Supporting the Troops With Empty Symbols

Rob Bluey calls attention to Southwest Airlines’ “Wear Red on Fridays” program in which they wear red shirts to show how much they LUV the troops.

We at the LUV airline are a patriotic bunch. We LUV our country; we give America the Freedom to fly; and we support our troops who fight for our country’s many freedoms.

One way we express our LUV is by encouraging our Employees to wear red shirts on Fridays to show our support for the troops. In addition, our Internal Customer Care Team (this year’s Heroes of the Heart!) sends LUV packages to all of our Employees or immediate family members who are called for military service. Many times, individual departments also keep in touch with Employees who have been called for military duty.

Rob reports that, “at the height of the current conflict, Southwest had 173 employees called to serve, 79 of who remain on military leave.”

Support the Troops Yellow Ribbon Now, I suppose empty gestures of support are better than nothing. Still, it amounts to saying “173 OF MY CO-WORKERS WENT OFF TO WAR AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT.” (A red t-shirt, to be sure.) Now, if they really want to show how much they support they troops, they should drive to work wearing a red t-shirt in a car emblazoned with one of those giant yellow ribbons while listening to Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA.” That’s what real patriots do.

Southwest does make a more tangible show of support for the troops by participating in Operation Hero Miles, whereby people can donate their frequent flier miles to be used by soldiers on leave from a war zone or by family members visiting wounded vets. Of course, that doesn’t really cost Southwest anything.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Military Affairs,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    Somehow this strikes me as a “let’s get free publicity” kind of thing. Maybe I’m wrong.

    On the other hand imagine the fun of someone who is anti-war showing up on fridays in their normal atire to their job at southwest. Hostile workplace, much?

  2. Triumph says:

    how much they LUV the troops.

    Maybe they should concentrate on their spelling skills. Empty patriotism + gimmick spelling= idiocy.

  3. DC Loser says:

    LUV = Southwest stock ticker symbol. Refers to their “home” at Dallas’ Love Field.

  4. Or maybe they want to help raise everyone’s consciousness that the struggle still goes on, and that some of their own are actively engaged.

    Still, it amounts to saying “173 OF MY CO-WORKERS WENT OFF TO WAR AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT.”

    Such cynicism is unbecoming. It also reads suspiciously like a variant on the chickenhawk canard, though I’m sure you didn’t mean that.

  5. DC Loser says:

    Instead of “Hero Miles” which doesn’t cost them a damn thing (and in fact helps them as it wipes out unused miles from their balance sheet as liabilities), why don’t the airlines give GIs returning from Iraq on leave free flights within the country to their destinations instead of charging for flights as they do now?

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Or maybe they want to help raise everyone’s consciousness that the struggle still goes on,

    Yeah, ’cause it’s so easy to forget that there is a war in Iraq, I mean it’s not like on the TV or anything.

    But a red shirt? Yeah if I saw that I’d immediately know that we still had a war on. Because red is…

    Wait.

    It also reads suspiciously like a variant on the chickenhawk canard, though I’m sure you didn’t mean that.

    And by canard you of course mean “truism.” Truth hurts, huh?

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Political support for the troops and the mission they serve can be proclaimed through t-shirts and magnetic ribbons. Sometimes that political support can mean a lot. Certainly it’s better than seeing a “no blood for oil” shirt or bumper sticker.

    Many can do more but we shouldn’t discount these small gestures. Sometimes a nod to a man in uniform or a mention of support to a military parent is just the support they need. I doubt saying the war is lost is what they want to hear.

  8. Tlaloc, maybe LUV is proud of the fact that some of their folks are enagaged in the effort to help the people of Iraq and the US. However, your unremitting hatefulness and complete inability to comprehend and respect those with different viewpoints on these issues is duly noted.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Such cynicism is unbecoming.

    Probably so. It’s likely a well-intended gesture on Southwest’s part. Still, I find these kind of things grating.

    It also reads suspiciously like a variant on the chickenhawk canard, though I’m sure you didn’t mean that.

    I didn’t but I’m not sure I see the connection. My point is that the idea that wearing a red shirt actually contributes to the war effort trivializes the very real sacrifices of those who serve.

  10. James, the reasoning may be a bit tenuous, but writing that wearing the shirts was an empty gesture implied they should have done more. Followed by the imagined words on the shirt, it seemed to place a dividing line between the honorable who served and the less than honorable who didn’t but settled for empty gestures. Maybe I read too much into it.

    I recall that you have been hostile to these sorts of things in past posts. Would it be better if Southwest had not acknowledged the service of their employees in uniform and instead remained silent? We also don’t know that Southwest and its employees aren’t doing any other things in support of the troops that might be considered more meaningful or useful.

    I don’t own any ribbons of any color or pattern and I generally disdain style over substance, but surely it must be ok to be proud of our troops (and their coworkers) and to want to let others know that you are proud and supportive of them as well. Perhaps some soldier, sailor, airman, or marine will see the red shirts and take some comfort from them. That’s enough for me.

  11. James Joyner says:

    surely it must be ok to be proud of our troops (and their coworkers) and to want to let others know that you are proud and supportive of them as well.

    Sure. My suspicion in most cases, though, is that people wearing ribbons and such do it to call attention to themselves rather than the cause.

    Remember the AIDS and breast cancer ribbons? As if those not wearing them were in favor of AIDS and breast cancer…

  12. Concur, though I will note that it is probably best to avoid trying to read people’s hearts and minds based upon superficial evidence — books, covers and all that.

  13. Tlaloc says:

    Tlaloc, maybe LUV is proud of the fact that some of their folks are enagaged in the effort to help the people of Iraq and the US. However, your unremitting hatefulness and complete inability to comprehend and respect those with different viewpoints on these issues is duly noted.

    followed by…

    Concur, though I will note that it is probably best to avoid trying to read people’s hearts and minds based upon superficial evidence — books, covers and all that.

    Ah irony…

  14. Triumph says:

    I think the troops are cool!

  15. Tlaloc, as is usually the case, your point eludes me. Do you really think your words are the same in tone, manner and content as James’? Or mine?