Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Protesters, counter-protesters: all support the troops

Demonstrators included many families that brought young children to the march. There were also many high school students and young people. (Photo: J. David Ake / AP)We all care deeply

Yes, there was coverage on yesterdays March to the Pentagon.

Quite a bit of coverage - and photos. (More coverage, from CNN, and more photos.)

Apparently, we've reached critical mass, although I can already see that the coverage is slanted. But that was to be expected.

I suspect one reason this march received more coverage than the last march, was due to the influx of 'anti-protest' counter protesters. They seem to draw the mainstream media - no big surprise - and it appears there are more interviews with counter protesters than those who came for the march. I've noticed time and again, that the mainstream media doesn't reflect the feelings of the majority of Americans (which is probably why so many of us come out to the Internet to find our news.)

I also suspect that marches with 'counter protesters' are much more exciting to cover for the mainstream media. There is always that chance that there will be something they can sensationalize - violence, or perhaps 'a clash.'

You'll notice if you read the articles, that when talking to the counter protesters, they describe 'proud marines' and 'Vietnam vets' (although there are just as many - or more - taking part in the march itself. You'd never know this from the coverage. This is intentional.) When describing the marchers, the media may give a short, passing comment about the many, many participants from the military and their families... but they go ga-ga over 'anarchists' and other exotic-looking revolutionaries.

In truth... most people who march these days are professionals with jobs and families - or people from military families, many who are parents of soldiers that have died in the war. There are some young people, college age participants, but not nearly enough. Yet. (Just wait until there is a draft, and they'll come out of the woodwork.)

I also doubt the 'head counts' reported in the newspapers. This is a lesson I learned in January. The LA Times still claims that only 100,000 showed up in January for the march around the Capitol. I was there - there really were 500,000 people, maybe more. If you look at the photos taken by participants (and not just the handful of carefully picked photos posted by the media) you will see a massive crowd filling the National Mall, and overflowing onto side streets. Perhaps not the largest in history, but very, very big. Half a million, easily. Why does the media continually undercount the crowd size? To discourage future marches, and to keep the general populace from 'getting ideas.' This is also why there is so little coverage. Remember, our media has gone corporate...

Yesterday, there were military veterans, families and active duty warriors on both sides of the tape. Yet as always, everybody disagrees about who has the right to claim that loaded phrase 'support our troops.'

Counter protest protesters occupied the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, supposedly to keep 'disrespectful anti-war protesters away.' Ironically, many of the protesters - who bused and flew in from all over the country for the march to the Pentagon - are actually military families, Iraq war veterans, parents of solders who died in Iraq... and yes, Vietnam veterans. So imagine now, that you are a veteran, and you see an angry mob has occupied the Vietnam memorial, and is holding it against you. How would this make you feel?

Would any of these people - ever - dream of desecrating a war memorial? Does anyone - I don't care what your ideology - have the right to keep a Vietnam veteran, or any other veteran, out of the Vietnam Memorial?

This angers me.

I confess that I can understand why some people feel 'you must support the war to support the warriors'. This has been ingrained in our thinking for generations. But as someone who disagrees with that philosophy, I cannot understand the nastiness - the judgmental vitriol from those who oppose all protest.

The assumption that those who protest the war - including many who fought in the war - are 'unpatriotic,' confounds me. I wish I understood how anyone could hold such animosity towards those who disagree with the basis for the war, but care deeply for the well being of the troops.

Are they all simply brainwashed by the media (most likely Fox,) or some other propaganda arm? Are they somehow locked into mental images of wild-eyed, drugged out hippies throwing stones at returning Vietnam veterans (I don't remember any such images from the 60s, but I was very young.)

Where does this hatred come from?

The marchers appeared, for the most part, to hold no such hostility in return... although when confronted with a sign that says 'go to hell traitors,' or 'peace sucks,' I know I would experience mixed emotions... and perhaps the desire to set the record straight. I've learned that this is impossible. These ideas are fixed in stone, and the hatred runs deep. I'm sure Fox continually fans the flames of the hatred, every day. This is, of course, what Fox does best.

Senator Chuck Hagel (R, Nebraska) and a Vietnam veteran, once believed that opposing the Vietnam war was wrong. His brother Tom (also a veteran, and who actually fought along side his brother Chuck) came home from the war convinced that he had been used, and was an outspoken critic. Chuck and his brother actually came to blows over their differences of opinion, shortly after they returned. Now, years later, Chuck Hagel has come full circle. Hagel is now considered to be the fiercest, most out-spoken Republican critic of the Iraq war in the Senate.

Hagel said he came to his own moment of truth, after listening to tape recordings of former President Lyndon Johnson admitting that he felt the war was pointless. Apparently Johnson made this statement in 1964 - before the Hagel brothers were deployed to Vietnam. Johnson went on to say that he feared he would be impeached if he tried to withdraw.

“The dishonesty of it was astounding — criminal, really,” Mr. Hagel said. “I came to the conclusion that they used those people, used our young people."

I was on a march in Washington D.C. two months ago, and I stayed well away from the anti-protesters. I have no beef with them. I feel they are welcome to their opinion, because we are all Americans and that is what 'freedom' is all about: the freedom to disagree. I have no interest in fighting with fellow Americans. My beef is with my government.

But come on... stupid comments like 'If you don't love America, leave it?' Imagine yelling something that stupid, right in the face of an Iraq combat veteran. These men and women fought for the right to protest. They watched friends die, many are injured for life. How dare anyone judge them?

If counter protesters also fought in this war and other wars, and disagree... fine. I respect that. But they need to learn a little respect as well. America's greatness rests in our right to disagree. All are patriots. All 'support the troops.' There are no 'traitors' here - the traitors are embedded in our government.

That said... I'm sure there were more than a few idiotic comments from among the ranks of the marchers as well. Some people can't see a sign calling them 'traitors' and walk quietly by without responding in kind. I see no point in engaging. Freedom of speech cuts both ways.

And as for the rest of us, those who are not in the military but who oppose this war on principle: why would anyone get on a bus and ride for 16+ hours to protest this war, our government's abuse of our troops, and this administration's attacks on our Bill of Rights -- if we didn't love America? If we didn't love America... wouldn't we all just stay the hell home on our couches, in comfort, pop a beer and watch American Idol?

The opposite of love and support, is indifference. Can't we all get along?

Members of a coalition of Christians opposed to the war actually demonstrated at the White House the night before the march- and many were arrested. It would appear that people from all ideologies, all walks of life, are uniting in the belief that this war - and the accompanying torture and abuse of Geneva conventions - is wrong.

These 'anti-protest' protesters seem to have missed the entire point of the march, and the reason for its starting location at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Memorial is a symbol of the last controversial war - one that divided Americans just as profoundly as this war. Increasingly (even among the troops,) a majority of Americans are now opposed to the continued occupation of Iraq. There are many similarities between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam war.

So the Vietnam Memorial was an obvious place to begin - a place of great reverence to everyone. Hallowed ground. That one side felt entitled to 'occupy it' against the other, is beyond reason. But I suppose 'reason' has no place in this discussion.

Most of us believed that our country learned a powerful lesson in the wake of Vietnam. Apparently, there are still many in our government who learned absolutely nothing.

The draft-dodging, deferment stacking politicians who started this war never learned about Vietnam, because they never fought. They were protected by money and influence during the Vietnam era, and never had to face months of fear, mud, insects and surprise ambushes in the jungles of Vietnam. They had to reason to learn the true cost of war. They are somehow above getting their own hands dirty - or those of their children - on the actual field of battle, but they are very comfortable committing other people's children to the fight that they began.

It is on their heads that I hang this tragedy, this ongoing bloodshed.

I suppose this debate will continue forever. The story of the Hagel brothers - both Vietnam veterans - bloodying each other on their front lawn over this very issue, just underlines how very raw the subject matter has become in our national psyche.

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