Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Take It Like A Man

With the rise of a generation that can barely remember good ole Stormin’ Norman, much less the pride and sacrifice of WWII, the time has come for a small reminder. It is time to remember that for every right we possess, we shoulder the burden of a corresponding duty. I have heard much talk in the last few months blaming politicians and pundits for the debacle we have made of Iraq. Certainly this is an understandable impulse. After all no one wants to believe that the deaths we hear of every day are our fault. No, instead we tell ourselves that it must be the incompetence of our President or our Congress that has failed so dramatically. The only group that hasn’t been publicly blamed for at least some part of the situation is the American citizen. I have one question, if the Iraq invasion was so foolish, what does that make those who funded it? All of us who disagreed with the invasion had the right to move out of America, to stop paying taxes, to remove our implicit approval. For those of us who failed to do so, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. If we stay, if we continue to enjoy the privileges of being an American, we must take responsibility for not only what we do, but what is done in our name.

There are those who adamantly claim, “It wasn’t me, I protested, I wrote letters, I voted against politicians who supported the war.” Poppycock. The rights to protest, to vote, to have one’s voice heard are all privileges of being an American. Accepting the rights of American citizenship means accepting responsibility for the mistakes made in our name. Disagreement alone does not remove responsibility. We all work and sweat and bleed in the same country and for the same government. A right-wing militia member pays sales tax for his camouflage pants, just as a left-wing hippie pays it for his incense. We all retain the rights of being an American citizen and so we must all bear the responsibilities as well. As our brother’s hands become red, so do our own. Hawks and Doves alike we are counted among the strength of our country; so as Hawks and Doves alike we must repair what we have wrought. There can be no separating rights and responsibilities. Without one the other becomes meaningless. Pink Floyd said it best, “How can you have any pudding, if you don’t have any meat?” Refusing to accept any personal responsibility for what our country has done, good or bad, can only lead to more mistakes.

This is not to say that those who were responsible for lies or sheer incompetence should be let off the hook. The point is that we cannot believe that our duty to help the Iraqi’s repair their country has anything to do with our original opinions about the war. Democrat or Republican we are Americans and as such must jointly pay our country's debts.

With discussions of withdrawing troops from Iraq this issue becomes more pressing. There is an undeniable sense among some of those who protested the initial invasion that we should withdraw as soon as possible. This is less an opinion based on military strategy or foreign policy considerations than a knee-jerk reaction to the difficulties of our troubled occupation. It is asked why we are putting the lives of our service men and women at risk, why we are spending enormous amounts of money when our own economy is facing a possible recession. The reason is simple. As proud Americans we must reap what we have sown. Yes our soldiers are dying; yes our country needs the money that is being put towards Iraq. But the inescapable fact is that we have created this situation, and if keeping some of our soldiers there can improve things, we have the obligation to do so. Any decision regarding a possible withdraw from Iraq must be made with this responsibility in mind.

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