Warning! This is not my usual light-hearted wise-ass blog. Wise-ass blogs will resume immediately following this piece, I promise.
Today when I got to work, I had several emails waiting for me on the computer. Most were the usual stuff, but one stood out. It was from that guy. You know that guy, that person at your job who is constantly sending you preachy emails in the name of some personal crusade he’s on.
Today’s email was about how the media spends all of its time documenting the poor life choices and general tragedies of the likes of Charlie Sheen, Whitney Houston and Lindsey Lohan, while ignoring the following 20 or so names of servicemen and women who were killed in active duty last month. I don’t doubt that the names of these soldiers were accurate, and I already know that the media’s obsession with Hollywood bad-boys and bad-girls is rabid. I am also aware that as a culture, we are too wrapped up in the shallow lifestyles of celebrities. The email up to that point was spot-on as far as I was concerned.
The next part is the confusing and frustrating part for me. The email went on to instruct me to re-send it to at least 10 more people to show my support for the troops and their sacrifices for our country. I want to understand how this will work. Do soldiers come home from a tour of duty and get shown the hundreds or thousands of email posts in their honor? Assuming they see the emails at all, does it make it easier to find a job, heal from wounds or go on with life? Does forwarding an email to 10 (or 10,000,000) people make any difference to the people who need support? Sure, we’ll all be a little more aware of soldiers fighting for our country in Afghanistan and serving all over the world, but again, how does our increased awareness mean anything in terms of support?
How exactly does an Army private, hunkered down in the sand thousands of miles from home with zealots trying to kill him with roadside bombs benefit from this email? Does the fact that an additional 10 people being aware of this sacrifice make it any better for the families of those who were killed?
Computers are wonderful things. I’m old enough to recall what the world was like before every man, woman and child had at least one of them. I remember writing letters, by hand, to family, to girlfriends, to old friends. I can still think back to typing papers in college, trying desperately to avoid typos and working to get the footnotes right. With computers, even a hack typist like me can crank out all sorts of slick-looking documents. I can write emails and then send them to hundreds or thousands of people with the click of a few keys.
If I can do it, so can everyone else reading this, and probably faster. Which brings me back to my original question: what difference does it make? The answer is: it doesn’t make a difference. It gives people the false sense of accomplishment that they’re not part of the lazy, apathetic horde. Get it straight, you haven’t done a single thing, except bothered 10 friends and made them feel guilty if they don’t forward your email on.
A few weeks ago, I was at the local convenience store. There was a gentleman behind me dressed in his desert fatigues. He was buying a bottle of Gatorade. I gave the clerk my money and said “Get his too please”. The soldier was confused and offered his thanks. I declined his thanks and offered mine instead before walking out the door. Please do not equate a bottle of sports drink as being anything but a tiny speck of a gesture of my appreciation. I’m not patting myself on the back here, but that stinking bottle of Gatorade was more than the masses of point-n-clickers did with that dopey email.
I’ve received many emails over the years, asking me to forward 10 or 12 or however many copies to my friends and family for any number of causes. I’ve never been able to grasp how doing so will help anyone fight cancer, or MS, or support the troops.
May I suggest an alternate method of supporting the troops?
Wikipedia lists over 90 Veterans Groups from Confederate Survivors all the way up to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
Here are a few links, I just found them, then cut and pasted with my magical computer in less time than it took you to read these words. I did no research, I just picked a few. If you don’t like them, type “Veteran Support Group” into your own search engine and choose one you like.
If you’re wary of giving money to an organization for fear that it will never get to those who need it, then give some of your time, or used clothes or canned goods or whatever. If you don’t care to do anything, that’s your right as well (no lecture on your rights). If you’d rather channel your money or time towards curing cancer or feeding the homeless, those search engines will work for that too. But whatever you do, don’t kid yourself into thinking that hitting the “forward” key 10 times is going to mean a damn thing. How about we get off our collective asses?