Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anti-war ignorance and disrespect, British-Style

 It seems to me that anti-war sentiment in this country has gotten completely out of bounds. First we had Royal Air Force personnel being abused in the streets for daring to wear their uniforms into town on errands. (To be fair to Gordon Brown, he tried to quell the backlash at the time.) Then the National Teachers Union wanted to bar all Army recruitment personnel from schools. Soon after that came the story of the soldier who was thrown off a train for not having his armed services discount pass. When the rifleman tried to explain that he shouldn't pay the full fare because he was entitled to a discount, the train conductor told him, "I don't know what you're complaining about. It's not as if you've taken a bullet or anything." That anyone, especially in a public service position, could disrespect a squaddie as the ticket inspector did reflects just how low civilians in the U.K. are capable of stooping.
The immaturity doesn't even end there. A couple of weeks ago, a hotel refused a room to a soldier who was injured in Afghanistan.
Corporal Tomos Stringer was on leave and visiting a friend in the English county of Surrey. He tried to sign in for a night's stay at the Metro Hotel, but was told that it was hotel policy to not accept any of the Armed Forces as guests.
Stringer's mother, understandably enraged by this impudence, said, "We've been to America, and their military get treated like heroes over there. I think it's terrible they [the UK Armed Forces] can't even wear their uniform with pride."
It wasn't always that way, however. During the later years of the Vietnam War, American soldiers returning to the States were treated horribly by most of the general public. They were spat at, called "baby killers," and no-one cared that homelessness and alcoholism were their only rewards for fighting for their country. This was, of course, when the baby boomers, known for their me-first mentality, were coming of age, a terrible time in our history.
Now then, the prevalent mood in Britain appears to be that everyone should be proud to be British, to stop mimicking American trends and behavior. So why are they all intent on copying American anti-war ignorance circa 1972?
It's quite amazing to watch people in this country waving flags around madly whenever England has a big soccer match, to honor their outdated and irrelevant royal family, or at events of no particular importance such as the airy-fairy classical concerts known as The Proms. But when it comes to the brave fighting men and women of the British Army, the flag-waving abruptly ceases.
It's bad enough our troops have to fight with such limited resources and in such violent situations prevailing in Afghanistan and Iraq, but to demoralize them on top of it with infantile disrespect is the very definition of selfish behavior. Poor dears, the sight of a squaddie is enough to put them off their tea and biscuits, so consumed with white colonial guilt as they are! Instead of fighting terrorism, why don't we lay down our guns, open our borders completely and celebrate diversity?
It's time the British public smartened up and realized that their soliders do not have a choice as to what war they fight, that it's time to stop taking their displeasure with the war out on their returning soldiers. They are only doing their job.
The British public's childish, insufferable attitude to the very people protecting their freedom and way of life (such as it is) is a disgrace and only too representative of a nation that has lost its way.


kristen said...

Amen. Treating our military men and women like dirt just disgusts me. We certainly have our issues with that over here, but what you've explained over there just sickens me. I personally am always in awe around military, and feel a deep sense of gratitude.

Jill said...

I wasn't aware that this was so prevalent in the UK, but commend you on speaking out! No, this war isn't popular on either side of the Atlantic, but laying politics aside, these men and women are doing jobs that require so much of them every day and they deserve our unflinching gratitude, not our censorious behavior.