Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not my Oregon, but Our Oregon

This afternoon as I was preparing for another meeting with my Afghan counterparts, I was cornered by a fellow Soldier that is preparing to leave Afghanistan after serving for a year training the ANA.

"Hey, Sir, how about if we take down that Oregon flag you've got hanging up here on The Alamo and burn it?" "What?" I asked. "Well if those bastards want to burn the American Flag and a mock up of a US Soldier I think that that is the least we should to to recognize their efforts."

He then explained the imagery going around the Internet of fringe idiots integrating into a rally in downtown Portland, Oregon. Burning a U.S. Flag and burning an effigy of a Soldier a group of about two dozen infiltrators tried to make a "statement" in what was otherwise a peaceful rally to oppose the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

As an American Soldier serving in Afghanistan after mobilizations to Iraq and New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Lakes Charles immediately after Hurricane Rita, it is hard to look at imagery of the Arlnene Schnitzer Concert Hall with its big "PORTLAND" sign in lights serving as the backdrop for such ignoble disrespect and to know that this image somehow represents to now millions of people across the world what my state is all about.

But it is not our Oregon. Our Oregon is a place where our Governor sets the tone for all Governors in the United States by making it a policy to attend the funerals of each fallen service member to which the family offers him welcome (of the 84 to date, he has attended all but a handful). Our Oregon is a place where both sides, right, left and all those in between, have set a tone of civility in their disagreements. Whether the bold anti-McCarthyism of the late, great Democratic Senator Wayne Morris, or the recent questioning of motives for continuing our war in Iraq by Republican Senator Gordon Smith, we have found civil methods to express our opinions and ask questions of our leadership. What is fascinating to me is that Portland, Oregon had the largest, peaceful demonstration in the entire nation on the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Yet a handful of idiots identifying themselves as anarchists crashes an event of this level of magnitude and that is then seen by some Drill Sergeant in Afghanistan that then recommends that we burn the Oregon flag because it somehow represents those people.

An Editorial written by a friend at The Oregonian reads in part:

The march through downtown Portland near the fourth anniversary of the invasion was a loud, colorful expression of this new majority sentiment. Old folks, children, men and women marched the streets in force, reinforcing the message of last November.

Marches like this are the way wars are fought in the arena of public opinion. But their message is tainted by the actions of a small group more keen on delivering an outrage than an argument. And because their actions fit the definition of outrageous, they provide grist for passionate people on both sides of the debate.

Sadly for the 15,000 or so, the sidebar demonstration undermines the dominant message of peaceful dissent. The goal of an anti-war march, it would seem, would be not to win over the most committed supporters of the war, because they won't be persuaded. And it's not to win over committed opponents, because they are already persuaded. It's to woo the great moderate middle of the electorate that decides the outcome of any national policy debate. And those members of the middle shrink from the callousness of a masked man burning an effigy of a soldier.

As the demonstrators surely know, this did nothing to advance an argument. Indeed, it contradicts the feelings of many anti-war protesters, who tend to believe that the people of the military have served honorably but have been misused by their government.

But if the words "Portland" or "anti-war protest" now conjure images of a burning effigy in uniform, then that is a shame.


Much like the Taliban represents a very small portion of the population of Afghanistan, the "Anarchists" and their ludicrous message do not represent me or my home State of Oregon. They represent a small-minded, immature minority of ignorant fools looking for a vehicle to communicate their rage. Again, like the Taliban here in Afghanistan, they seem to want to do anything to draw greater attention to their cause than what actually exists.

The fools that made my city and state and, indeed nation look bad, are just fools running a fools errand. The Taliban would welcome their mindset here in Kabul.

From Kabul

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.” - President George Washington


Blogger Rejenia said...

I can not imagine what it must be like for ya'll to see those images. Okay, I guess I can, you were pretty articulate -- and rightfully so.

Try, try try to remember that you are there, not just for them, but also those of us who appreciate it sooooo much. No one can ever repay you for what you are doing.

This week we found my Daddy's annual-type book from his time as a SEA BEE in the Pacific. For my Daddy I want you to know I appreciate what you are doing for me, and my family. We can NEVER repay you, but know you are all surrounded by our prayers and gratitude.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I hate to hear that they did that, and hate even worse that y'all heard of it.

Like you said - they are the minority. Overwhelmingly, we here back home have nothing but the *profoundest* respect and gratitude for each & every one of y'all.

Those loudmouth nitwits (insert more colorful descriptions here, lol) who did that do not speak for all of america, anymore than they do for all Oragonians (is that a word??? LOL)

We support you completely and absolutely, now & always.

HANG IN THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!

5:13 PM  
Blogger NChoy said...

Hey boss! (old friend),

First of all, happy belated Easter!

Secondly, I felt that I should tell you what an incredible job you and our fellow Oregonians are doing in Afghanistan. You don't need me to tell you that the Afghan people, and indeed future generations of everyone in the world are going to benefit from your mission in Afghanistan.

I'm currently on an extended TDY here in Ft. Meade, actually getting my PA certification and AFSC... and you'll be happy to know I'm in the running for honor graduate! When I first read about the shennanigans back in Portland, I was ashamed. For a long time in class and amongst my peers here in school, I had touted the accomplishments and sacrifices of my fellow Oregon Guardsmen and women. It also became well-known that I was proud to be from Oregon and defended our perceived "blue state" status. After a couple of people asked me about the protest in downtown Portland, I politely declined comment. Honestly, I didn't know how to respond, or what to think.

You and I wear this uniform for a reason... so that others can sleep soundly under a warm blanket of freedom. And as callous as these "loudmouth nitwits", as Kat said in her response, may seem, I am also proud of the fact that I wear this uniform so that they may freely express themselves. It is their right. Likewise, my forefathers fought and died so that I could freely express myself... practice any religion I chose... live anywhere I want. And now you and I do the same thing... for Americans and indeed, for Afghani people as well.

After reading this section of your blog, and the responses, I find some comfort in the realization of what I already know: that for the most part, the people who showed up to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were merely expressing their birth-right to freely express themselves in a public forum. But unfortunately, as it is often the case, a small group of anarchists painted a dark smudge on an otherwise peaceful occasion. Pay no attention to these cowards. There will always be individuals who enjoy the trappings of liberty and freedom, but are not willing to take the time to understand the responsibilities that accompany that privilege. Often, these same individuals are not willing to pay for it themselves.

If you must take away something from this incident, know this: Present day events and people may not be so kind, but history will be eternally grateful for your service. I, and your fellow Oregonians who understand that we must pay a price for our freedom and the liberty of others, stand by you and your fellow Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors.

Nick Choy, TSGT, USAF-ANG, Oregon

10:08 AM  

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