Not my Oregon, but Our Oregon
"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.
“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