The Foxhole: A right to express all beliefs
The focus this month will be of a more general theme, that is the political and social discourse in America today. Regardless of where you stand politically, philosophically or socially, we all have a belief of how we should live, be governed and what our future should look like. No matter where you stand in this spectrum, what has separated the United States from every other country/civilization, is that we were founded on the idea of “… certain unalienable rights … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Unfortunately, there are too many in today’s society who believe those with different values do not have the right to express their beliefs. Whether it is shouting down a speaker, turning a rally into a street brawl or using social media to harass and demean others, we are turning into a disjointed, disorganized mob. And it is not a very pretty sight.
We have survived previous periods of our history of just such turmoil. From the colonies, when there were those who believed they belonged to Great Britain and owed their existence to the King, to the American Civil War, when brother fought brother, to the Vietnam War, when there was no middle ground, one either thought the war was just, or not.
In each of the three cases above, Americans overcame these turbulent times and rebounded to become even stronger. The “United States” was born of the Revolution, and those who disagreed with the outcome either moved back to Great Britain or adapted to their new homeland. The bitterness did not end with the war’s end, but eventually we came together to form a united front. Had that not occurred, the republican experiment would surely have died in its infancy.
Taking it a step further, the civil war of the North and South was the next test of democracy. Unfortunately, more than 620,000 men, women and children died before that conflict was settled. (To put this in perspective, more than 1.2 million deaths have occurred in all the wars America has fought combined!) And it took another 100 years before civil rights were extended to all citizens of this country. Those were some terrible years in between, yet the country survived.
Finally, Vietnam was the war that turned parents against children, young adults against their government and led to many not trusting their own president and congress. Yet again, we survived this struggle, because it is legal to protest the government and its actions. It is legal to make changes to those who represent us, through the vote. And eventually, it became “OK” to believe in our values again.
I believe in the principles of America. I believe we will overcome today’s struggles. But to do so, we must allow those who do not share our values and ideas the right to express theirs. Because when we don’t, we dishonor all those who fell in our nation’s wars, to defend this right — to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Wilton’s James B. Whipple American Legion Post 86 is on Old Ridgefield Road in Wilton Center. Information: post86legion.org.
Tom Moore , Adjutant
American Legion Post 86