I recently received a survey from the American Legion which I filled out and returned although I’m sure my responses may not match what they would expect from the veteran population at large. I checked the box indicating that I felt I was a conservative on most issues overall. I’m sure some of my responses probably showed liberal tendencies. They didn’t provide any space to elaborate on my answers so I’m going to do that here.
Do you believe the physical act of desecrating a flag is a form of speech that should be protected? Yes, However, that doesn’t mean I agree with the act itself. Desecrating a flag is a rather poor form of free speech. When you resort to destroying a symbol that’s sacred to a lot of people, it suggests that you have run out of viable arguments to support your position and you’re just doing it to shock people into noticing you and your cause. That’s a form of protest that generally turns me against a cause.
Do you support or oppose the practice of students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school? I support that. I did it when I was in school although I can’t remember when it stopped being a part of my school routine. I think it reminds kids that they are part of something larger than themselves. Allegiance doesn’t imply blind obedience. I know some people have a problem with it due to their religious beliefs and I don’t have an answer for them.
Would you support or oppose a policy of ensuring that our grade school children be taught the words to our National Anthem … and making it also a standard practice to have it sung during appropriate gatherings at school such as sporting and special events, school assemblies, etc.? I can support that. Along with the words (all verses), they should learn the history and meaning behind them. I’m appalled by the ignorance most Americans have of their history. As for it being a difficult tune to sing and so few seem to be able to sing it well, I guess we’ll have to live with it. I’ve heard some horrid renditions over the years.
Do you believe that private organizations like the Boy Scouts have the right to make their own policies regarding homosexual men supervising young boys? Yes. Organizations like the Boy Scouts are private organizations and, as such, are entitled to make their own rules within the law. I don’t believe that a man’s sexual orientation has any bearing on his ability or qualification to supervise children. There are plenty of heterosexual predators out there too. Whether or not any adult is allowed to supervise children should be based upon his or her qualifications, genuine interest in the children’s welfare, and their behavior. There is too much homophobia and paranoia these days.
Do you feel that our nation’s laws reflect our society’s values? No. I think they reflect our society’s fears, insecurities, and paranoia.
Do you feel that the Ten Commandments are threatening and should be removed from public buildings? No. The Ten Commandments are generally good rules to live by. I suspect that many who find them objectionable find them so because they don’t want to be reminded that they are living up to a lower standard of morality or they don’t wish to be held accountable for their actions.
Do you feel the phrase “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance should be removed? No. It’s my understanding that the words “under God” were not part of the original pledge. There are differing accounts about how they were added. I’m not particularly religious and even a bit agnostic but I don’t have a problem with the phrase. Nobody’s saying what God we’re under. If you don’t believe in any God at all, then it’s a meaningless phrase.
Do you feel students should have the right to say a prayer in public schools as long as it is not required that all students participate? Yes. It is their right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That basically says that the government (or a school as an agent of the government) cannot prevent anyone from freely exercising their religious beliefs. That includes a student in a public school. A public school may not prefer one religious belief over another nor may they establish religious practice or belief.
There were also some questions asking me to rate Congress, the President (I assume Bush), the Supreme Court, local public schools, the military, and the press. I rated most about average with the exception of Bush, the military, and the press. I rate Bush rather low and the military on the high side. I think our military does a fantastic job. I don’t agree with the national leadership. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan should have everything they need to accomplish their objectives. The national leadership needs to clearly define those objectives and empower the military to accomplish them.
The wording of the rating question about the press was: “What rating would you give our national news networks in reporting the news in a manner in which you were getting the facts and information without bias?” I gave the press a low rating. The news networks give us the news the government wants us to hear, especially about events and issues that the government wants to downplay. One of the things that turned Americans against the Vietnam war was the kind of front line reporting that was coming from the networks. NBC, CBS, and ABC, Time, Life, and Newsweek brought the horror of the war into our homes. You don’t see that coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The news of the war is strictly controlled. To get any idea of what’s going on, you have to go to outside or less traditional sources. During Vietnam you saw bodies, body bags, and flag-draped coffins. Despite nearly 4,000 US military deaths, you only hear about them on the local news when a hometown boy is buried.
Those probably aren’t the answers the American Legion might expect from a veteran. I love my country. I know about duty, honor, country. I want to see the United States become the most respected nation on Earth and be the shining example that other nations want to emulate. Respect has to be earned and then we have to work hard to maintain it. I think we had the world’s respect in the post-WWII years but I think it began to slip in the 1960s, and we let it all but vanish in the last couple of decades.
That’s my two cents.