It must have been around the time Godzilla leapt out of the ocean and started eating humans, cows and other pets that I went to a Hamilton drugstore to fill my boring, overpriced prescription. We only pay attention to monsters when they eat our cows, our pets, or ourselves. Otherwise we ignore them. This reaction to monsters has been genetically imprinted into our psyche since the time of wooly mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers and the Giant Beaver. After all, if a monster isn’t in the act of physically attacking us and ours, it’s a simple act of anthropocentric arrogance to ignore its existence. Who’s afraid of a Giant Beaver these days, for instance, or even acknowledges its existence? How simple is that? Ask any teabagger. They’ll agree with me. It’s a scientific fact.
While I was waiting at the counter of the drugstore, I remarked for the hundredth time the pile of small magnetic ribbons that had been sitting on this counter and countless other drugstore counters since American troops were deployed to Afghanistan four years earlier. “Support Our Troops” it declared against a simple yellow hue, and by this time, most people had one displayed on the back bumper of their fossil-belching automobile. They were ubiquitous in traffic jams.
I had resisted up til then, because I hated the wars, hated the creeps who got us into the wars. But that day, right after Katrina ate New Orleans, I decided I was ready for the plunge. I resolved that I would purchase a yellow ribbon and that I would stick it right under my “Impeach Bush” bumper sticker, in case anyone gave a damn, which didn’t seem likely in 2005.
I’d never picked up one of the magnetic ribbons before, let alone examined one closely with the intent to buy. We love our boring lives. No wars on our own home turf, thank you very much and I was bored, waiting for my overpriced prescription. So in my boredom I turned one of the yellow ribbons over and over in my hand, weighing it and wondering what these things were worth by the pound, and almost accidentally I noticed a tiny inscription printed at the bottom corner of the swirl. “Made in China”.
Having been a worker bee myself, I understand that most people who crank out factory products don’t spend much or any time thinking about the widgets they’re causing to be spewed into the environment. They’re thinking about their paycheck, their kids, their beer at the end of the day. I don’t blame them.
But some Chinese entrepreneur, with probable connections, was making money manufacturing a seemingly inert message so ubiquitous in our society by 2005. “Support our troops”. What did that mean coming from a Chinese entrepreneur?
I thought about our troops, and the meaning of words, specifically euphemisms like "support" when connected to them. This is a simple activity, I believe, that was distinctly lacking within that now-infamous closed circle of elites who actually put those troops in harm’s way where they subsequently needed—and did not receive--all the support they could get from us. The monster, in other words, eats New Orleans, and we acknowledge that because it's on T.V. In stark contrast, by 2005, the wars were not.
I’ll simply state, as simply as the words on the yellow ribbon made in China. “Support Our Troops”. Whose troops? Did these Chinese elites and entrepreneurs have a sense of irony? If the conversation of War is to be reduced merely to one of nation states and national interests, did these Chinese elites and entrepreneurs equate the message on the yellow ribbon with their country’s star rising to the point where their country doesn’t have to fight its own resource wars? Who’s troops did they think those American boys and girls were? Ours or theirs?
I put the yellow ribbon down, and never picked one up again, although I’ve turned the question over and over in my hand many times since then, weighing it as though I could somehow divine by such a simple act how much it's worth by the pound.
We live in the age of monsters. Beware.