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Gary Horton: God bless our Predator drones

Posted: July 6, 2010 5:18 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The sign was so huge it would be missed by none of the Fourth of July partiers and passers-by. It blanketed half the balcony from top to bottom, left to right.

“God bless our troops!” the patrio-religious banner exhorted, accompanied by an equally giant sign blanketing the rest of the balcony for the proprietor’s real estate brokerage. It takes work, but we can still cash in on patriotism while that flag yet flies.

My wife, Carrie, and I mused at the sight. “It must work, Gary, or people wouldn’t go to the trouble.” Geez. I guess. But can flag-waving really be effective for selling real estate? Seems a little more like exploiting our troops than supporting them.

We got back to our own neighborhood a short time later. Little American flags had been neatly inserted into the lawns at every home in the development. A hundred little flags with a hundred little waves. And on close inspection, attached were a hundred little Realtor business cards. No opportunity too small or too large to co-op, I suppose.

I like real estate agents, and I’m not offended by valid, creative affinity marketing. And surely, I’ve got no problems with flags.

It’s the affinity selling of patriotism — which is really just selling off our soldiers’ blood — that gets my own blood boiling.

Selling stuff off of ever-sacrificing troops is just plain sad and cheapens what should be most highly revered. Think it through. Our men in uniform should never be used to sell anything except peace and victory. Right?

But I guess it works. Nothing sells in America like sex and war. A curvy girl can push just about anything from beer to news programs. War boosterism works nearly as well. Through affinity selling, our feelings of pride for country get tricked into calls to buy — whatever. Sometimes cars, sometimes real estate and too often more wars — or less often, more of the same wars.

Patriotism sells congressmen on entire weapons systems. And so it goes. In America, patriotism sells war like Bud Girls sell Budweiser. But Budweiser doesn’t make you sexy, nor does continuous war necessarily make you safer. Ironically, both have high eventual prices to pay, if you consume too much of the stuff.

Afghanistan, by the way, recently earned first-place prize for longest war in U.S. history. We’ve been sold a lot there, and for a long time. Have you gotten your blood or money’s worth yet?

Most know that we’re moving closer and closer to a fully mechanized, computerized defense force. Afghanistan has become the war fashion catwalk for prancing out our new Predator drones. Those are the pilotless planes that fly around all day, until instructed by who knows who, who knows where, to unload their lethal loads on houses full of bad guys — we hope.

They look awfully effective. Most folks have seen the YouTube clips of these things firing missiles out of nowhere with devastating impact and accuracy. Let’s hope we get the intel straight, because there’s no running from one of these when it’s got your tail in its sights. They work.

Above all, the Predators perform as promised in saving our own guys’ lives. No pilot equals no pilot deaths, and that’s plainly a very good thing. But I have to ask, if our $600-billion military continues to automate to the point where machine fully replaces man and we have zero troops in harm’s way, will one day the realtor’s sign read: “God bless our drones!”?

Will we still need God’s blessings, if for reasons of sanity or reason of science, we finally stop sending our kids off to far-flung dumb places to die? With no young men to mourn, and just bad guys needing killing, what will those signs have to say to get us singing, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah!” as we pull out our checkbooks and sign on dotted lines? “God bless our budget deficit?”

It’s going to be hard to lever up patriotic fervor when we’re no longer sending our most valuable assets off to die for the sometimes vague and questionable premises we’re still willing to trade them for.

No one but a General Atomics project manager cries when the letter arrives informing him that his drone went down and won’t be coming home. So I’m a little unsure how we’ll keep up support for long wars when our heartstrings are safe and sound inside our chests, instead of being plucked by this or that special war interest — or this or that patriot-affinity marketing interest.

But for now our heartstrings and our soldiers remain fully exposed, and “God bless our troops” apparently sells the houses, moves the goods and keeps war fires burning.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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