Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Do Something Worthwhile Instead of Going Off about Democratic Ignorance
Saturday, August 14, 2004

by Jeff Kuhl

Celebrities need to concentrate on the good of this country instead of on their own paychecks. So many of them play war heroes in the movies, yet talk down on President Bush for his decisions in the Middle East. This country won its freedom on war, yet- to them- war is a "bad" thing.

We have a responsibility as Americans not only to support the defense of our country, but to share our freedoms (which we so often take for granted), with other countries. Most of these celebrities only completed high school and almost none completed college. Yet, they "seem to know everything".

George W. Bush completed college for his degree and served his country as a pilot. What have the celebs done for us beside entertain? I'm sick and tired of people running their mouths about things they don't know about. Maybe they should pick up a weapon and do something worthwhile instead of going off about Democratic ignorance.

I'm a military man and proud of what I do. Military men such as myself joined for a reason. We wanted to protect our Nation at all costs and we're the ones who need to decide what's best for us when it comes to war. We knew when we joined that our lives would be at stake in a case of war, but we joined anyway. People need to stop talking about the American military death toll and realize that's that's what we're here for...so other people can live free.

Jeff Kuhl

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

First of all, as a military man you should be proud of what you do. You certainly don't need me to tell you (but I'll tell you anyway! [;-)]) that service to your country is the highest form of selfless sacrifice and I, as an American civilian, laud your so serving, along with all the similar service of others of our fellow Americans who wear- or have worn- our Nation's military uniforms, especially those who will- sadly- never again come home to their loved ones. Those who serve our Nation most honorably should ever be in all our thoughts and prayers, regardless of our political and ideological convictions.

Having said this, however, I am going to have to here take issue with at least some of what you have written. I hope and trust that what I might now write in response to you will be taken, at least for the most part, in the spirit of one American freely- in the very spirit of Liberty and Republican Democracy for which those in uniform fight- discussing such an important issue as the Freedom to discuss War with a fellow American of mine such as yourself:

To start with, I would hope that you understand that your principal mission in the American military is to do what you do so that we Americans can continue to live free. That this mission might also include, as part and parcel of that same mission, making it possible for people of other countries to also so live free is altogether a laudable ideal and should certainly not at all be discouraged: fighting for the Rights and Liberties of other Peoples is something that has long distinguished the American soldier, sailor, airman and marine throughout most of our Nation's long History. Let us not ever forget that, after the end of World War II, the United States of America demonstrated to the world- in full view of that world- that we could, indeed, be the first Superpower (of the six to ten Superpowers, depending on how one counts these, in all of Human History) to conquer and occupy foreign territory... and then, soon thereafter, voluntarily leave!

I'm not at all trying to suggest that America is perfect- or that we are always right- in our Foreign and Military Policy, as would also be the case when it comes to many other political and social issues. But we Americans do generally make the sincerest effort to leave things better once we've left than how we might have originally found them: sometimes this is easier said than done; sometimes doing so proves to be far more difficult than we originally imagined it might be- but we genuinely try our best to do so and I dare say that History shows that any given community in a combat zone has generally ended up being noticeably better treated by the American military than they likely would have been by the military of earlier Powers that are read about on History's bloodier pages!

One of the important aspects of "Americans living free" is our freedom to criticize our leaders- even during wartime. Here in the United States, the military does not- nor should it be allowed to- cow the civilian population: rather, we Americans strongly believe in civilian control of our military (even, yes, to the point of protest at home ofttimes exasperating the officers and enlisted personnel in uniform overseas) because, here, the People rule. Civilian oversight of the military is one of the hallmarks of American Liberty, going all the way back to General George Washington refusing, in the immediate aftermath of the American Revolution, to allow himself to be openly proclaimed an American "Caesar".

It must have been most exasperating for the Continental Army to so have to chafe under the whims of what seemed, once the British had surrendered at Yorktown and the Second Peace of Paris was being negotiated, to be a distant and rather fractious Continental Congress-- yet General Washington performed what was, perhaps, his most noble service to his country (even more so than his service as a military commander or his later service as our Nation's first President) by refusing to allow a cabal of his officers to turn the Revolution against the very principles of that same Revolution. No less than Abraham Lincoln, Washington saved the Union- for his principled valor allowed "We, the People" to go on and create the "more perfect Union" that is the very essence of the Constitution of the United States!

Thus, Americans are- indeed- free, if they should so desire, to "talk down on President Bush for his decisions in the Middle East"- especially during a Presidential Election year in which the current Commander in Chief of our Nation's Armed Forces is seeking re-election to that very job. Yes, we Americans do have the responsiblity "to support the defense of our country" but we also have the duty, as free citizens and voters, to openly discuss (without, obviously, doing so in a way that compromises the safety of our military personnel deployed overseas- or even here at home- or those who might support them [such as, for example, those gathering intelligence]) whether or not a particular aspect of the current Administration's- any Administration's (regardless of political Party and/or Ideology)- Foreign and/or Military Policy is, indeed, efficiently so defending our country. By the same token, we Americans also have the same duty to intelligently and critically examine the character and claims of any challengers who might wish to become the next Commander in Chief of our Nation's military (the leading such challenger being, of course, Senator John Kerry) as regards their potential ability to do any better than the current President.

I don't at all begrudge your freedom to begrudge any and all who "talk down on President Bush"; but neither do I begrudge those who so "talk down on" him. It matters not what my own position might be as regards the military situation in Iraq in particular or the War on International Terrorism in general: Americans have Free Speech and a Free Press (Rights of which certainly this very website avails itself!), the Freedom of Assembly and the Freedom of Petition for Redress of Grievances. You no doubt have every right, every liberty, every freedom to express your support of President Bush and his policies (as you have so well done in your own 'vox Populi'); but those who might disagree with you have the exact same rights, liberties and freedoms to- if they deem necessary, most strongly- express such disagreement. To quote this site's own Mission Statement: "That's Freedom and that's America!" And celebrities- whether movie actors, musicians or professional athletes- have no less the same rights, liberties and freedoms as anyone else, including both you and I, have.

You wrote that you are "sick and tired of people running their mouths about things they don't know about". I once had to answer an e-mail I received here at in which the e-mailer strongly (very strongly, in fact: using language which, frankly, prevented me from being able to post his comments as a 'vox Populi'!) suggested that I had absolutely no right whatsoever to talk about that which I had discussed in one of my Commentaries for this website (it's not at all important what the subject matter of that Commentary might have been: to be honest, I myself have, by now, forgotten!). My response was, admittedly, rather terse- but to the point: "I have the right- as a free person, and especially as an American- to talk about, say, Quantum Mechanics, if I so desire", I responded, "even though I know absolutely nothing about Quantum Mechanics, other than the fact it is quite the complicated field of study. You have the right- a right I not only acknowledge, but also strongly support, by the way- to then say 'What an idiot that Richard E. Berg-Andersson is: he knows nothing about Quantum Mechanics!' " Likewise, an American celebrity- even if you yourself might think he or she knows next to nothing about the subject matter at hand- has every right to talk about that subject, to which you- of course- have every right to thereafter refer to that celebrity as "ignorant".

Now, I can certainly see how celebrities being regularly seen talking about War- or, for that matter, anything else under the rubric of "public issues"- can become most frustrating. For instance, I happen to have grown up in the same hometown as comedienne and actress Janeane Garofalo, who was quite visible on television among those opposing the war in Iraq before it even began a year and a half ago. Just for the record, I have never known- nor do I now know- Ms. Garofalo personally: I have never, knowingly, even met the woman (after all, I'm nearly a decade older than she-- and, though both my brothers were in our town's high school for at least some of the same time she was, I don't believe either of them ever knew her personally [though I'm certain they both "knew of" her "back in the day"-- I often tell people that my hometown was not small enough for everyone to know everybody else but it was small enough for everyone to pretty much know all the people who knew the people they did not know!])...

if, say, Ms. Garofalo and I happen to opine upon the exact same issue of politicoeconomic and/or sociocultural import, just to whom are the cameras going to rather naturally gravitate? Surely, not me! Yet I would never ask or give quarter on a subject such as the American Political System or American Constitutional Law, things I have been closely studying- albeit, admittedly, as a hobby- for nearly three and a half decades now (around three-quarters of my life so far!). I am not here noting this to at all denigrate Ms. Garofalo's formal education (I don't rightly know, off-hand, whether she went to college or no [though, as she is one of the more famous graduates from my own high school, I do know she at least got her high school diploma!] And, if only by the way, I do think that you, Mr. Kuhl, took out a rather "broad brush with which to paint" when you wrote that "[m]ost of these celebrities only completed high school and almost none completed college." I have no way of immediately knowing whether or not that might even be true; I suppose that, as in any profession or group of professions, the level of formal education varies from person to person. After all, there are many currently serving in the American military- in Iraq, in Afghanistan or elsewhere [even here at home]- who did not attend college [many are serving in the military, at least in part, so that they can afford to even go to college!]: to be most fair, it has been my own observation and experience that a piece of parchment indicating completion of a course of formal study cannot, of itself, turn the abject dullard into a genius; likewise, there are plenty of those without such pieces of parchment who are, nevertheless, able to attain a quite high level of intellectual ability and overall knowledge).

In short, I strongly disagree with your statement that military men are "the ones who need to decide what's best for us when it comes to war". I myself have never served in the military, yet I have discussed- and will continue to discuss- military issues when it appears to be appropriate to the subject matter of 'The Green Papers'. That is my right (regardless of either how much I might know- or not know- about military matters [though I always try to make a good faith effort to not ever write about that which I do not know] or how much someone else might come to think [rightly or wrongly] I know or do not know) as an American citizen, as a voter (who has never missed going to the polls re: a General Election- all 30 of them since I was first eligible to vote) and, insofar as 'The Green Papers' is concerned, as this website's principal Commentator and Researcher. I would hope that- as much as you, and any others, might disagree with (or even come to think I know little, if anything, about) that which I might have to say- you would, at the very least, respect such right as I have (as I fully respect your own such right). Claiming such respect for my own rights as I have here claimed, I certainly cannot then fail to respect the right of a celebrity to do that which I myself claim the right to do.

Again, "That's Freedom and that's America!"... it is, most certainly, the America for which you in the military are all fighting.


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