Photo: Sacramento Valley National Veteran’s Cemetery, Dixon, CA.
I am not a pacifist. I believe in our right to bear arms to protect ourselves, our families and our property if threatened. I am proud to be an American, though I do not always agree with decisions that our elected officials make. I am not an atheist nor an agnostic, but I do not like the fact that groups of Americans attempt to trample my Constitutional rights on a daily basis in the name of religion. I am glad I live in a country that provides me with the right to make my own decision to worship however I choose and if I choose no religion at all, I am protected under the law of the land for my personal decision to do so. I am not a right-wing Conservative nor an extreme left-sided Liberal, nor do I belong to the Tea Party. I exist somewhere in the middle but lean more heavily towards the left. I do not blindly follow any group, religion, political party nor individual but choose instead to use my critical thinking skills to investigate, consider and base my decisions on fact and logic. I am not a sheep. I try my hardest to avoid action and decisions based solely on my emotional responses.
I did not support the Vietnam War and I do not support the conflict in Iraq. Whenever our country is led into a conflict under false pretenses, I refuse to support that decision. That does not make me anti-American nor does it mean I do not support our troops. It means I do not believe in sacrificing the lives of many brave Americans when there is no clear justification in doing so.
My heart still skips a beat and tears come to my eyes whenever I hear a drum and bugle corps or watch an honor guard in a 4th of July parade. I stand in awe when the Blue Angels buzz the crowd during an air show. I fly the American flag and to me this is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. America is a beautiful blend of cultures, religions and belief systems and it has been since its inception. America was not founded on one uni-lateral religion nor on one political belief system. It was founded from a place of religious tolerance. Our founding fathers were not all Christian as some Americans tend to believe, on the contrary they were a mix of Deist, Unitarian, Pluralist, Protestant and Catholic. They understood the importance of protecting an individuals right to worship (or not) through freedom of choice.
I do believe in protecting our rights and I honor the brave women and men who have made the decision to serve. If our country was ever invaded I would fight alongside the best of them. On Memorial Day I paid a visit to the Sacramento Valley National Veteran’s Cemetery. As I walked the grounds I was overwhelmed by the sight of over 6,000 grave markers of those who served in all wars and conflicts that our country has been involved including Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt the sadness of the families as they sat on blankets at their loved one’s graves. Children who were without fathers. Wife’s without husbands. Mothers who were absent daughters. The sadness was intense and palatable. There is nothing beautiful about war. On the contrary, the truth of war is ugly, vile and painful. Though it may be fought under the guise of securing our freedoms, the result is death and great emotional suffering for those who remain.
My political stance and religious belief systems may not exist in the same realm as yours but that does not make me any less patriotic than you. Part of the beauty of our country is the variety of belief systems that exist within it and their Constitutional right to exist in the first place. My wish is we would all agree to disagree but do it in a manner that proves constructive. Let us try to come together and find some form of common ground instead of spewing hate and rhetoric from a space of festering raw emotion. It gets us nowhere and does nothing less than add to the widening divide this country has already experienced. We owe at least that much to the service men and women who have risked or lost their very lives for the sake of our freedoms. Please remember our country’s soldiers are a mix of all religious backgrounds, all cultures and ethnicity, political belief systems and yes, all sexual preferences, just like the rest of us who they so bravely represent.