Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Sunday, August 28, 2005
 
Not Getting The Concept of Freedom of Speech

Recap: Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Casey Sheehan, an American soldier who died in Iraq, and she or her associates have been camped out at Crawford, demanding a meeting with the President to request that we withdraw from Iraq. They call their set-up Camp Casey. Pro-War protestors have also camped out at Crawford, and they call their installment Camp Reality. From a Los Angeles Times article on the opposing Camps Casey and Reality at Crawford:
Mark Crowley, a sheet metal worker from San Ramon, Calif., stood with pro-Bush activists under a tent called "Camp Reality." Though surrounded by people wearing "I'm 4 W" pins and shirts, Crowley said he was a union member and a Democrat who did not vote for Bush or support the invasion of Iraq. His son, Kyle, was an 18-year-old Marine who died last year when his unarmored Humvee was ambushed — and Crowley objects to Sheehan. . . ."What she's doing is not right, and it's setting a dangerous precedent for our troops in the field," said Crowley, who joined several other parents in asking Sheehan's supporters to remove their children's names from small white crosses at the antiwar protest sites. [Emphasies mine.]
This is one of the milder things you hear coming out of Camp Reality, the pro-war protestors. It's far more worrisome to me than even the war itself. Let's repeat that again: What she's doing is not right. What does that mean exactly?

You could make an argument that what she's saying is not right. Christopher Hitchens makes a nasty, snarky, but essentially sound counterargument to Sheehan's demands, one that I basically agree with. Simply withdrawing now is neither pragmatic nor compassionate--neither good for America nor the right thing to do. We have to at least contain the mess we've made. I wish we hadn't made the mess in the first place, and I wish that, having made that mess, we had put different people in charge of cleaning it up, but that doesn't change the fact that simply leavng it would be both morally and practically disastrous. You can debate Ms. Sheehan on the merits of her request, and still stay well within the realm of the patriotic, decent American. You can decry and analyze the possibility that she might have said anti-Semitic things at some point, you can get angry if she implies she's speaking in the names of other people's dead children.

But as soon as someone sincerely says that what she's doing is wrong--that her very action of expressing an opinion is wrong, that her attempts to get media attention are wrong--that person is stepping out of patriotic, decent American territory. And of course they have the right to say that, but the rest of us have the right to call them out as misled and far more dangerous to America's well-being than any mere protestor. Now Mr. Crowley might very well have not been thinking of such distinctions, perhaps he's being misrepresented, and I'm sure he's normally a nice guy, but he's flat out wrong if he thinks it's dangerous to America to protest a war or its handling. Who wants an America where it's wrong to complain about your government? That wouldn't be the United States of America. That would be a pretty but unfortunate chunk of land between two oceans with a couple of outlying territories.

At its root, Crowley's (common) complaint is based on a nonsensical idea, symptomatic of a lack of critical thinking. Giving succor to our enemies? How are we giving succor to our enemies? Do you really think insurgents are hiding out in Iraqi shacks, reading up on Sheehan and deriving some kind of magical power from that reading which allows them to bomb more efficiently? Even articles on the subject from foreign publication like the Tehran Times and and Jordan's Ali Bawaba give plenty of quote-space to those who are pro-war, making it abundantly clear to their readers that the American state is not going to just get up and leave anytime soon. There is no evidence for a real, unimagined connection between protest and discussion and the well-being of our troops in the field. Simply saying a phenomena exists does not make it exist, you have to show us.

The real succor to our enemies stems from citizens lazily giving into mismanagement, and young Americans being raised to think so murkily about important matters.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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