This was originally published at Put Me In, Coach by Basic Pitch on May 29, 2017.
Happy Military Exploitation and Fetishization Day!
This weekend I was supposed to write about how awful Chief Wahoo is, and he is. He’s terrible, racist, disgusting, and indefensible. I couldn’t though. I was far too distracted by the MLB’s latest attempt to capitalize on and market the great sacrifices made on behalf of the American people by our soldiers overseas. This year’s crass exploitation looks like this.
To add injury to insult, teams across the MLB sent out a tweet this morning stating that today was “for respect and honor” with a link directing the reader to the MLB shop to purchase Memorial Day themed gear, the proceeds of which, after covering the cost of the merchandise and giving both the team and MLB their cut, goes to MLB Charities. Not Wounded Warrior, not the VFW, not Support Our Troops, but MLB Charities.
The MLB is not the only guilty party in this exploitation. Retailers across the nation use the casualties of war to sell mattresses, electronics, and patio furniture at discounted rates. The NFL, NBA, and NHL have similar days to “honor” our troops. It’s so easy to capitalize upon. Who doesn’t want to support our troops? They can pull at the heartstrings of every American by speaking of the sacrifices made by our heroic servicemen and women to guarantee our liberty and get you completing that sale in the name of patriotism. It’s so exploitative. It’s selling the ultimate sacrifice made by these men and women for profit and glory, all while getting pats on the back for “supporting our troops.”
Unfortunately, it is most often a particular type of person who falls for this scam. It’s the guy who is still complaining that Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand for the National Anthem, but shaming soldiers returning home for needing professional help to rebuild their lives. It’s the woman wearing the “These Colors Don’t Run” t-shirt, demanding that our government send other people’s children overseas to fight for cheaper oil so she can continue to afford to drive her oversized SUV to the polls to vote against a candidate looking to reform the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to better equip it to handle the very real issues with PTSD, depression, drug abuse, and physical injury they come home bearing. It’s the staunch conservative Christian who doesn’t understand that those soldiers are fighting to protect the rights of all Americans, not just the ones that look and act like them. They’ve fetishized our military. They have an irrational obsession with a sacrifice they don’t understand. They’ve committed themselves to eradicating anyone who might question or challenge any part of American society or military action because they’re “disrespecting our troops”, completely ignoring that the right to question, the liberty to challenge, is what they’re fighting for.
If these sports teams and retailers really want to do something for our military men and women there is a lot that can be done. They can use their vast wealth to support rehabilitative efforts for our veterans, they can use it to support the families who have lost someone in combat, they can fund lobbying efforts at the state and federal level to create and advance legislation that ensures our troops receive the support they need to deal with the aftermath of protecting our republic. Maybe then the ugly uniforms won’t seem so tacky.