Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Editorial: Dissension is still patriotic
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Aug. 21, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
It looked like such a superb, antiseptic kind of war. Immediate victories, few casualties, and we were in it for all the right reasons: deposing tyranny, reinforcing peace, negating terrorism at its roots.
The war in Iraq has proved more complicated than the initial movie-of-the-week simplicity with which it was initially portrayed for the American public. There will – there are – no doubt some good people of intelligence and foresight who will proclaim, perhaps demurely (and perhaps not), “I told you so.”
Foreign policy issues aside (and there is a pile of foreign policy issues that need pushing), one of the more disturbing issues facing the free world was the attempt to silence dissent. There was an attitude – sometimes covert, sometimes overt – that to somehow suggest less than enthusiastic support for the war effort was unpatriotic. Even treasonable. One conversation concluded something like this: “You have the right to say you disagree. But I’m not going to listen. Not while we’re at war.”
I would respectfully suggest that that is precisely the time we need to listen to one another, and create opportunities for differing viewpoints. In time of war – pre-emptive or otherwise – tempers fly, blood rushes, the drums beat loudly and try to drown out every oppositional chord.
Somehow opposition is considered unpatriotic. Exercising a constitutional right is unpatriotic. Exercising that right publicly is somehow traitorous.
There is far more courage involved in saying “Wait a minute” than “Wait for me!” The kind of courage that was voiced by American citizens, by foreign governments, and by Pope John Paul II. The pope preached against the war for months before its onset. On March 23 the pope said, “Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of man.” Here are his words on March 16: “I say to all: There is still time to negotiate. There is still room for peace. It is never too late to understand each other and to continue to work things out.” This from a man who came to adulthood under the Nazis in Poland. Who ministered as a priest and bishop under the Communists. A man who knows from tyranny.
There is still room for peace. That will only happen as long as we continue to make room for dissent.