lockheed Martins and Exxons of the world, why would I? What's prosecuting one gigantic war crime when it means continued bazillions for your own never-ending expansion, especially when all that's required to placate your corporate masters is to gleefully blow sh*t up (and murder myriad innocents, too, but: so?) just so they can rebuild it? (Or better yet, get no-bid contracts to not rebuild it?)
And if you can perpetuate the whole lethal deal by belaboring the surefire glorious warrior shtick, well, carry on, pilgrim. Only commies (yawn) would dare denigrate the sacred U.S. military.
Still, for argument's sake, let's say the bumper sticker owner and his uniformed buddies are solely qualified to know the taste of freedom. Even so, in light of a mega-bloated military slavishly servile to a coterie of neocon whackjobs obsessed with cementing ever-greater global corporate profits and implementing more anti-constitutional horrors like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (goodbye, habeas corpus!)* and the still-pending Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act (hello, thought-crime!), I can certainly tell you how the lack of freedom is flavored.
It's bitter -- and extremely hard to swallow.
Copyright © 2008 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.
(slightly different version published originally in the Sacramento News & Review)