Protesting the government a right, not a form of patriotism

Recently I was discussing current events with a friend of mine when we invariably moved on to the subject of September 11 and our nation’s subsequent reaction.

This friend remembers a time when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was still somewhat fresh in everyone’s mind.

The main difference between then and now, she recalled, was that everyone was universally outraged by the actions of the Japanese.

Today, there is a significant segment of the American people who are not only not outraged; they (in true Canadian fashion) believe that we brought this on ourselves.

I will not even pretend to understand how a thinking, rational person, while perhaps having serious disagreements with the government, could be anything but enraged by this act of Islamic fundamentalist cowardice.

That said, while I will be the first to admit that our government has not always conducted itself in an honorable manner in the realm of foreign policy, nothing, without exception, justifies what those nineteen men did last year.

Many Americans (mostly those of traditional college age) seem to believe, because of their specific perception of history, that our nation and its government are inherently corrupt and therefore if someone, say, flies a jetliner into an unarmed office building, it must have been because of something we did to them.

Certainly that would be Osama bin Laden’s argument.

While not equating those who hold these opinions with a bottom-feeding animal like bin Laden, I think perhaps this opinion is just what our enemies are counting on.

After all, the expressers of this sentiment have been the first ones to criticize any actions we’ve taken in response to the attacks .

Whether this is akin to being disloyal to our country is only something the individual can answer.

I will say, however, that expressing your guaranteed right to protest and dissent is not in and of itself a patriotic act; it just means that you’re taking advantage of the rights and benefits guaranteed to you by sacrifices of those who came before us.

You have every right to get out there and make yourself heard on whatever it is you want to be heard, but you shouldn’t confuse that with being a patriot any more than criticizing the government makes you a traitor.

Scott Wacholtz is a junior majoring in computer science and political science and is a former Marine Corps Sergeant.