The petition started by a group of troops fed up with not being allowed to use their pockets is still more than 20,000 signatures away from the 25,000 needed to warrant an official White House response.
Army National Guard Sgt. Josh B., who asked that his name not be used to avoid trouble with his command, posted the petition to the “We the People” section of the White House’s website mainly to be funny. It still needs 20,779 more signatures to reach the 25,000 the White House requires within 30 days of a petition’s creation to be considered for action. If it doesn’t reach the signature threshold by Friday, the petition will be closed.
Josh B. said he wants to see the petition pass, but joked that he isn’t surprised it hasn’t gotten the number of signatures needed since service members who put their hands in their pockets are notoriously lazy and probably can’t be bothered to sign it. But troops should take the opportunity to try to change policy directly, he added.
“I’d like to emphasize that this is a brilliant opportunity for service members to affect the way the military is run on a level that hasn’t been available before,” he said.
The sergeant is a regular contributor to the satire military news site, “The Duffel Blog,” and the language in the petition is in line with the outlet’s humor. It states that troops being allowed to put their hands in their pockets isn’t just an issue of comfort, but is one of safety because they sheathe troops’ deadly “knife hands” gloriously.
While sheathing knife hands, petitioning for succession from the U.S. or requesting the nationalization of the Twinkie industry in order to “prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center” likely wasn’t what the White House had in mind when it launched its “We the People” website last year, some say it does allow for Americans to get more directly involved in the democratic process.
“I guess you could make the argument that it’s an effort to create a more inclusive approach to dealing with issues that people aren’t happy with,” said Bruce Newman, DePaul University professor and editor in chief of the Journal of Political Marketing. “I think this becomes the goal of the second Obama term — to bring together and unite the American people.”
Josh B. told Marine Corps Times in November that the hands in pocket petition is about just that — changing what they don’t like. Junior troops are tired of being yelled at about something they see as trivial, he said, and this is their opportunity to do something about it.
“It’s just silly to us that putting our hands in our pockets is such a big thing that they harp on it in the military,” he said. “You’ve actually got sergeants major running around bases looking for stuff like that. I think there are better things we can do with our time, like training to react to fire or improvised explosive devices.”
But not everyone is amused by his petition.
“The difference between life and death could be the amount of time it takes to get your hands out of your pockets and raise your rifle or your pistol,” Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Nolan Schramm wrote to Navy Times. “You are the people who guard me when I sleep, and I rest a lot easier knowing that you can follow simple instructions without questioning them.”
Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Jackson agrees. He said many non-commissioned officers don’t like the rule anymore than the sergeant does, but that it must be enforced as a measure of good discipline.
“If we cannot get our soldiers to follow the most simplest of standards and orders, how can we deploy and ask them to do the most difficult standards and orders?” he asked.
Tell us what you think. Would you like to see President Obama address the issue? Or are the troops calling for an end to the hands in pockets ban out of of line?