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Scott
Patriotism In A Time of War

What does it mean to be patriotic during a time when one's country is at war? I believe it means, first and foremost, to support those who are actually fighting. To be patriotic also requires all citizens to pay attention to the war effort and keep up on the news. In the really big wars, a patriot who is not involved in the actual fighting will contribute to the effort in other ways, such as aiding in manufacturing or helping a medical facility. In the smaller wars, where fewer citizens are needed to contribute to the war effort, a patriot will be extra careful to demonstrate the best qualities of a citizen of his or her nation, such as courage, honesty, reliability, and dedication while continuing to live life as normally as possible.

One of the other aspects of being patriotic during a war, while being extremely important, is often misunderstood: Supporting the President or Congress.

I have seen it over and over again on television, in the Frederick News-Post, and even in discussions with my peers. The topic of discussion will be the war in Iraq. There will be a few minutes of Bush-bashing, and then someone in the group will suddenly burst out, "You shouldn't talk like that about our President! This is a time of war, and we have to follow him."

The basic belief is that the President usually does not want to go to war, and only does so when it is absolutely justified. There's also a nagging belief among some people, stemming all the way back from monarchies and empires, that to speak negatively against the ruler of one's country is treasonous. During a war, this belief is magnified because the country is under more stress and people worry about rebellion against the government.

The United States has not been very helpful in dispelling some of these beliefs throughout its history. The Alien and Sedition Act, passed by John Adams in the last years of the 18th century, and for purely political reasons, allowed the U.S. government to deport foreigners and to put newspaper editors in jail for writing anything negative about the government.

During World War I, the government passed the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act. The latter made it illegal to talk negatively about the government, the flag, the military, or the Constitution, and the former made it illegal to try to convince someone to dodge the military draft. The Acts were vague enough to be used against just about anyone who presented an unpopular idea. These were all obvious breaches of freedom of speech, but they were passed anyway (although clearly overturned later on).

What were the governments of these times so afraid of? Was it that dissenters would demoralize the troops as a number of Bush supporters have insisted recently? Was it because the government was simply reaching for more power as non-Bush supporters have said?

It's more likely that it is a combination of both, and they still trace back to the old idea of treason against one's king. In monarchies and dictatorships, the people of the nation are expected to fully trust their ruler and every decision he makes.

In our modern democracy, we know that our leaders are not always right. That's why the true power is ultimately granted to the citizens.

And if there's one thing we never want our country to mess up, it is a war.

It is the duty of American citizens to openly challenge a president who wants to take us into a war. This doesn't mean that we have to disagree with him over the necessity for the war, just that we have to question it. If our President has a solid case for going to war and he feels that it is very important to get it started, it is his responsibility to present the same information he based his opinion on to the American people so that they can tell him if they believe it is worth the lives of their loved ones to fight.

If there truly is a need for the war, the people will see it and approve action willingly. However, if a President cannot convince the citizens that a war is needed, he should reevaluate his own feelings.

It was fairly easy to get America into World War II after Pearl Harbor because the Japanese did a better job of convincing Americans that a war was needed than the American government had been able to do while fighting was breaking out in Europe. Before then, Americans simply didn't see why they should get involved in a war on the other side of the world that would cost the lives of their soldiers.

Iraq is a radically different situation. It is a war that was never provoked. President Bush convinced the American people that we needed to go in there anyway by saying that there was solid evidence that Iraq had biological and chemical "weapons of mass destruction" and was actively pursuing the acquisition of nuclear materials. The people bought it. The Congress bought it. And we ended up in Iraq a within a few months.

But a couple weeks into the fighting, people became frustrated. No weapons of mass destruction had been found, and none have been found since. But American troops were still dying a few per day, and people back home were wondering why.

As time passed, the dissenting voices grew louder until now, when the nation seems more divided than it has been since Vietnam, or perhaps even the Civil War.

That's when this idea of "Support the President" started coming out more and more frequently.

To those who hold this opinion, think about what those who are arguing against the war are actually trying to do. They see soldiers being killed every day in a country that, as new investigation reports have revealed, we should not be in in the first place. It is right for them to be concerned because one of the most important parts of being patriotic during a time of war is to support the troops.

So many of the people who have been accused of politicking or treason because they criticize the President for keeping troops in Iraq, are actually some of the best patriots still inside the country.

Those of you who have said in the past that we must trust and follow the President during times of war, I hope you see by now that the choice of which wars are worth fighting are decided by the citizens of this country, and not a king.

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