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Local view: Memorial Day isn’t for politics

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On July 5, the News Tribune published a letter headlined, “Real patriotism requires active citizens.” I couldn’t have agreed more with the headline. However, I couldn’t have disagreed more with the letter and its unfounded and thoughtless inferences.

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I always have believed that how someone conveys something helps determine how it is received. When words like “shallow” are used to refer to someone with a differing viewpoint the message is not going to be well-received by that someone. Examples of phrases in the letter that would shut down any type of dialogue with me included, “Is politics something you don’t discuss in polite company?” and, “Shouldn’t we love morality, justice or tolerance more?” These kinds of comments infer that others who do not feel the same way are not polite or have a substandard level of morality and no sense of justice or tolerance. This is just ignorant.

Personally, I would not consider having any sort of dialogue with an individual who would make these kinds of egregious statements or allegations toward anyone without knowing them. It’s called generalizing. And that’s even though there might be, ideologically speaking, much on which we agree.

Patriotism is not only expressed in military terms, as the letter suggested. Any American citizen who truly loves his or her country is a patriot. Patriotism is not a propaganda tactic of the controlling elite, nor does anyone have a patent on patriotism. Though the military has its own rich traditions and ceremonies, many of its values are deeply engrained in most of us, such as honor, integrity, loyalty and duty.

This spring the Veterans for Peace organization made headlines after it was banned from participating in the Memorial Day parade in West Duluth. The writer of the July 5 letter is president of the local Veterans for Peace.

Just because I do not belong to the Veterans for Peace organization does not mean I disagree with all of its ideology or issues of concern. I am, in fact, also a veteran and also a combat-wounded infantryman who prays for peace daily. However, human nature and very bad people sometimes prevent us from living in a peaceful world; this requires having a strong military. As much as I would like to see diplomacy work and prevent our military servicemen and servicewomen from going into harm’s way, it’s not always reality.

How would Veterans for Peace have handled Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Ho Chi Minh, Tojo, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Osama Bin Laden or Benito Mussolini? These were people who did not understand reason, who had no regard for human life, and who were just plain evil. Diplomacy did not work with any of them, and each of them was responsible for the murders of hundreds of thousands — or millions — of people.

And yes, diplomacy should be tried and every effort to avert war must be considered. I agree: War is not always the right answer, but I believe it is sometimes necessary to fight evil.

There are only a handful of observances acknowledging the sacrifices of veterans. Most are referred to as “days of remembrance.” For example, Memorial Day is one of the most significant days of remembrance. It is not to be politicized by handing out literature to the general public during a parade; it is not a time to superimpose oneself into a parade without an invitation or by paying a group fee; and it is not a time to get confrontational with other veterans who have different viewpoints. There are costs incurred and expectations of unit participants. Anyone who wants attention can start with mindfulness and respect.

John Marshall of Duluth served in the 41st Infantry Regiment in Iraq and is captain of the Duluth Honor Guard.

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