Divisions over war growing tiresome

Monday, September 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:22 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Editor’s note: Beginning next week, Rose Nolen’s columns will move to Tuesday.

I’m taking advantage of the cool weather to do housekeeping chores. I’ve painted the house and am now in the process of installing new floor covering. With any luck at all, the presidential election will come and go while I’m taking care of my responsibilities.

A day trip to historic Ste. Genevieve restored my spirits, which were pretty well torn apart by all the ugliness arising out of the attempts to resurrect the activities of the Vietnam War. I had many relatives and friends who were drafted and served in that war, and by the time it ended, it seemed to me that almost everyone was opposed to it. One would have to have a memory no more than 15 minutes long to believe that it was a popular war. It was unfortunate then, and I think it is still unfortunate that some veterans took the protests against the war personally.

I cannot remember everyday Americans ever blaming low-ranking servicemen for anything having to do with the atrocities that occurred in Vietnam. In my entire life, I’ve only run across two people who were proud of what happened there. These guys are still upset with Jane Fonda’s role in the protests. You’d think it was time to let that go.

I know many who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of it. Anyone who received medals from that experience deserved them just because they were sent there on an ignoble mission, as far as I’m concerned. And anyone who was able to escape from serving should thank their lucky stars and just shut up. People who are making derogatory remarks and drawing nasty pictures of the Purple Heart should be ashamed of themselves and should be soundly and publicly reprimanded. Doing so, while at the same time claiming to support the American troops, is about as despicable as spitting in the face of families of those who serve.

It is truly unfortunate that no one in a position of authority has had the guts to draw the line on what is appropriate behavior. As one who is opposed to war on principle, I cannot imagine showing disrespect to veterans. I was fortunate many years ago, when I was reporting on a Veterans Day ceremony, to quote an old World War II veteran who said, “We never said we liked the war, only that we fought it.” Most rational people have no problem understanding that because they have the capacity to separate issues. Being opposed to war is not the same as being opposed to the people who serve in it. However, when you are dealing with these partisan fanatics and the national press supporting their views, it is virtually impossible to participate in rational discussion.

The majority of Americans, I suppose, would be opposed to the draft. I think a national debate on the subject would do a lot to unify the country. There is a question in the minds of many people as to who is out of touch with the average citizen. I suspect that many people who have sons and daughters serving in Iraq are not at all pleased with what they hear from the political parties.

All this rhetoric about fighting terrorism has to do with some individuals risking their lives while others stand on the sidelines and speak loudly. If this war is indeed not winnable in the traditional sense, as those in power have indicated, I think we ought to be seriously considering who will fight the battle. We might even reconsider our options and choose sitting down at the tables of negotiation. Like it or not, most people, I believe, would be more inclined to negotiate when their own child’s life is on the line.

This is just one of many issues on the table. The economy is another. I have adjusted to the fact that the state of the economy depends on the economic class a speaker represents. In most respects, we live in two countries — the country of the rich and the country of the poor. Folks who still find room to debate that point of view are plainly out of touch with financial reality. Obviously, whoever is elected president has to choose to represent one group or the other. It’s too late for anyone to even think of representing both. That’s the consequence of dividing the country. We no longer share borders.

So frankly, I needed the break from thinking about this mess. Exploring the remains of the colonial period in Missouri offered a pleasant departure from what is passing and failing as political discourse. I appreciated the gracious old homes and the comfortable ambiance of strolling through the old town with its marvelous landmarks from times gone by. A few moments’ pause on the banks of the mighty Mississippi will keep me company on the long winter nights to come.

Before winter comes to call, I think I’ll plan a few more of these trips. Something tells me I’m going to need all the spiritual nourishment I can get to make it to next spring. Here’s hoping.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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