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I Died for What?

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What do 2,390 dead American soldiers have to do with “slightly irregular” human beings who write letters to the editor? Everything. I don’t find the war in Iraq funny. Much like sprinkles and The Grimace (the beloved purple friend of Ronald McDonald), the war in Iraq does not bring joy to my heart. I choose not to talk about the war because there isn’t anything I or we can do until the midterm elections. But when I hear statements such as “This, of course, is my opinion, and god-given American right” from said “slightly irregular” people, my stomach churns (Source: 2020Sight blog entry. God-given American right, huh? How often do we hear that crap on Ricky Lake?

We have all encountered someone in our lives who spews at the mouth offering little to anyone but exercising their “god-given” right because they think the first amendment is a free pass to be an asshole. While I grant that God gave us many things, the freedom to express ourselves publicly was not one of them. We were given the ability to communicate, we were given the ability to think and believe what we want, but the right to express ourselves in the public forum without legal repercussion? God didn’t give that to us. The framers of the constitution, drawing heavily on the work of John Locke, gave us that right.

Even with that right there are some things you can’t say. You can’t breach the peace by uttering words that will cause a rational person to beat the crap out of you. You can’t libel someone by making false statements about them. You can’t make obscene statements (good luck defining obscenity by the way) and you can’t make statements that will immediately harm a lot of people. Even some of the people who granted us the beloved first amendment passed laws restricting seditious speech for a period of time. Throughout history we’ve seen limitations placed on our speech from the government during times of crisis. The first amendment is entirely a human project and subject to human behavior. If God gave us the first amendment, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with it. Did you ever stop to think about how flawlessly your body, the earth, and the universe have to operate everyday in order to watch reruns of Seinfeld on TBS?

Our soldiers — your friends, neighbors, or family — die defending our ability to express ourselves in the public forum. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. A soldier died to protect your right to blog about the boring, mind numbing differences between buying beers in your college town and buying it at home. A soldier died for your right to self-publish egotistical, self-serving statements that you made to your non-existent friends while you eat by yourself. A soldier died so you can pretend to speak for everyone in writing your holier-than-thou letters. Of course, arrogance is blinding, so I’m willing to wager that for most people who write in offering criticism and no solutions every week, they don’t stop to think about the high cost paid for their chance to be a jerk.

Aside from the few good people who write in to their campus newspapers with legitimate complaints and solutions, the rest of the pack is filled with gutless weirdoes who take every chance they can get to tear other people, their school, and student organizations down. I honestly feel these letters should not be run. If someone wants to bitch, let them cry about it in their live journal. College newspaper editors today don’t face the same ethical dilemmas their predecessors had. The newspaper is no longer the only medium for the public to discuss issues. Today if the public wanted they could start a blog, use a Pacman character to shield their identity, and bitch about loud conversations disrupting their dinner if they wanted to. Why should editors have to waste paper sharing that thought with customers who don’t care? The public doesn’t want to hear from arrogant loners who hold their community in contempt. They want ideas, they want community, and they want a constructive discussion that results in something. American Soldiers die to protect our right to express our opinion. The least we can do for those soldiers and their families is to respect what they died for.

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About Brandon J. Mendelson

  • Josh

    First, a compliment: I think you’re right on target with your criticism of these stupid writers. Even if you don’t agree with the war, you shouldn’t diss our soldiers.

    Now, my complaint: you are never clear in what exactly they are saying. Are you coming out against the people criticizing our soldiers unfairly? You lack a unifying purpose and focus.

  • Our soldiers — your friends, neighbors, or family — die defending our ability to express ourselves in the public forum.

    this statement can be debated until we’re all blue in the face, particularly with regard to the war in iraq.

  • I truly do not understand this article. You’ve given no examples of any person or piece of writing/speech that believes that “the first amendment is a free pass to be an asshole.”

    Then, at the end of the article, it seems that you are not criticizing such writers at all, but the editors who choose to publish it. Again, though, you don’t provide any examples of the offending material. I’m left wondering whether you propose that NO letters that express dissent should be published.

    Finally, I have no disrespect for the soldiers in Iraq, but as Mark Saleski points out, there is certainly good grounds for debate as to whether those particular soldiers are dying in defense of our civil liberties. And even if they are, one might argue that those soldiers die in vain if people do NOT express their opinions.

  • Josh

    Michael J West, you gave my criticism a lot more eloquently than I put it. Thank you.

  • ss

    I followed your link trying to figure out what the hell you’re talking about in this post.
    And all I can say is, your decision to post pictures of your unflushed turds on the internet may well be within your rights…
    But when the memorial to the fallen soldiers of this war is erected in DC, the inscription WILL NOT read:
    This is because not everything that happens in the world is done for or because of Brandon. Get over your self.

  • I should clarify…

    The article deals with people writing negative comments about other people in the public forum (in this case a newspaper or in SS’s post just above mine) just because they can. That is why at the end of the article it talks about college newspaper editors.

    I hope that helps in explaining the article. I shall go back and revise it to better illustrate this point.

    As far as the poop goes, it wasn’t mine, and that has nothing to do with this article.Thanks.