The Right to Protest Fought for by Veterans, Says Letter Writer
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To the community,
Today is of course Veterans Day. The day in which we honor those who have served our nation in the armed forces. Placed on this exact date of November 11th to also commemorate the day the First World War ended in 1918; the war which was supposed to end all wars and bring about democracy and freedom to the world. Regrettably that conflict fell well short of both those goals, though not because of the lack of effort from the American service men and women who waged it.
Today we also take stock of the events of the past week. Last night was another night full of protest. Tragically some of those protests, such as Portland, turned violent and destructive. Others have remained peaceful, but still were able to effectively express the sadness, fear, anger, and hope for change that its participants wanted shared. I take heart from the protest held in Eureka last night. The grace and goodwill shown by both the protesters and the police monitoring the event should be an example to all.
The right to protest is enshrined in our Constitution by being both implied from the historical use of protest by its drafters, but also explicitly in the First Amendment to that document. This is the document which the service men and women we honor today swear their oath of service upon. Our nation is unique in that our soldiers do not swear fealty to a king, a president, a committee, or a political party, but to a couple pieces of paper.
But that isn’t really true, they swear an oath to an ideal. The imperfect hope that mankind can form a fair and equal government to protect and serve themselves. And it is an imperfect document, because nothing created by man is ever truly perfect. That is why we have the amendments, to be able to correct problems in the Constitution to create a more perfect union. And the right to protest is how we voice opposition to problems or issues that threaten that union, hopefully in order to create solutions to those problems.
It is undeniable that the results of this past Presidential election are unprecedented and monumental, and that emotions are running high for all sides of the political spectrum. But it deeply disturbs me, the condemnation by some that I have seen and heard that the losing side of the election should not protest. That they should shut up and go home, that their concerns should not be voiced and that they should just accept that they lost. I do not accept this reasoning for I find it contrary to the values expressed in the Constitution, the very document that so many of my relatives and friends have sworn to uphold when they put on the uniform of a U.S. soldier, sailor, airman, or marine.
I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a Vietnam Veteran about flag burning. I asked if he was upset by the practice. It made him ache, hurt all over, feel sick to his stomach to see the flag that had been draped over the coffins of his friends killed in combat treated in such a manner, he said. But it was the right of protesters to burn the flag to express their feelings and position. It was one of the rights that he had fought for and that his buddies had died for; as long as the protest posed no harm to others, it was their given right as Americans to carry out their protest as they saw fit. “Though it would be nice if they could come up with some other ways to show their discontent that didn’t make my tummy hurt,” he joked. He believed in the ideal of freedom, even if he didn’t agree with some of the ways that that freedom takes form.
Today we face the situation where the President-Elect has said so many discouraging and hurtful things about people of different faiths, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and women, that a large portion of the nation feel they have no hope of succeeding or being safe during a Donald Trump administration. And where the candidate implied or hinted, so many of his more ardent supporters have acted; numerous well documented verbal and physical attacks by Trump supporters give little assurance to those targeted that all will return to “normal” now that the election is concluded. And for so many minorities in this nation, that “normal” was intolerable to begin with so the thought of returning to it gives no comfort any way.
So these people who have been targeted in Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric have decided to make their feelings known through their Constitutional right to protest, the right guaranteed to them by the sacrifices made by our service men and women. So many of those veterans are even the exact same people that Mr. Trump has scapegoated for the problems facing our nation; Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ, immigrants, and women. They fought and served in order to be able to protest against the injustices they may now face, no one has the right to tell them to go home and just accept it.
And as long as those protests cause no harm to others, I gladly and proudly join in the chorus of opposition. I have condemned, and will continue to condemn Mr. Trump’s bigotry, racism, and sexism. President Obama has wished the President-Elect success in his upcoming term, and in so far as it pertains to America’s success I share in that sentiment. But whatever policies that the next administration proposes that will have a negative effect on my friends and family based upon their faith, their skin color, their sexuality, or their sex, I shall protest. Whenever the President-elect decides to attack diversity and equality, things he sees as a threat to this nation but which I see as one of its greatest strengths, I shall protest. All should feel free to protest, loudly and frequently, in the streets, in homes, or in writing in order to protect the rights that we all enjoy under the liberty afforded to us by our veterans.
To conclude, I would like to thank all the veterans out there for all the sacrifices you have made for us, though our thanks will never be enough. To thank all active duty service members for currently affording us protection to be able to vote and protest. And to offer my sincere and heartfelt wish that we will one day no longer have new veterans to honor on Veterans Day, because we will no longer have any wars to fight.