It's a democracy... if you can keep itI was listening to a piece on NPR about an anti-Iraq war protest near Fort Bragg. One of the people interviewed worried that a protest so close to the base would "hurt troop morale."
I've heard this argument countless times against the whole concept of anti-war protests. That they might hurt troop morale.
This pisses me off every time I hear it, so let me offer a little civics lesson. I know this is a bit presumptuous, since society acts like soldiers are all infallible beacons of divine light and everyone else sucks in comparison to them. As a result, no one else in society is allowed to have an opinion on anything... especially on matters of war and peace. Or if they do, it's automatically trumped by whatever a soldier or veteran thinks. Unless of course, that soldier or veteran opposes war, in which case they're turncoats.
Personally, I think soldiers are fine, but I'll risk the wrath of the politically correct and say it: I don't think they have a monopoly on wisdom, courage, honor and service.
I don't think you should spit on them. I don't think you should curse at them. I think it's fine to send them care packages. I think it’s fine to welcome them back when they return from duty or otherwise treat them nicely. But I don't think you should let your political opinions be held hostage by them.
So here's my civics lesson.
You see, in a democratic society, people propose ideas. Some people will think those ideas are brilliant, others will think those ideas are terrible. In some cases, people will protest, march, write letters or otherwise campaign in favor of their particular argument. This sort of give and take is not only a feature of a vibrant, democratic society, it’s a requirement.
For example, President Bush proposed invading Iraq. Some people thought it was a terrible idea and protested against it. Some people thought it was a swell idea and protested for it.
Now, the people who objected to the war weren't protesting against the troops. They were protesting against the IDEA of the war. Those who protested against people protested against the authors of that idea: namely, the president and members of his administration.
I participated in an anti-war protest. There were maybe 75 or 80 people. They all disliked the war. Most had bad things to say about President Bush, about American foreign policy, imperialism, etc. I didn't agree with everything that was said. However, I didn't hear a single one of those 75 or 80 people disparage the troops. Though I did hear several people say they opposed the war precisely BECAUSE they supported the troops. I think that not having the troops die for an bad idea, poorly executed, is a good way of supporting them.
When I went home, I walked right by the counterprotest. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t insult them. I didn’t scream at them to go home. I just ignored them and they ignored me.
This is all the way it should be. Big decisions with huge ramifications SHOULD provoke public reaction. They SHOULD push the public, at least a little bit, to think before the government acts in its name. Lack of feedback favors bad decision making, regardless of who’s in power and regardless of the purity of their intentions.
So the idea that anyone who claims to support democracy can object to this give and take is frankly pathetic. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that the anti-war protesters are wrong. It's reasonable to say that the harsh language some of them use hurts their cause more than it helps.
It’s an entirely different thing to say that the anti-war people shouldn’t be protesting at all, lest they offend politically correct sensibilities. It’s an entirely different thing to say that the anti-war people shouldn’t be protesting. It’s an entirely different thing to say that the anti-war people should let their opinions be held hostage because someone might not understand the basic tenets of liberty.
Anyone who gets their feelings hurt by the exercise of freedom and democracy at home has absolutely no business spreading it abroad.