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The Column

Magnetically Challenged
12/19/04

Yesterday I was speaking to a soldier in Iraq. He said that despite the recent announcement that more than 1300 US troops have been killed in the last 18 months, morale has been really high lately, thanks to all those magnets on cars he's been seeing.

Well he didn't really see them. He's in Iraq, and the cars are in America. But he heard about them in a letter he received several weeks after his mother sent it. You know how tricky the mail can be, what with the holidays and the 1300 dead people.

Well that soldier doesn't really exist. I invented him up to illustrate how ridiculous those magnets are. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you haven't been in a car in the last three months. If you've been reading my column, you know I've been in several cars, many of them now smushed.

Anyway, I'm talking about the magnets tacked to people's trunks that say "Support our Troops" or "God Bless America" or some similar sentiment. They're great, except they're useless.

Let's examine "Support Our Troops" for a moment. Though I'm against the war, I do support our troops - even more than normal because I know many of them are against the war as well, yet they're still fighting because that's how much they support our country. So, when I am in the mood to send $2 to the war effort, I do not give a portion of it to a magnet retailer. And neither should you.

But buying the "Support The Troops" magnet and putting it on the back of your sedan is still better than doing nothing. It is also better than buying one for your SUV.

The SUV is the quintessential example of American excess. It is a vehicle that is terrible for the environment, causes a higher percentage of accidents than any other consumer vehicle, and costs thousands more than other similarly sized means of transportation. And don't try to tell me people are buying them for their off-road capabilities. I live in Los Angeles and SUVs are everywhere. And the only off-roading done in Los Angeles is when people park in garages.

People buy SUVs for style, to the detriment of their health, safety, and money. It's a classic example of why many other countries disapprove of American culture. In addition, SUVs guzzle gas, giving more power to companies like Mobil who profit off the resources of the Middle East while crying poverty so they can profit even more (se column, previous). And the more you contribute to other countries disapproving of us, the less you're supporting the troops. Thus, when you drive a big non-supporting SUV with a little "Support the Troops" magnet, you're metaphorically ordering a double bacon cheeseburger and a diet coke.

Even worse is the "God Bless America" magnet. In previous columns, I've discussed the ridiculousness of trying to influence an all-powerful deity's scheme of things with a printed sign. The more I think about that sentiment, the more the practice angers me. God HAS blessed America. We're one of the youngest countries in the world, but the most economically viable. We control much of global culture, we force our political views down the rest of the world's proverbial throat, and we've never lost a war (though in fairness, we've lost several "conflicts"). We're so powerful we can even live through electing Mr. Magoo's stunt double as our president.

I love America - but how selfish are we to ask God for any more blessings than we already receive? I just picture some guy in Tanzania, sitting on a boulder and contemplating how to spend the 560 dollars he made last year before saying, "Thank you, God, for all you've done for us, but when you get a chance could you bless America? We've had it too good here for too long." The only time I'm okay with someone asking God to bless me any more than he already has is when I sneeze. We're so self-centered in America, we even believe that someone in Tanzania would be speaking English.

Our support of the troops isn't going to keep some kid safe in Fallujah. And God blessing America isn't going to bring him back to his family any quicker. So how about a magnet that says "God Bless Our Troops"? I'm selling them for just $50 each, with at ten cents from every sale going directly towards someone who knows someone who may or may not be involved in the war effort. Sorry, the "conflict" effort.

But maybe you're not the religious type, and are not happy with a god blessing anything. Maybe you are like the 60% of American adults who don't regularly attend any sort of religious institution. For you, I have a second magnet: "America keeps saying we believe in separation of church and state, so I, unlike the majority of our government, am going to take God out of the equation and just say that, regardless of your religious beliefs, I wish for a safe return for all of our troops."

I know it will be a big magnet, but it will fit if you have an SUV.

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