And none are more grating and dishonest than those signs that say SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, BRING 'EM HOME. Anyone who wants to bring the troops home doesn't support them. If you supported the troops, you'd support what they're doing, because they're doing it by choice. There is no way to get around this. No one has been drafted into this war. People who join the military, by and large, want to fight wars. It's what they train for; it's what attracted them to the military in the first place.
Unlike many protesters who are quick to speak out on behalf of the troops, I personally stand to lose something in this conflict: My older brother, Patrick Frizzelle, 23, is an air warfare specialist on the USS Truman--one of two aircraft carriers launching air strikes from the Mediterranean Sea.
IN THE NAVY
My brother Pat and I are not close. In high school he played basketball and lifted weights, and I was president of the drama club. In the sixth grade he decided his main goal in life was to join the Naval Academy--although he wound up not having the grades for it, so he enlisted after high school. (My main goal in life, on the other hand, was to be in Rent.) It would not be an overstatement to say that at certain times we hated each other. But we grew up together, a year-and-a-half apart, and have always related in an understanding, if often uncommunicative, way.
My mom lives in California and is a born-again Christian and a Republican. We've never agreed on anything and we hardly ever talk. I have a hard time imagining myself carrying signs at one of those "Support the Troops" rallies organized by right-wing radio stations for the same reasons I have a hard time being around my family on holidays--I'm nothing like them, they're nothing like me, we have nothing to say to each other. But the things my mom's been saying lately I agree with. "I have a son in the war and I'm for the war. I believe in what he's doing," she said. "Something had to be done."
While this war has alienated me from most of my friends and neighbors, the war has brought my family together. "I'm not sleeping," my mother told me on Saturday. "Ever since Pat went over, I've had the news on, wondering and waiting to see if we're going to war. I sleep on the couch now. I fall asleep to the news and wake up to the news. I'm going along in my daily life and thinking, 'What would I say if something happened to my son?'"
AN E-MAIL FROM HOME
A few days ago I got to thinking about those SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, SEND 'EM HOME signs, and worked up the nerve to tell a protester that most military men like my brother were (gasp!) pumped about putting their skills to use.
"I'm not here to argue with people like you," she snapped--and then she threw in some garbage about my brother getting off on killing babies.
Her judgmental imperiousness got to me. It compelled me to wonder what Pat was actually thinking about. I wanted to know how he was. So I decided to send him an e-mail.
In his five years in the Navy, I've never written to him. In my e-mail to him, I wrote about going to a few peace protests and my heated confrontations with psycho sign-waving biddies.
"It's kinda cool to be able to say that I have a brother over there," I wrote, "and that supporting you means supporting what you're doing, a concept lost on most people."
I didn't expect to hear anything. He hadn't been in touch with anyone in my family in a few months--certainly not since war broke out--and we were all under the assumption that, owing to intelligence risks, his e-mail privileges had been suspended.
On Sunday, he wrote back.
"Hey Chris, thanks for writing. The war has caused our e-mail privileges to turn on and off so that Iraq won't know what's going on with the strikes. I can still receive e-mails and I just want to say thanks for writing. It's good to hear from you. I've been flying a lot but things are pretty benign for me. I'm very safe out here and I'm watching the war the same as everyone else on CNN and Fox News. [The] answer to your question about people's feelings about the war is we're just glad it finally happened. Really we were just tired of waiting, just sailing in circles."
One of his crewmates, now a friend of the family, wrote to me too. "Everyone [on the carrier] is excited about doing our part." Attached to this e-mail was a JPEG of a WWII-style poster depicting a U.S. fighter pilot climbing into his aircraft. In patriotic colors, the poster shouts: YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP. WE'LL PROTECT AMERICA. KEEP OUT OF OUR FUCKING WAY, LIBERAL PUSSIES.
If there's one message I'd like to send to all the liberal pussies (and penises) out there, that's it: Let the military do its job. Stop saying you support the troops when you don't, and retire your BRING 'EM HOME signs. Understand that the invasion of Iraq has become an ineluctable situation. It would be senseless to extricate ourselves now, even if we could. Until things get better, they are going to get worse--there will be more American prisoners of war and more executions; we will lose more helicopters in sandstorms; chemical warfare seems almost a foregone conclusion--and increasingly, we are in a race against time: The military will have to accomplish its objectives before the peace movement (which will gain momentum as casualties pile up) accomplishes its objective of obscuring them. Don't make this harder than it has to be.
But most of all, do me a favor and stop trying to save my brother. He believes this needs to be done, 70 percent of Americans believe this needs to be done, and most Iraqi civilians ache for this to be done.
Having a brother in the military doesn't make me into more of a warmonger: It makes me, on the contrary, more anxious for peace.