Yes, peaceniks, our soldiers do serve in your name, tooBy Jim Trageser
This article was rejected by several publications; I wrote it the second week of March 2003.
Whatever faults those who protested the Vietnam war had, at least they never claimed to speak on behalf of the troops didn't try to wrap themselves in the mantle of sacrifice that those in our military service have earned.
They had the basic honesty to spit on those they despised, rather than trying to share in their honor and legitimacy.
Today's protestors have no such qualms about trying to cuddle up with those they brand as murderers and war criminals.
It's that sort of despicable behavior that is fueling the growing backlash against the anti-war movement.
Americans are a rather tolerant sort; even during the most violent Vietnam-era protests, most Americans accepted their right to protest.
We're seeing a lot less of that tolerance now and I think it's because of the disgusting efforts of the protestors to not only spit on the flag, but simultaneously wrap themselves in it.
Yes, dissent is the essence of the American experience. Our founding documents enshrine the right to disagree with the government openly and without fear of punishment.
But there is also such a thing as decency and once we are at war, once our troops are dying, the time for public attacks on the United States ought to be over.
These protests aren't about changing minds or bringing political pressure to bear on the government in order to force a shift in policy. You want to do that, you do it quietly, reasonably and with respect for those whom disagree with you.
There's no rule that anyone has to like or support the war nor should there be. But the confrontational, even violent tone of the street protests makes clear that the effort is not to convince, nor even simply to disagree but rather to do so in a way that can most egregiously insult the majority, to give as much aid and comfort as possible to the Iraqi dictator, to inflict the maximum political injury on the United States.
That's not patriotism it's a temper tantrum of the politically immature.
It was Socrates, all those years back, who pointed out that if you choose to live in a free society, one where you have the right to leave at any time, then you are morally bound to stick out the tough times. He made the point by refusing to flee Athens to escape his own death sentence and instead drank the hemlock because he felt that even though the sentence was unjust, he'd made a compact with his society that compelled him to take the bad with the good.
There is no such thing as "Not in my name" in a free and representative system. I abhor both the death penalty and abortion but pay taxes that support both.
And so it is with Iraq and the anti-war protestors.
Whether you support the war or not, our troops are over there in all our names defending every one of us. At the very least, they deserve our public respect.
Want to argue with friends and family against the war? Have at it perhaps you'll even change my mind.
But to publicly demonstrate against the war while Americans are dying defending us is to spit on their sacrifice.
It is beneath contempt.
It is betrayal.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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