It's a sad state of affairs when America, that place where people come to for freedom and the right to speak their minds, no longer tolerates dissent. Last week, a group of American war veterans got together to voice their concerns over a possible war with Iraq. Veterans for Common Sense is an attempt to inject a sense of restraint and peaceful resolution into what is quickly becoming a very strident drum-beating war cry.
In the first 24 hours after we announced our site, quite a few veterans signed on to the statement. But a small minority sent hate mail. To give you an idea of the tone, I'll quote three of them:
"Get over your-stupid-selves. Dumbass Liberal pussies."
"I say turn the place into glass!"
"Where in God's name did you ever get the idea to countermand the commander-in-chief of our nation?"
Okay. I have to take exception to this. Let's make one thing clear -- George W. Bush is indeed the commander-in-chief of the military; but last I heard, the President works for the people, not the other way around -- even if they didn't vote for him.
Since when did patriotism equal silence? Did that happen about the same time peace activists were added to the "no-fly" list? Will we let the terror war, or the Iraq war, or the oil war, or whoever it is we're fighting this week destroy the very foundations of our democracy?
It's time for people to sit up and pay attention. We've reached a turning point in history, where Americans say they'll cash in their freedom and liberty for security. We defeated communism and dictatorship, so now we'll try capitalism and dictatorship?
Unless we all speak out, we just might. Because the tenor of the debate is exactly what President Bush said: If you're not with us, you are against us. If you don't support war on Iraq, you must be Saddam's best friend. If you don't support "turning the place into glass," you must be anti-American. If you don't support slaughtering innocent civilians abroad, you must support terror against Americans at home.
The people behind Veterans for Common Sense fought for the very rights we currently enjoy. When did questioning authority go out of fashion? When did we lose sight of the fact that the President works for US, and not vice versa? What's next? Struggle sessions against the ideologically impure?
It's possible that those of us who oppose a war against Iraq may be in the minority, but we deserve to be heard, just as do those who support a war. Freedom of speech and thought are still hallmarks of this country, and we do not have to slavishly swallow Shrub's every utterance to prove that we love America. Consider this, those of you who would see us silenced: perhaps the reason those of us who oppose a war against Iraq are so vocal is that we DO love our country, enough so that we don't want to see it make a terrible, costly mistake.
If you don't like what we have to say, tough. We have the right to voice our opinions, just as you do. The day that you are successful in denying us that right is the day that America ceases to be what the Founding Fathers envisioned. We'll be just another police state.