Oh where, oh where has America gone?

Sometimes I wonder what America our military members are fighting for. I thought it was the one where we value the rights provided to us by the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. But then we have incidents like this.

Over the past few years, the Women in Black and Veterans for Peace have grown in our little town, as they have around the world, protesting the war in Iraq. Last I looked, we were allowed to do that– assemble peacefully and express our opinions. I personally know a number of the women of our local Women in Black group, which includes the minister of my church as well as several local women in the social forefront of institutional and educational agencies. They gathered, at first in the public square downtown, to bear silent witness, signs and solidarity for those who want to bring the troops home and end the war. They can’t meet there any more. The pro-war people harass, film and taunt them and make their vigils miserable. In the You Tube clips I’ve seen, where they accuse our local Women in Black of practicing witchcraft among other things, the taunters send their children to verbally assault the protesters. They aren’t even brave enough to do it themselves. And the police won’t do anything about it.

This, they’ll do something about. They charged an 82-year-old woman for allegedly kicking a veteran in his padded behind after he supposedly cursed her for stating her opinion. Yep, this is the America we have now.

(I’m even going to withhold comment on the kind of Iraq veteran who would whine about being “beat up” by an 82-year-old woman. For shame.) (Okay, withhold most of my comment.)

I know Ann DeWalt. We were cast together in the community theatre’s production of Steel Magnolias, myself as Ouiser and Ann as Clairee, and we spent months together. She is a fine lady in every sense of the word. Her sense of humor is sharp as her wit, and she certainly has many weapons at her disposal to fend off the usual sort of mockers. Clearly this went above and beyond.

There is no reason those protesting the war and those supporting the war can’t peacefully express their opinions. There is no reason those protesting the war have to be hounded by those determined to silence them, forced to continue moving the location of their protest to avoid being harassed. It’s in the Constitution, people. Everyone gets their chance to speak. None of us has the right to shut down opposing opinion. Not as far as I read the document.

Ann is hanging in there, bless her. As Clairee said so many nights, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

It makes me sad. This isn’t the America I learned about when I grew up, the country we’re supposed to be so proud of. I’ll go back to Ouiser for my final word: “This is it, I’ve found it, I’m in hell.”

Footnote, 3/25: outcome of hearing, Ann’s found guilty, pays $25 for the privilege.

8 thoughts on “Oh where, oh where has America gone?

  1. amen sister. somehow the right to speak freely, the need for public debate – the right to question the policies and actions of our government – was blown up on 9/11.

    why am i called “Un-American” for questioning the policies that drove us to declare pre-emptive war on a soverign nation? can i question the policies that sent our soldiers to war while still supporting them? i thought so…

    they are doing the job they volunteered to do… i do not take issue with them – and in fact, believe that we have the best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known. or at least we used to – until we wore them down, wore out their equipment, deployed them too long…

    the knee-jerk reaction – supported by the ‘my country right or wrong’ contingent – is to cast all dissent into the ‘Un-American’ category. maybe some folks are afraid of treating our veterans the way the soldiers from vietnam were treated…

    in any case, it breaks my heart. a line from “Hair” touched me – as Claude is deciding whether to go fight in Vietnam, or burn his draft card… “i want to stay here doing the things they are over there fighting for…” It’s just that 40 years later? we’re not allowed to ‘do those things’…

  2. Thanks for posting this. I am really tired of the
    “un-American” label. Now its un-american to mourn? Fear is a big motivator, and people are really afraid that their way of life will be taken away. Most people do not totally understand why we are there and what got us there in the first place. Its a shame that Ann made a careless mistake with such ignorant people that will use it to their advantage. She is 82! Its like taking your granny to court for pulling your ear when you misbehave! What a waste of the courts time and money. Yes, it is really sad how we still don’t get the US Constitution and the ideas America was founded on after all of these years.

  3. We met her when we saw you in the play, right?

    Seriously, getting beat by an old lady and then whining about it…takes some balls.

    I don’t know, I’ve always held the idea of “Love the Soldier, Hate the War.” I still do, I have too many friends and even some family members in the military. Not all in the US military, eathier. This whole thing has been going on too long, too many people are getting hurt and dying. The soldiers are getting tired of it, too. I’ve seen reports, not many from American media, although it is being reported more and more, about how high dissatisfaction is amongst the troops.

    Few months ago in my town, the funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq was disrupted by protesters…from both sides. What I found interesting was that the anti-war protesters maintained a respectful distance, they were quiet, they had permission to be there. Another group showed up with the purpose of harrassing them. And then they started bothering people going to the funeral. A few were arrested for blocking the traffic. It was disgusting, it really was. I still don’t know what the deal with the “war-supporters” as they were calling themselves was exactly, but it had something to do with God hating gays….oh how I wish I was joking. Just what a grieving family wants to hear. “Your son died because God hates gays.”

    Oh well, I’m already anti-American, right, so what does it matter what I think. I vote Democratic, practice witchcraft, I’m married to a liberal minded Frenchman, and I probably eat babies. It’s a good life.

  4. You peple are hilarious. It is all our fault and nothing that you do is wrong. For some strange reason, I feel this blog is being edited on its own merit.

  5. You know, they say in America we have the RIGHT to say what we wish, men and women have faught and died for this RIGHT. I always took it that meant whatever, even if I hated what the other guy said and lord know’s I have heard some things I totally hate.

    I see Pro and Con protesters and I, myself leave them be IT’S THEIR RIGHT!!!. If I agree I might even have a sit down with them, it’s MY RIGHT.

    But you know, I find it two faced for someone to say they faught for these RIGHTS then go and try to disrupt a peace rally.

    It’s their RIGHT to do this, and if a swift kick in the butt can maybe jump start a few brains in to remembering these HARD WON RIGHTS, maybe more of us should do it.


    I’m thinking we should all go together and buy Annie an award, and I hope she will consider adopting me!

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