Sunday, June 4, 2006

Both Sides Now

One of the stories making the news in this area --– across the nation too --– was the week long anti-war protests at the Port of Olympia over the past few days. The impetus for the protests occurred when military convoys arrived and the U.S. Naval Ship Pomeroy docked to transport the equipment overseas.

One of Olympia'’s City Council members attended many of the demonstrations as an observer. He was later castigated by many in the community. One of the many critiques came from a military veteran. Upon learning that said Council member had never served in the armed forces, this person wrote in an email, "When it comes to war, leave it alone. I read your biography and notice you never served. This doesn't surprise me since about 95 percent of protesters haven't."”

This comment harkened me back to Salem, Oregon, 2 or 3 years ago. I was standing on a downtown street corner holding a sign protesting the war in Iraq. A gentleman came up to me and asked if I had ever served my country in the armed forces. No, not me, I replied. He then launched into the same kind of diatribe.

I just smiled at him. I found his comments amusing. He was stomping around telling me that no veteran would be wasting their time as I was. Unbeknownst to this gentleman, the two men standing on either side of me were indeed veterans, one having served several tours in Vietnam and the other served in Desert Storm. Both were vocal critics against the war in Iraq.

This incident underscored for me the fact that people jump to too many conclusions on how THEY believe a particular person might feel about any given subject. Just because an individual is a military veteran does not mean they will be in favor or against our current military endeavors.

While many current anti-war protestors have never served a second in military service, this same fact is also true of the vast majority of the individuals who support the war!! It's very apparent then that military service does not, in and of itself, determine a person'’s point of view.

This is equally true for almost any topic one can think of. There are many Republicans who have become outspoken critics of the Bush Administration and it seems just as many Democrats who vote the Bush line.

In fact, from my perspective, one of the greatest examples of a person'’s political position not seeming to match up with their "“label"” is borne out by Gay Republicans.

That one is hard for me to wrap my brain around!


  1. Well, it's one of the biggest problems with our dialogue today, I think. Generalizing one's own experience is pretty common, and there is a myopia to see the opinions of those who come from a different perspective.

    I learned long ago that few people's opinions matched my own, because there simply aren't that many people who take a lot of time and effort to examine what they believe and why they believe it. Most people seem to believe what is in their tradition or what they have been taught or things they have directly experienced, and discount the experiences of others.

    Those of us who are willing to take time to closely examine our beliefs, and perhaps change them, are rare indeed.

  2. Yes indeed, it is unfortunate that this gentleman had bought so much into the idea that somehow such direct experience is necessary in order for one to comment intelligently. It is a dismissal of the experience of the other, and of the personhood of the other as well. What often strikes me is that some folks remain blind to the simple point that were we to extend their logic from that particular issue to others, we would run into some serious difficulties.

    Donna is absolutely right, I have found that many people just don't live an examined life. That is, they don't spend half as much time looking deeply at their belief systems, what they buy into, as they spend looking over a car they want to buy. Part of the reason is that once that deep reflection ensues one cannot truly become as dismissive or certain about most things. The same when one has certain moving experiences. One just can't judge too quickly after that.

    It would be good if a more concerted effort was done by more people to be deeply reflexive, and contemplative.

    Thanks Taoist, and Donna.

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