“Support our troops.” What does that mean? How are we supporting our troops? What are we doing to actually provide support? If it is merely a bumper sticker, nice words, or a yellow sticker, that is not true support.
If you’re speaking of supporting the troops by expanding medical care for soldiers suffering from physical injuries and mental wounds, then I support the troops.
If supporting the troops means getting these men and women off the streets to where they are housed, fed, and cared for then yes, I support the troops.
If supporting the troops stands for working to create a more just society where we cease our imperialist reaches and learn to work out our differences through dialogue. If it means that instead of sending out “disposable soldiers” to fight and die for causes of greed, we work to live peaceably with one another, then I support the troops.
If you’re asking me to “support the troops” so that I choose a side in a war —a place where the extinguishment of the lives of innocents, “our soldiers”, and “the enemy” occur—then I cannot support it. I cannot comply.
Sometimes I feel that those bumper stickers and yellow ribbons are there to make me feel guilt about questioning war. Sometimes I think that the blanket statement of “support the troops” is really meant to silence dissent. As a child of God and a follower of Jesus, I must lend my support, love, and forgiveness to all people, whether they be considered my ally or my enemy. I cannot condone the machinations of war—things that I know to be against my conscience and against all that Jesus taught us.
Asking me to close my eyes, place a hand over my heart (with the other hand over my mouth), and blindly support support the killing of others—on all sides of a conflict—is asking me to betray myself and those that I have been called to serve.
Jesus was once attributed to have told a Roman Governor who was planning his execution: “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the mob. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (Jn. 18:36).
My kingdom is not from this world.
So, wear your yellow ribbon proudly and display your bumper stickers with pride. But ask yourself what it truly means to “support the troops”. If it is merely a sticker, then what you are truly supporting is blind allegiance to a temporal nation that has demanded the sacrifice of our daughters and sons to be slaughtered on a battlefield created through greed. How can you support something that demands all but gives nothing in return?
However, if you mean to “support the troops” by caring for those that have fought. If “supporting the troops” means that you work to educate the current and future generations against the trappings of war and valor. If “supporting the troops” signifies that you will speak against the military conquests of nations (and corporations). If this is what “supporting the troops” means to you, then you have helped this world come one step closer to fulfilling the Prophet Isaiah’s words:
“they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Is. 2:4).