Friday, September 28, 2007

An unscientific survey

There is a rahther raucous debate going over on Spink About It about the move by the Fredericton Peace Coalition to call for the removal of the yellow "Support our Troops" ribbons from store fronts.

I can see both sides of the argument and am a bit skepitcal of the mission in Afghanistan. The position I take is that we have made a commitment to our allies to be there until February 2009 and it would be very dishonest of Canada to leave before that time. At the same time, though the effectiveness of the mission remains to be seen, whether or not it is isn't really relevant at this point. Canada has a small army and our soldiers will have been there for 7.5 years but February 2009, we have done out bit for king and country and unless we start copying the U.S. in Iraq and leave our troops there for longer periods and bring them home for shorter periods, the mission isn't really sustainable, so we should do the responsible thing and advise our allies that we will be withdrawing or at least decreasing our commitment at the end of this tour.

That isn't the point I want to get in to, commenter "mikel" stated over on Spinks' blog the following in response to my view that the ribbons are about supporting our soliders who are in harms way and not the mission they are undertaking:
Not really, that may be your opinion, but as we've seen here, there is tons of support for the mission in Afghanistan. The signs CAN mean support for the specific men and women in the forces, but they often mean support for Afghanistan. In fact I'd bet that if you asked every single person who put up such a sticker or sign that close to a hundred percent would say they support the mission in Afghanistan.

I can't prove that, its just a guess, but the reasons for putting up such a sign will range from one reason to another depending on who put up the sticker. Saying that it only means what YOU think it means is kind of presumptuous.
Well this certainly isn't a scientific proof, but let's see if we can get something of a measure.

An unscientific poll
What does the yellow
Support of the men and women in uniform who have put their lives on line for Canada
Support of the current mission in Afghanistan
Support of the military and conflict in general

I'd value hearing your comments on this subject, the subject being: "what do you think the yellow ribbon means?" I would prefer if people could keep the comments on topic and not delve into a debate on Afghanistan itself, I am sure there are lots of places to have that conversation if we need to.


mikel said...

I think that's a very cool idea, however, it CAN mean ALL of those things at various different times. Or none of them. It could also be 'peer pressure' if you live in a military town. For a business, not to be indelicate, but it could simply be a way to get more military business.

But your first one is being very specific, perhaps too specific, which shows a bit of your bias from you stated as your view. 'support the troops that have put their lives on the line'. What about the ones who don't? What about the ones who are stationed here in Canada?

I have several relatives in the forces, IF I had a sticker it could well mean support for my relatives.
Support our troops could also mean "stop talking about the war you pinko scum", which I'd put as a likely candidate judging from some responses.

However, its a cool idea and maybe some other bloggers like Charles with all his hits would put it up. I would change the wording though, without getting TOO complicated.

What reason would you give as the primary reason for displaying a yellow "support the troops" sign?

1. I support Canadian military men and women continuing the mission in Afghanistan.

2. I support canada's military men and women's role in the world.

3. I support the individual men and women who make up the armed forces but NOT the specific missions.

I think thats a 'little' more objective, but still kind of an open ended question. However, having done some research on designing referenda questions, its important that there be strict distinctions for people. This way we can learn whether people support the men and women DESPITE the role in Afghanistan. In your poll questions we don't. Like I said, cool idea though, but I don't really know how to pick.

Spinks said...

As is often the case nbpolitico, nicely put.

nbpolitico said...

Seven people have already posted so it is a bit late to rewrite the question, perhaps you should post your own poll, I suspect you would get the same results.

Everyone that I know that has the ribbon it is for the individual men and women, some support the war, some don't.

Pete said...

I think the meaning of "support our troops" can be very different for a community that has military ties versus a community that is disconnected from that environment. For many people in Fredericton the debate is beyond political and becomes personal. The majority of people have had friends, or family members, or a neighbour's friends or family members do a tour in Afganistan. Their main concern is that the troops come home safely. I think if you simply changed the wording from "Support our Troops" to "Thinking of our Troops", the meaning would not be lost for most of the people displaying the ribbons, whether they agree with mission objectives or not.

In simple terms, it's comparable to your spouse being relocated by an employer for a couple of months. You probably don't agree with it, nor are you happy with the employer. But in the end you'll "support" your spouse by thoughts and actions that show you stand by them and hope they come back soon.

mikel said...

Good points above, that is no doubt often true, but to disprove my point, we need to find out how many 'support the troops' but DONT support the mission in Afghanistan. As has been mentioned numerous times, those who go to Afghanistan VOLUNTEER. So its not like having an employer relocate your spouse.

So maybe asking the simple question "IF you have a 'support the troops' sign up, do you support their being in Afghanistan"

I suppose you could be right, so I shouldn't have said 100 percent. However, the idea that support our troops NEVER means support for their mission in Afghanistan is a stretch. Charles is a good example, because he constantly supports the troops, but not Afghanistan, however, he says he wears a red ribbon (and I don't know what that means)

nbpolitico said...

I suppose you could be right, so I shouldn't have said 100 percent. However, the idea that support our troops NEVER means support for their mission in Afghanistan is a stretch.

I never said or suggested that. My point is that when people put the ribbon up, whether they support the mission or not, they are putting it up to show support for the troops, not the mission.

mikel said...

Again, you don't KNOW that. And one isn't necessarily mutually exclusive from the other. The point is simply that IF this group wants to protest the war, then protesting the use of ribbons is certainly not out of line. They show support for the troops, but they aren't meant to support troops stationed in Petawawa or Regina. If they are, then thats very strange because in Petawawa or Regina they aren't doing anything different from the jobs most people do.

YOUR opinion may be that its just coincidence that the ribbons came about at the same time as the war in Afghanistan, or that they would have come about no matter where they were so long as it was 'dangerous'. Cyprus was dangerous and I don't remember ever seeing any ribbons around during the entire two decades that that was a UN mission.

So it certainly isn't unreasonable for this group to see these ribbons as supportive of Afghanistan. And like I"ve said, all they plan on doing is putting together some information and presenting it to businesses and churches (I would LOVE to know what churches have them up), and asking them to reconsider.

Plus, I've often seen the critical comment that IF you don't support the war, then you CAN"T 'support the troops'. That's a little flippant, but makes some sense. Again, we know what happened in Somalia, do you support that? Even those who support the troops I doubt support such conduct. And as we debated before, we KNOW that canadians were forced to hand over suspected insurgents to suspected torturers, which is an international crime. IF you support canadians being forced to hand over people to be tortured, you have to face the fact that at some point in the future they COULD be held on trial for that. Being 'supportive' of actions that COULD lead to a war crimes trial is very strange support.

But most people probably don't mean that, in fact many, as said, may simply know people in the forces but know absolutely nothing about what is going on. Again, thats why this is a media event, so that maybe SOME will find out. Lots won't, and lots wont' care, but when protesting, its not the Spinks of the world you attempt to attract, its those 'on the fence'.

So it's NOT some kind of anti democratic, 'whatever' that Spinks and Gypsy are making it out to be. They are the ones inflamming it, it is what it is, a group that wants people to get more informed about Afghanistan, that wants to present a viewpoint to businesses with the ribbon in hopes they will change their mind, and of course in hopes that others will become more emboldened in the anti war effort.

It's not 'a joke' and its not 'flaky', its just a different opinion attempting to be exercised. Like I said, I think some opposition flyers and stickers would have been better, but usually these people have extremely limited funds. I know I could come up with a few.

And in a democratic society it is VERY important that opinions get expressed, otherwise its NOT a democracy. Like I've said, I don't even like talking about it because as Spinks says, there's many opinions that he 'just can't tolerate' (odd coming from a blog that says 'no spin', especially when the opposite opinion is held by the majority of canadians-that virtually GUARANTEES 'spin').

Doz said...

Couldn't we at least get a Canadian symbol, rather than copying the American one? My understanding is that the colour yellow was chosen for the American ribbon to honour the Vietnam war service of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

nbpolitico said...

I think I would occupy the middle ground between one side and the other.

I do not think it is anti-democratic or wrong for these groups to oppose this. The irony is that the proponents of these missions often say that they are fighting to protect our freedoms - such as the right to freedom of speech and protest.

So certainly, if these folks want to call for the removal of these ribbons that is their right, I just don't agree with it.

Whether we are talking about a soldier in Afghanistan in grave danger every day or a soldier on a base here in Canada who "aren't doing anything different from the jobs most people do", I support them. Why? Because they have signed up to potentially put their life on the line for Canada.

Do I always agree with our government? No. Do I think they always deploy our troops to the best missions? No. Are there wars that are fought that I don't think should be? Yes. Do I suppor the mission in Afghanistan? Sort of.

None of that is the point. The point is that these men and women are far more patriotic and brave than I could ever be. I would be scared shitless to join the military for fear of being shipped to Afghanistan. These people are brave and they are brave in the name of our country and they deserve our respect and support regardless of where the government sends them and regarless of whether or not I support the government policy that sent them there.

That is my view.

As for Cyprus, they probably didn't have ribbons then because support for the troops was more implied and universal then, and, more obviously, the ribbon fad hadn't begun yet.

We have pink ribbons for breast cancer, red ribbons for AIDS and yellow ribbons for the troops - among other things. These things did not exist back in the day and we haven't seen this level of deaths, I don't think, since the Korean War.

I am not saying it is a coincidence that the ribbons came out now, in fact it is directly related. We have a lot more soldiers dying then normal because they are deployed to a dangerous mission. We see and hear of deaths on an almost weekly basis. So obviously the safety and welfare of troops is front of mind. And, I say again, there isn't, to my knowledge, a scientific survey to back it up but according to 100% of the people I know that have ribbons (I'm not among them) and 70% of those who've answered my polls, people see the ribbon as a means of expressing moral support for Canadian soldiers whose lives are in danger. I wear red most Fridays and I wear it for those reasons as well.

nbpolitico said...

Couldn't we at least get a Canadian symbol, rather than copying the American one? My understanding is that the colour yellow was chosen for the American ribbon to honour the Vietnam war service of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

LOL... good one

Anonymous said...

That would be reason enough to take down the signs. But here we are not arguing about any differences. Why I posted the line was because Spinks said they were "insisting" the "everybody think as they do".

That's not even close, while others called them reprehensible and 'flakey'. As said somewhere, when you have to insult people, well, that's just bad (can't remember the quote).

However, that brings up many important items. Respect shouldn't be blanketly given because somebody puts on a uniform.

Part of the reason that many people protest is the glorification of violence that often comes with blanket support of the military.

If you are a native you certainly don't have blanket respect for the military because you've faced off with them in Oka. If you are Somali then you probably also have a low opinion, and also if you are Rwandan for opposite reasons (though mostly political).

These are all HUGELY complicated subjects, which again, is why media is doing such a disservice. In europe they have over ten times as many newspapers per capita than Canada.

In the early eighties there was some public pressure about joining Scandinavia and being 'internationally neutral'.

I'm not downplaying hte specific bravery of those serving, but usually forgotten in all the jingoism is the fact that peace activists are often present in these countries, and diplomats and NGO workers who do it WITHOUT armour or weapons.

And yet you can go to Spinks blog and see what a low opinion of many of these organizations some people have.

That is often the result of 'overmilitarization', somethign very common in the US, and increasingly becoming louder in Canada.

So again, this lady is right on that the more exposure this stuff gets the better. The Irving papers are the most uncritical newspapers I've ever seen. If we had a functioning media then perhaps it wouldn't fall on small groups of individuals to have to publicize their views to 'get them out there. Since media is obviously the only way to do so.

Charles LeBlanc said...

Opppsss forgot to add your link in the blog I just wrote....

got to fix that one....

Anonymous said...

NBpolitico, I believe if any one supports the troops then they must ask to get them out of Afghanistan and harm's way. Nothing useful is being achieved. Innocent women and children have been killed and or being killed. May be not on purpose but it is happening and we are losing young men and women also. I believe they must be withdrawn and withdrawn immediately. It is Bush's war and let him fight it. Bush seems to be more interesed in the oil in Iraq. There was no Al-Quida in Iraq when he first invaded Iraq.

If the local population is not with you there is absolutely nothing troops can do. If locals are saying "Death to Canada and get out" then it means something.

I will not go around to tell people to remove their stickers but I will not put one up either. It will mean supporting an unjust war.

Anonymous said...

To Doz. I think the whole yellow ribbon thing came from people in the Nam era putting actual ribbons on trees, the ideal taken from the song "tie a yellow ribbon to the old oak tree".
Right now those magnetic thingys symbolize pure
politics, the irreplaceable lives of soldiers given
for not much more than a majority advantage.
What a waste of good young people

MaritimePole said...

Those stickers give me creeps because they look like something that a nazi era society would have embraced. Especially their prevalence on stores, buildings people's clothes etc. They really remind me of swastikas. Having been raised in Poland and lost many family members during WWII I'm very uncomfortable with such outbursts of "patriotism".