December 5, 2006

why does it make you uncomfortable?

I saw a memorial on my train ride home yesterday. A large number of white crosses occupied a visible hill in Lafayette, CA, accompanied by a sign that said the crosses were placed there in memory of American soldiers killed in Iraq. Apparently, it has caused quite a stir because some think the memorial is more of a political statement than an actual memorial.

Recently, I read of a woman in Colorado who was going to be fined $25 a day by her homeowners association because she wanted to put up a Christmas wreath. It wasn't just any wreath; it was in the shape of a peace symbol. Other residents complained that the Peace Wreath was an anti-war statement. They said that they worried that if they allowed it, they'd have to allow all kinds of political and social statements to be put up in their neighborhood.

God forbid that we allow freedom of speech on private land. God forbid that anyone actually would want there to be more peace in the world.

Regarding the crosses in Lafayette: Critics of the memorial say that it's just liberals using the tragedy of death to make a political statement. Huh. I don't recall that ever being illegal. In fact, I seem to recall our very own president referring to the tragic deaths of the 9/11 bombings to his own political gains--again, and again, and again. He also invoked the memory of the first 1,000 soldiers killed in Iraq in order to quiet war critics, saying that leaving Iraq at that time would be a cowardly disgrace to their memory.

Regardless, you can argue the aesthetics of such a memorial and the taste of such a political statement all you want. Bad taste does not make something illegal. Unpopularity also does not make it illegal. The people trying to get Lafayette to take down the crosses should learn a lesson from President Bush: When Cindi Sheehan's supporters camped on private property near Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX, Bush did not try to expel them. Instead, he ignored them, which was proper, all things considered. The critics of the Lafayette memorial have every right to criticize the memorial vociferously and energetically, to argue their points, to put up counter-memorials or whatever. What they don't have a right to do is declare anti-war statements illegal. The free speech laws exist to protect the existence of unpopular opinions. When unpopular opinions are outlawed, only outlaws will have unpopular opinions.

Regarding the wreath wrath: Unfortunately, the homeowners association probably has a right to compel the removal of the wreath. Such is life in a neighborhood governed by small-minded people, when you voluntarily sign on to obey their rules. I hope the other residents relent, however, as the symbol of peace should always (in my opinion) be welcomed. The owner has said that it is not an anti-Bush statement or even an anti-war statement. She said she wants to make a positive statement in support of peace rather than any negative, anti-anything statement. Put in that light, the homeowners association looks like pro-war, anti-peace neanderthals. In fact, they look downright anti-Christian as well, considering the message of every Christmas sermon I've ever attended has been peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

But the critics of the cross memorial in Lafayette should stop and think a minute about why it makes them uncomfortable to see it. They can say it's offensive because it uses tragedy for political gain. That means that either they're upset about the political gain or they're upset by the deaths. If they're upset by the political gain, they should ask themselves why 2,900 American soldiers dead does not upset them. If they're upset about the deaths, they should ask themselves why they would want to hide those upsetting deaths, ignore them, bury them without understanding the war's true cost.

They should ask themselves what about the memorial truly makes them uncomfortable, truly upsets them. And then they should take a long, hard look at the answer. Then, and only then, they should decide whether they want to protest its existence.


Eschew Obfuscation said...

This is an intriguing question. If you went to the Lafayette Town Hall meeting you would have witnessed real anger and hostility from some of those who oppose the crosses or the sign or both. Interestingly, the two parents of soldiers killed in Iraq spoke in favor of keeping the crosses and signs. I interpret the anger on the part of the mother with boys in the marines as fear. For some the anger may stem from being proven wrong about their earlier support for the war. But I still don't get the need on the part of some to personally attack those who support the crosses.

Jane D. said...

PJ - wise words well spoken.

quercus said...

I think the people who put up that so-called "antiwar" demonstration deserve the hatred and contempt of all freedom loving Americans. They aren't "anti-war" - they re anti American and pro-Islamist terrorism. In other words they are America hating creeps of a type all too well known in the Bay Area. Most of all they are parasites, enjoying the benefits of living in a free country while smearing the brave men and women in uniform who make that freedom possible with their smarmy false pity.

The people who have done this thing should not be prosecuted at law, but they should be shunned and boycotted. Their neighbors should refuse to speak to them, merchants should refuse their business, and the town should condemn them in every way permissible within the law.

PJD said...

...people who put up that so-called "antiwar" demonstration deserve the hatred and contempt of all freedom loving Americans.

No, it is people who would stifle thought and stomp out discussion that deserve the hatred and contempt of all freedom-loving people everywhere, not just Americans.

An anti-war demonstration is not an anti-soldier demonstration. Speaking out in favor of less death and destruction is not, I think, something that deserves hatred and contempt.

It is, in fact, the duty of every American to ensure that our republic persists and is not thrown into fascist tyranny by posses of thought police.

quercus said...

Nobody is trying to stifle thought and stamp out discussion. We have debate and discussion in this country 24/7, and just about everybody left, right or center has some criticism about how President Bush has handled the war. I certainly do.

We need debate, but we need intelligent, constructive debate. Impugning the president's motives and refusing to recognize the viciousness and determination of our enemies contribute nothing to defending this country or the advancement of freedom and justice in the world.

A display like the one in Lafayette proves nothing about the justice of the fight against the terrorists who seek to undermine the elected government of Iraq through murder and mayhem. People are killed in any war, regardless of the justice of the cause. All the Lafayette display shows is the shallowness and self-righteousness of its perpetrators.

Let's by all means have constructive debate about how best to defend this country and help the people of Iraq. What we don't need are the bumper sticker inanities that too often pass substitute for thought and discussion in the Bay Area.