Monday, October 12, 2009

How do you measure patriotism?

In recent weeks, two people who are part of my extended family network, and both of whom are politically right of center, have played what I've come to call "the Veteran card." Both of them served in the military in Vietnam, and both also generously gave of themselves to either volunteer or work in a paid position for their respective law enforcement offices.

Each of them, unknown to the other as far as I know, has made the statement that was along the lines of, "I didn't serve my country in the military and in civilian life to see it become a socialist nation." (In both cases, the subject was government-run health care.) Both of them claim to have performed in a way that exceeds the performance of the average American, and since I know so many who have never served in the military or worked for any governmental agency, they may be right. I would, however, deny that their service gives them any special insight or a more "special right" to their opinion than I have.

I know, for example, neither of them ever suffered the death of a family member in the course of government service. The late Ted Kennedy lost three brothers in service to this nation, and he was the Senate's strongest proponent of universal health care.

Former Sen. Max Cleland sacrificed both legs and an arm in Vietnam, and he supports universal health care.

Of course there are Republicans - Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Bob Dole comes to mind - who have also sacrificed in wartime and who don't support universal health care.

My point is that having served one's country does not confer a specialized knowledge about what is good for the country. It may, and should, inform one's opinion; but each person's opinion should be informed by his or her life experiences, and the validity of those diverse opinions are given voice at the polls.

So if you have served our country in war or peace; if you have served in the military or as a civilian; if you have been a volunteer or held a paid position, I respect what you have done, and I appreciate your service.

It doesn't mean I have to agree with your politics.

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