The Corner

Putting Me in My Place

In response to my Friday Oliver Stone movie piece, a e-mailer writes:  

Dear Ms Lopez,

“It’s about our deep, abiding faith in God. It’s about our love of family, and the work we’ll do for them, and the joy they bring us. It’s about the irreplaceable, incomparable bond between a man and wife. It’s about the united outrage we feel when Americans are murdered. It’s about why we fight.”

For the record, and unless I am somehow uninformed, I think it fair to state that you do not fight – you never have and, hopefully, never will have to. You are not a member of any of the branches of the armed forces, nor a reservist. You are not, and I am fairly sure, have never been engaged in a combat situation. Your contribution to this war is limited solely to your ability to exercise the skillset provided by your liberal arts education in the pages of the National Review.

It does a tremendous disservice to your readers and is extraordinarily disrespectful to the millions of men and women around the world who are in uniform and fighting and dying for their countries.

No disrespect intended, of course. “We” include those who support the troops, who have the utmost respect for the troops. “We” includes those who send loved ones to war. “We” includes lawmakers and a president who send our men and women off to war. Yes, I am nowhere near the frontlines…even when my city was a frontline, some five years ago, I was, mercifully, a few miles away, safe in the shadow of the Empire State Building. To anyone reading from Iraq, Afghanistan, or otherwise serve in our military, let me clarify: I don’t fight. Thank you for serving so we may go about our days of blogging … and whatever else it is my liberal-arts education lets me do.

This e-mailer wasn’t going where many angry e-mailers regularly go…but to the “chickenhawk” refrain, Jeff Jacoby has some thoughts:

…Some combat veterans display great sagacity when it comes to matters of state and strategy. Some display none at all. General George B. McLellan had a distinguished military career, eventually rising to general in chief of the Union armies; Abraham Lincoln served but a few weeks in a militia unit that saw no action. Whose wisdom better served the nation — the military man who was hypercautious about sending men into battle, or the “chicken hawk” president who pressed aggressively for military action?

The founders of the American republic were unambiguous in rejecting any hint of military supremacy. Under the Constitution, military leaders take their orders from civilian leaders, who are subject in turn to the judgment of ordinary voters. Those who wear the uniform in wartime are entitled to their countrymen’s esteem and lasting gratitude. But for well over two centuries, Americans have insisted that when it comes to security and defense policy, soldiers and veterans get no more of a say than anyone else.

You don’t need medical training to express an opinion on healthcare. You don’t have to be on the police force to comment on matters of law and order. You don’t have to be a parent or a teacher or a graduate to be heard on the educational controversies of the day. You don’t have to be a journalist to comment on this or any other column….

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