Here we go again. Our political rhetoric has taken a turn toward danger. In the days since Veterans Day, some of the language has been dishonorable and it will surely inflict more sorrow if we do not condemn certain callous words.
Oh no, this has nothing to do with the president. It has nothing to do with his army green windbreaker appearance in Alaska. It has nothing to do with his bizarre attack on the opponent he defeated a year ago. This is about what the magazine, The Nation, had to say about the war in Iraq in its November 28th issue.
In an editorial titled, "Democrats and the War," The Nation says that it will no longer support any Democrat who backs this war. That's fine. That's their right. There is nothing wrong with voicing dissent in a time of war. As a matter of fact, it is the most important time to question, to challenge the centers of power, and to push the buttons of democracy.
But in the midst of so much trouble, Arthur Miller was right. "Attention must be paid." We must use extra care in choosing our words. In a time when the anger is real, and when the frustration and despair builds every day, it is our responsibility to mean what we say and say what we mean.
And that's why these words in The Nation's editorial are so dangerous.
The Nation writes, "The war--an unprovoked, unnecessary and unlawful invasion that has turned into a colonial-style occupation--is a moral and political catastrophe. As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation."
Let's repeat that last sentence, "As such it is a growing stain on the honor of every American who acquiesces, actively or passively, in its conduct and continuation."
The Nation must either apologize or correct that statement.
First, I will give them the benefit of the doubt to correct it. Perhaps they are talking about President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Perhaps they are talking about them having "a growing stain" on their honor. If that is the truth, then they should correct themselves and spell those specific names out and dot their "I's" and cross their "T's"
But they chose the words, "the honor of every American." Not a couple, not a few, not some, but every American. So if they're talking about the 160,000 men and women serving in Iraq today or preparing to serve their country at this hour—shame on The Nation.
Have we conveniently forgotten the great pain Vietnam Veterans experienced toward the end of the war? Have we forgotten the men who were spit on? Have we forgotten the men who struggled with the most defining moment of their lives—that war—and then suffered the ultimate heartbreak when the nation turned its back on them? Have we forgotten what those hateful words did? They sent too many men to the gun they used to blow their brains out.
So yeah, it matters a whole lot when someone says that the men and women serving their country have "a growing stain" on their honor.
It is the kind of language that may start small—just one sentence—but those callous words can spread like a virus. That's why they must be condemned or corrected right away so that history does not repeat itself. Because right now, it appears that just as the neocons failed to learn the lessons from Vietnam, it looks like the anti-war activists are headed for the same kind of trouble.
How could they forget such an important lesson from history? That you can speak out against the war and still speak for the men and women who are serving; the men and women who are trying to secure polling booths for the December elections, and the men and women who are repairing roads and schools. They have done everything right while their commander in chief has done everything wrong.
Think about what that sentence must do to a man or woman getting ready to go to war? Imagine what it must be like to button up the uniform and go over there to fight knowing what we know now. Imagine the kind of conflict that must stir in the heart. Imagine what it must be like to walk in their shoes. They wrestle with good-byes. They wrestle with running and catching the first bus to Canada. They give their kids a hug for what might be the final time. They leave the jobs they're good at: teachers and firefighters and doctors and cops. And they go over there.
They go over there knowing what we know now. That's not "a growing stain." That's a badge of honor. And as long as those words stand, there is only one place to look for "a growing stain," at The Nation.