‘Back our troops, 8-piece dinner only $8.99,’ drive thru

Dr. Arthur Saltzman, Professor of English

Dr. Arthur Saltzman, Professor of English

Dr. Arthur Saltzman

During the Gulf War, partly in deference to a Tony Orlando song from the 1970s, trees throughout our community were trussed up in yellow ribbons in remembrance of our soldiers overseas. In some neighborhoods, where church groups were especially assiduous or Boy Scout troops were especially desperate to earn badges for civic pride, the decorations were so densely displayed that one might have supposed that people were making a present of nature to themselves. Surely it would be only a matter of time before they’d be surrounding the hedges with flounces of tissue paper and boxing up the flowers in their beds. It was as if war had roused the flora to volunteer. It soon seemed that every fifth tree wore a bright sash about its middle. One might have imagined that the maples were winning advanced degrees in judo and that the samurai oaks were readying themselves for a last stand.

The return of hostilities in Iraq has inspired a new escalation of wholesome emotion on the home front in the form of an outbreak of patriotic billboard activity about town. But the business of war is still business, and that core priority has not been sacrificed to flag-waving. National allegiance and the bottom line are simultaneously promoted, leading to some strange and wonderful signage.

Check the banner above a set of ATM lanes on Range Line:

Pray for America

Drive Thru

W. H. Auden called poetry the clear expression of mixed feelings. Is the mixed expression of clear feelings any less poetic? Any less sincere? The sign suggests that our investments here and halfway around the globe are inextricably linked; banking and our backing of the war are symbiotic efforts. It also inadvertently implies that America itself is a massive drive-thru of sorts and that religious worship is best demonstrated by a road trip.

A complementary sentiment recently graced Kentucky Fried Chicken:

Back Our Troops

8-Piece Dinner

Only $8.99

American soldiers, far from their loved ones and under fire, might be sustained by the discovery that, in their absence, their families were still being fortified by the most celebrated chicken the world has ever known, complete with two sides at reasonable prices. Indeed, we may recall that KFC was responsible for defending Family Values during the Clinton scandal, mounting a campaign that combined high ethical standards with a considerable discount on a large bucket of chicken when you added quart-sized mashed potatoes and slaw. Accordingly, we should not be surprised at that company’s continuing efforts on America’s behalf, lifting our spirits as it satisfies our appetites. We fortify our boys by filling our bellies. Pride swells in every breast.

While it cannot compete with the Holiday Inn or the Best Western in terms of prominence or amenities, the Westwood Motel outstripped the chains when it came to poetic innovation:

God Bless America!

We’re Pet Friendly!

Call it a non sequitur. Call it a zen koan. Regardless, the pleasurable effects of this sign are undeniable. The good people at the Westwood exhort God to love our country and our kittens together.

They console the citizenry with the promise that our heavenly reward inheres in our commitment to host and adore His creatures. There are times when war is unavoidable. When democracy is threatened, America will respond valiantly and, if

necessary, with force. But if we attack, we attack humbly and in the name of love. Our resolve may be unbreakable, but our hearts are not stone. And compassion toward our furry companions evidences our virtue as much as courage on the field does.

To be sure, many public manifestations of allegiance might seem exploitative, controversial or simply in bad taste. Saddam Hussein urinal cakes enlist those of us brimming with zeal and beer to direct our forces explicitly the face of the enemy. Gruesome video games train patrons to blow away two-dimensional Arabs on the way to murdering a cartoon Osama bin Laden, causing even some parents with children in the armed services to shudder. But breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said, “In such a bank as that, which advertises such unassailable convictions, let us entrust our assets. In such a fast-food restaurant, let us hunger together as one. In such a hotel, let us sleep the sleep of the just.”

Rest assured: along with our military, our merchants are prepared to serve.