Appropriate Expression on the 4th of JulyI
An Exchange of Letters in the Franklin Journal

July 8, 2005
To the Editor:

They just don’t get it, do they?

It was the Fourth of July and all the locals were gathered downtown for the annual parade to celebrate the birth of the greatest nation on God’s great earth. It started out as one would expect. A local veteran’s group was leading the parade with our flag unfurled and waving in the wind. What an awesome and appropriate sight for the Fourth of July.

This was followed by many vehicles with various people riding in them, from the oldest resident to many brave veterans, and many more too numerous to mention. It made me proud to be an American. Toward the rear of the parade came Uncle Sam, the Young Marines, and a couple of soldiers in their Hummer. Goosbumps abound.

And then, there they were in their patriotic colors of black, black, and black. Not red, white and blue, as one would expect to see in a Fourth of July parade.

They just don’t get it, do they? Did they miss the history lessons in school? Do they even know what the Fourth of July is, and why we celebrate it?

Let me re-educate them or educate them. We are celebrating the birth of our nation. That’s right folks. It’s that simple.

You see folks, a long time ago the British government gave us this country to do with as we pleased. The king was scared of a bunch of women dresses in black and protesting the taxes on tea and other things. So he threw up his hands and surrendered. He gave us the country just like that.

Wrong answer. We fought an oppressive tyrant for the right to protest the very war we were about to fight. We won. Many people died. Now the Women in Black can protest the war in Iraq as they see fit. Believe it or not I respect their right to protest, and would do nothing to stop them. However, we are celebrating our independence from oppression, and I feel that their presence in the parade was inappropriate and not “politically correct.”

I would like them to know that I am proud to be an American; proud to be a veteran and disabled veteran and even prouder to have a son in Iraq, right now, fighting for their right to protest the fact that he is fighting for their right to protest. God Bless America.

Jim O’Donnell

July 15, 2005
To the editor,

Last Friday, Jim O'Donnell, a disabled veteran whose son is in Iraq, wrote that the "Women in Black" marchers protesting war in Farmington's July 4 parade were ignorant of history and of the purpose of the Holiday. He also suggested we were unpatriotic.

Right or wrong, ignorant or not, we marched because we believe the Iraq war is provoking attacks all over the world, not protecting our country or anyone else's.

We weren't there to say everyone should be nice. We weren't there to disrespect our neighbors like Mr. O'Donnell who support the war, much less those like his son who are fighting in it.

We were there to do what we can to protect our country from the many errors the President has made in this war. We do it the only way we can, by appealing to our neighbors to consider these life-and-death questions, then use the democratic process to influence the outcome of the debate on the war.

It is hard to think of anything more appropriate for remembering the birth of our nation, than to peacefully and respectfully do what is vital to protect and preserve it.

Al Bersbach

July 15, 2005
To the Editor:

Jim O’Donnell’s letter to last Friday’s Franklin Journal has given me the opportunity to reflect on patriotism and dissent, as I was one of the Women in Black whose marching in the Farmington Fourth of July parade so upset him.

Women in Black is an informal international network of women, and men who support them, who conduct weekly silent vigils for peace in hundreds of cities around the world. In Farmington, we take a half hour out of the daily business of our lives every Friday from noon to 12:30 and stand in front of the post office to remind ourselves and others of the terrible human cost of war. While the people of Farmington relaxed in the warmth and sunshine on the Fourth of July, other people were dying in Darfur and Iraq. According to the United Nations, 90% of the casualties in today’s armed conflicts are civilians, most of them women and children. Behind the colors of every nation’s flag there are black-clad women mourning those who have died in its wars.

We marched with two banners. One read, “Women in Black resist war”—not just the war in Iraq, but also the thinking that makes us leap to violence as the first response to personal and political disagreements. In my sixty years on this planet I’ve seen over and over how violence begets violence, force begets force—in families, communities, and between nations. I don’t feel one whit safer as a result of my government’s incursions into Iraq. Every day that we continue to occupy that country, more terrorists are spawned. Our civil liberties are curtailed in the name of protecting our freedom. Our lives become driven by fear.

The other banner said, “Our town is Farmington, our community is the world.” In this age of global communication and a globalized economy, our fates are clearly linked with those of people around the world. Avian flu travels with migrating geese across the continents. Jobs in Farmington migrate to sweatshops in Asia, while populations displaced by war and desperate poverty cast up on our shores. Problems like these will only be solved through international cooperation.

To be patriotic requires informed citizenship. I support my country by educating myself and actively participating in its civic life. When I dissent from my government’s policies, it is with the conviction that vigorous public dialogue about the course of our nation’s future is the only way to assure the future of democracy. Surely a voice of dissent in the Farmington parade is as much in the spirit of Fourth of July as cars advertising local businesses.

I wish Mr. O’Donnell’s son in Iraq Godspeed, and will continue to work bring him—and all the troops—safely home.

Lee Sharkey