Wednesday, January 21, 2004
I watched the State of the Union last night. Largely uninteresting, except for Bush's "permission slips" line and the poor phrasing/delivery of the Patriot Act line which gave Democrats a chance to applaud its running out next year. Big chuckles.
However, the lasting image of the night for me was of the soldiers in gallery they cut to with every single reference to the military. The first time the camera was on them standing, they at least looked awake. By the end, when the president was having his Reagan-moment about that little 10-yr-old girl in Rhode Island and what she can do to help support the war, the look of complete indifference and outright boredom on their faces seemed to speak volumes.
For the politicians in the audience, the soldiers in uniform are simply a symbol and there's an apparent belief that clapping and nice words make up for being asked to live on the other side of the world in extreme weather, facing extreme hostility, and near complete uncertainty. And on top of that, they're not allowed to leave when their contracts are done, so in effect we have forced conscription, just of people who have already been trained.
I'm sure the soldiers appreciate the sentiment, but it's got to be pretty hollow. These folks finally come back stateside and, while probably honored to be invited, sitting in full dress on national t.v. is probably the last place on earth they wanted to be. They're people who want to be at home (or maybe at the war if that's what gets them excited), but instead have to put up with the president and the networks pimping them for an hour. I bring this topic up not out of animosity towards the president--it has always been gag-inducing regardless of the president--but out of sympathy for the soldiers involved because unlike the normal guests at these things (e.g., a head of state, the guy who started an after-school program, whatever), they had to put up with that crap all night. Kudos to them for not faking smiles and interest in the whole charrade.
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