First, read this article.
This is the sort of thing that just makes my blood boil. None–none!–of the poetry, posters, and other art was obscene. But it was critical–in some cases, very critical–of our national policies. And so, for that reason, the principal decided to obliterate it; to crush it; to silence it.
Now, I’m certainly aware that this isn’t the first time that a school has moved to crush student opinion, and it’s not going to be the last. But how can we expect young Americans to be good citizens if they’re not permitted to exercise their minds and question that which we hold to be self-evident?
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”. Those words were spoken by a man who was probably the proudest American who lived this century–Teddy Roosevelt. But to me, dissent goes beyond that. Dissent goes to the very heart of what it means to be an American, from the very first Pilgrim who set foot on that Massachusetts beach shore, all the way to the present. You deny dissent, you deny America.
America wasn’t populated by people who were happy with the way things were going back home; it was populated by people who were angry with how things were, who were sick of getting trod upon, and who dreamt of creating a beacon of freedom and liberty and righteousness for all the world to gaze upon and aspire towards.
And what makes this worse is that this happened because some school principal thought all this dissent was “un-American”, since they were criticizing our war in Iraq. And what really sets me off is that the schools’ military advisor (most likely a JROTC advisor) was a participant in this? What the heck? What was he doing within 2,000 miles of this?
The single biggest reason I use a pen name is because I want my criticism and my writing about everything to be separate of my life as a soldier. I am a soldier, but I’m not just a soldier; there’s more to me than just the GI Joe part. But I don’t want people to get the impression that how I feel is an official statement by the Army, or supported by the Army, or in any, way, shape, or form represents official Army thinking. What I do, and what I write, I do and write as an American, not as a soldier.
It infuriates me when people in the military, who really should know better, engage in political conduct while in the course of duty. There’s a dangerous trend here, and it’s been percolating for a few years. It bothers me greatly that several senior officials saw fit to denigrate the President (and by extension, Democrats) when that office was held by Bill Clinton. It bothers me even more that those folks weren’t punished in many cases. It really bothers me that several soldiers have slammed the current Administration while in uniform, and it bothers me most of all that those guys got the book thrown at them. There’s a standard that should be met, but it isn’t; there’s, instead, a new standard, and it’s this: slam a liberal, and you’re okay; slam a conservative, and you’re toast. That’s a crock, a really steamy one at that.
This military advisor needs to, at the very least, apologize; personally, I think he needs to resign, the sooner the better. The military doesn’t need to be within a light year of anything that even remotely smacks of the suppression of basic freedoms.
While I’m at it, a word about supporting the troops. Supporting the troops goes beyond waving a flag, wrapping yourself in a flag, or otherwise telling the troops, “Attaboy!”. Sometimes, it means asking what our troops are doing; sometimes it means asking, is it worth doing?
And sometimes, it means asking yourself–and others–the same question a young man my age once posed to others:
How do you ask someone to be the last soldier to die in Iraq?
How do you ask someone to the last soldier to die for a mistake?
Especially, when we may have known it was a mistake all along.