Davich: What would fallen soldiers think of NATO protesters?
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org May 27, 2012 5:18PM
5/21/12 Chicago Speakers voice their concerns protest in front of the Boeing building during the NATO summit in Chicago on Monday, May 21st. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:00AM
Today, on Memorial Day, I wonder what all those U.S. soldiers who died for our country, our freedom, and especially our freedom of speech, would think of what took place in our back yard a week ago.
I’m talking about the contentious NATO Summit in Chicago and the motley crew of protesters who converged there to, well, I’m not quite sure about their collective message, if there even was one.
Get us out of Afghanistan. Get us out of work for the weekend. Get us on YouTube. Who knows for sure. To me, it too often looked like Studio 54 meets “America’s Got Talent.” A flash mob of fervor against so many things. And yet nothing really.
Most of the protesters seemed to be auditioning for a theatrical role to convey their nonconformity instead of flexing their First Amendment right to convey an actual point. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, right?
Through news accounts, I saw angry teens, disgruntled baby boomers and reminiscent hippies amid the crowd, each with something to say and something to protest against. If their message was “peace, peace, peace” as one group repeatedly chanted, they should thank the cool-headed Chicago Police Department for maintaining it on such hot days.
If their message was to show world leaders their decorated faces, clever signs and heated opinions on international policies, I doubt any world leaders noticed, or even cared.
However, if their message was to be on YouTube, Twitter or other social media sites — as well as to be the focal point of mainstream media — they certainly succeeded. But did their demonstrations sway global politics? Did it influence the decisions of world leaders? Did it make a difference at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for public activism, protesting for a point, demonstrating to send a message for needed change. It’s democracy at its finest.
For example, those Iraq War and Afghanistan War veterans who angrily and symbolically tossed their war medals over a fence toward the NATO Summit to show their about-face opposition to those wars. Something about that act resonated with me.
I can’t say the same about, say, the woman who spray-painted herself in silver from head to toe and sported peace-sign sunglasses. Or the masked man who wore a Satan costume, complete with pitchfork and tail. What were they protesting? Sanity?
If one “message” struck a chord with me, it was this: How fortunate we are to live in a country that allows, even encourages and showcases, such public acts of protest. It’s an amazing freedom that billions of other humans on this planet, throughout our history, could not simply imagine in their lifetime. Let alone enjoy it.
Yet here we are in the United States watching such a flamboyant and inflammable parade of various protests, and within an hour from our homes.
How surreal. How silly. How American.
This brings me back to my initial thought about today, Memorial Day, the official day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our nation.
Sadly (even oddly I admit), I’ve attended more funerals for fallen local soldiers than I have for friends or family during my life. So these soldiers and their families are often on my mind and in my heart today.
I wonder how they, and so many others, would have felt about those NATO protesters, considering that the soldiers joined the military to, in part, defend the very rights of those protesters. Even the ones dressed like a fanciful character from a Tim Burton movie with even less to say.
On the record, most military veterans insist to me that they simply follow orders and do what they’re told to defend our country’s freedoms. Period. This includes “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” as the First Amendment states.
Off the record, however, I’ve been told by many soldiers and vets alike that they begrudge such Americans who blatantly and stupidly take those rights for granted.
As one Desert Storm vet recently told me, “They’d feel differently about their freedom if they had to serve in combat to defend it.”
“They would respect it. They would revere it. They wouldn’t think of ridiculing it,” he said sternly.
I can only guess that all those fallen soldiers would feel the same way.
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