Starting this week, each Friday I will post about an event, person, group or issue that is central to the questions about the war, our troops, our veterans and the direction of our national foreign policy. I will address an issue and lay out why I feel the way I do, without rancor. I will justify why I feel or think the way I do, and I invite those with differing opinions to do the same.
Each post in this series will be filed under the headline “Red Fridays”, after the grass-roots campaign calling on people to “Wear Red on Fridays, ‘til they all come home”. This movement has the potential of bringing to the national consciousness questions and understandings about issues faced by our military and veterans, the war and our national foreign policy, in ways that can directly impact and influence the future course and direction of our country as well as each of us individually. I’m starting with the idea that in order to understand the answers, people first need to understand the questions and that “we the People” are each other’s best teachers.
This idea started as a reaction to a recently released article stating that most Americans have forgotten that we are a Nation at war. The article goes on to state that 2,000 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and that no one seems to have noticed.
This got me thinking about how most people think about the war, the ever-growing casualty list and our troops still in harm’s way. So, as I am wont to do, I started searching on the internet, not only for news stories but specifically for opinions, reactions and feelings about the war.
Much of what I found is in one extreme camp or the other. People either support the troops, the mission and the purpose, or they say there is no purpose or mission to support. Those in the former camp are, not surprisingly, often people who either served themselves or have a family member who served. The majority of the latter are often as not opposed to the war not because they are pacifists, but because they believe the war is being fought and the price is being paid by soldiers who are little more than tools of the military-industrial complex and/or a corrupt government.
What is most interesting to me is how neither end of the spectrum seems overly concerned with having a sane, rational dialogue. Both extremes feel they are a voice in the wilderness and if only they could get others to listen and understand, they would be able to shift public opinion, perception and ultimately national policy. At the same time though, questioning their views is often taken as an attack, leaving very little room for the exchange of real information.
I truly believe there isn’t a subject, topic or idea that can exist without someone attacking it’s basic premise, and “Red Fridays” is no exception. Noam Chomsky, the linguist and anarchist said that an idea so general and broad is ultimately meaningless and empty because of it’s too subjective nature. I say that being so subjective is the point. Each person who chooses to wear red, does so for their own reasons. Talking about their decision, explaining their reasons accomplishes the goal of raising public awareness, sharing ideas and opinions in the best possible way, one on one, in small groups and informal settings.
We humans are a funny lot. We can hold specific beliefs and ideas, but when we meet someone in person who challenges those opinions and beliefs in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way, we are more likely to be receptive to new or different viewpoints. Politicians know this, and it is the reason for meet-and-greet events. They may say it is to show their constituents or hoped for constituents they care, they are just a regular person, etc., but you can be sure they or their campaign managers are fully aware of this quirk of human nature.
It is no secret that I am a huge supporter of our men and women in uniform and our veterans. It is equally clear that I am not a fan of our Commander-in-Chief. In 2008, I said Obama was not my candidate, but since then he has become my President and while I may not agree with many if not most of his politics, policies or ideologies, I support and respect the Office and the fact that the majority of my fellow Americans chose him. I also have to say that I am not jumping up and down with joy over Romney either, but I dislike him less than I dislike the thought of another four years under our current administration.
I’m putting all this out there in the interest of fairness and full disclosure. Where I have a bias will be duly noted, though I will keep an open mind, and an open heart. I can only ask the same of others.
So, with all that said, I will lay out a few rules. You can say whatever you want, in any way you want, as long as you would also choose those words and tone in front of your grandmother. In other words, respect the fact that on the other side of the ideas you are disagreeing with is a person as deserving of respect as you. Comments go live when you hit the enter button, but can and will be removed by my delete button if you are not able to abide by the simple courtesy of discourse without rancor. Diatribes can and will be allowed, opinions other than those that agree with my own are encouraged and welcomed, because that is the point of this little exercise, but keep it civil so that it can be productive.
One final note – if there is a topic, event, organization or person you would like to see highlighted and discussed, let me know. I have a long list of my own, but I’m always open to new ideas.