They Also Serve Who Stand and Protest

I have inappropriate thoughts.

At the Twins game Sunday, the boys were wearing caps out on the field for Memorial Day with NAVY, USAF, USMC and ARMY on them. Honoring the services and the men and women who defend us.

I had this thought. What if one of the players wore a hat with “Jane Fonda” on it? Or “Mohammed Ali”? People who stood up for their country by protesting a war they thought was wrong.

People would go apeshit, basically. Some player wears a hat with “Iraq Veterans Against The War,” another with “John Kerry” on it, for his service to the country fighting in and then protesting the Vietnam war, and it would be taken as a controversial inflammatory political statement. Wearing a cap with “Army” on it is not controversial, inflammatory or political. Because it’s status quo. Establishment.

The power of words. Of symbols. Of words we hold up to stand for things that we value. Of words we take as acceptable, and words we deem inappropriate.

I mentioned my notion to my father-in-law, sitting next to me at the game. He nodded, and said, “Maybe you could get away with Jack Murtha’s name on the hat.” Later he thought about putting “Peace” on one of the hats — he wasn’t a hippie but he may be having flashbacks nonetheless.

I mean no disrespect to the armed forces or the people who serve. I’m damned glad we have military forces and I want them well-supported and well-trained. And we should honor them. And when the civilian leaders who direct the military are wrong, I am also damned glad we have people who will stand up and speak out. And we should honor them. Dissent is patriotic. Dissent is American.

But dissenting against the accepted ways of doing things is too often seen as aberrant. Inappropriate.

Words we wear on our hats. They say a lot.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.” — Thomas Jefferson. A fitting phrase for a hat this Memorial Day.

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— Bruce Benidt

4 thoughts on “They Also Serve Who Stand and Protest

  1. The Wizard says:

    You’re confusing the issues.

    One issue is our armed forces who serve at the discretion of our elected politicians. The other is your beef is with our elected politicians who send our forces to war.

    To express dissent in front of – or to – the armed forces misses the mark and would be insulting.

    One of the left’s greatest political problems is its inability to separate these issues. The left’s political movement seems hell bent on insulting anyone peripherally linked to the war (witness the behavior of Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Rosie, Gore, Kerry, et al).

    To be politically effective and relevant, the left needs to devote more effort on persuasion and less on the shock-and-awe of its dissent.

  2. It’s a good observation, Wizard. Too much theater can be counterproductive.
    I’m just amazed at how dissent on this war has been cowed until the recent election — how scared people have been of being called unpatriotic — by draft dodgers.

    But the tide is turning.

    And i never mean to be insulting to servicepeople. I learned during the Vietnam protests that it’s not the soldiers who need to be challenged, it’s the policymakers and the American people who accept simple black-and-white explanations of complex issues.

    The Vietnam Memorial in DC is so moving because it speaks to both the service of the soldiers and the tragedy of the experience.

  3. Lurker says:

    I wonder what WWII veterans feel as these “shows of patriotism” occur across the U.S. Memorial Day kicks it off followed soon after by July 4th parades. Roll out the tanks and the National Guard trucks (if any service men or women are left in the state to drive them on the parade route). My elder relatives are of the WWII era…some of them veterans. Their generation made an incredible sacrifice, and while they might not see the differences between the last world war and the questionable actions we have since involved ourselves in thanks to Commanders in Chief like George W., my guess is they’d look at a ball field filled with players wearing hats that sport the words “Army” and “Air Force” and spit to no one in particular a questioning, “What the hell?!!”

  4. EMM says:

    Memorial Day is over..and so is the 4th of July. But the news in southern Minnesota was dominated last week by the happy return of veterans from Iraq, men and women who had served extended tours of 22 months. We all thank them for their selflessness and bravery;
    it’s an answered prayer for a mother finally to hold her soldier daughter in her arms again or a wife her husband.

    But I must comment on this post. To suggest “(w)ords we say on our hats” honors in the least Thomas Jefferson’s invocation against bad government or the brave who have defended our rights is proof of how soft and self-congratulatory we’ve become. Words on our hats? What a sacrifice. What a joke.

    Say what you want about Sen. John Kerry. He served his nation with distinction. How many of those who called him “Senator Flip Flop” or had the temerity to question his record did? (Proper public relations response? He should have flattened a critic or two, immediately. O’Reilly? Limbaugh?)

    Cindy Sheehan can say or do anything she wants to against this war. Her son sacrificed his life for this nation. Hasn’t she, too, earned the right? She is not “insulting.” What’s insulting and unforgivable is W.’s refusal at the least to meet and talk with her.

    So while we properly remember those who are celebrating their soldiers’ returns, let’s also remember those who will have no homecoming for their soldier. And let’s honor them all with our actions, not words on a hat.

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