TR, patriotism, and legitimate protests

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

I am a veteran and I am against this war. I had just received my discharge in 1966 when the P3B that I flew on for the previous couple of years went down in Nam with all aboard. In memory of my crewmates, I helped start a local chapter of Vietnam Veterans against the war - as they asked me to do before I left them.

I am a supporter of both the left-wing A.C.L.U. and the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. It is interesting to note that these fiercely opposed groups have similar opinions of this war and this administration. It is mentally worrisome to open up each of their publications and wonder which one you are reading. Maybe this is what was meant by the phrase, "lions lying down with the lambs."

The peace promoters I know are not against our soldiers but rather against the policies of an administration that has put those warriors in harm's way unconvincingly and unnecessarily. One can support our brave troops and simultaneously disapprove government policy and direction. This situation that we are in is much more complex than simple-minded black and white separations. The argument that we may not have been so noticeable during certain other "wars" is less about political leanings than about the purposes and consequences of those other situations.

This months "New American," a JBS publication (avowed enemy of liberals and the U.N.) has two articles on protesting. One acknowledges the world peace movement has some unsavory supporters while the other clearly supports the civic obligation to protest in the face of constitutional violations and abuse of authority. Theodore Roosevelt, one of our most warlike presidents, said in 1918: "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. ... It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that ... he fails in his duty to stand by the country." Principled constitutionalists see many reasons for legitimate protest today.

I am heartened to see increasing letters advocating that citizens, despite opposing views, get together and learn to respect each other. We are a varied land - patriots come in many stripes. We need to avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water. It is our diversity that blends our strengths and keeps us free.

Christopher Wright


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