We have a right to free speech

This letter is in response to the article Brian Strait wrote in The BG News. I am sending it to perhaps dispel some myths about protesters and patriotism, at least as I see it. According to Mr. Strait’s definition, a patriot is “One who loves, supports and defends one’s country.” I believe this to be true, and I also believe that in opposing this war, I am still doing all of those things. First off, I love my country, this doesn’t mean I don’t ever disagree with policy that is handed down by its government. Secondly, I support my country, I am in full support of the troops in Iraq and elsewhere, that is why I want to see them brought back home, so their lives aren’t needlessly cut short. Lastly, I am defending my (our) country. This war will cost the United States an enormous sum of money, not to mention the loss of life we have already experienced, and so in opposing the war, I am defending our country because I believe that this money, these people, and their resources could be better used elsewhere, and perhaps here first where we still have rampant problems like poverty and homelessness due to a lack of living wage jobs and affordable housing.

Next, Mr. Strait asserts that the protesters as a whole haven’t had experience with war, and thusly shouldn’t oppose it due to a lack of understanding. I agree that the majority of people present probably haven’t seen combat, however, in the past, I know that the march had been attended by a member of Veterans for Peace, and I knew of at least one ex marine who attended the last march.

Further, the notion that one must experience something to oppose it or view it as negative is ludicrous. I have read Sigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, all of whom were war veterans and established writers. These men’s accounts, coupled with those of veterans who I have spoken to personally have helped lead me to the position I take now.

Mr. Strait goes on to accuse protesters of sending viruses to the ROTC listproc, without presenting any evidence to support such claims. I take personal offense to this because my basis for protest is in non-violence, and beyond this, making accusations like this without evidence is simply in poor taste and judgment. Finally Mr. Strait asserts that because he is a veteran he has “earned” the right to free speech. Unfortunately, Mr. Strait must have missed the First Amendment which states that citizens of the United States are granted freedom of speech inherently, and that such a freedom is not exclusively granted to those who have served in combat.