Conservative Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina was the man who spearheaded the Freedom Fries campaign to protest France’s opposition to the Iraq War. In an interview yesterday with George Stephanopoulos (and previously in an interview with a Raleigh newspaper), Jones said that he himself now opposes the war.
Why? Two reasons. One, he took it upon himself early on to write letters of condolence to all the families of fallen soldiers. Not just his district. All of them. Little did he know that he would end up writing more than 1,300 of them.
Sometimes, he said, a family would write back. What might have originated as a support-our-troops gimmick became, over time, a window into the worlds of people whose lives had been shattered — children who’d lost their fathers, husbands who’d lost their wives. It was the writing back that got to him.
But what sealed it was a funeral he attended. The soldier’s bride was there, with twins her husband had never seen. He left for Iraq when she was two months pregnant. She read for the congregation a letter he had written her just hours before his last fatal mission. The Representative from North Carolina surrendered his hubris there on the altar of a woman’s love for her husband and children. His soul had been convicted by a man who died for a lie.
He says now that it was all lies. There were no weapons of mass destruction. No nuclear capability. No reason to go to war. Not at this cost. Not for 1,300 dead. Not for 10,000 severely wounded. Nor for hundreds of millions of dollars wasted.
Does he worry about the wrath of his conservative constituency for his change of mind? No. He says his father, a long time Congressman for his state, had taught him, “Stand always first by your conscience, second by your constituents, and third by your party.” This, he says, is a matter of conscience.
I’m ambivalent about this. I mean, damn him for starting this whole Freedom Fries mess, and contributing to the mindless patriotic drivel that preceded this war. On the other hand, nothing he could have done would have stopped the war, and now his lone voice is more effective than a thousand screeching Kennedys. When the foundation crumbles, the house falls down.
I believe that history will regard George W Bush as the tyrant that he is. Every time government has started a War on Something, it has thrown gasoline on the fire. The disparity between rich and poor is greater than before the War on Poverty. The War on Drugs spawned a worldwide drug market, creating crimes for criminals to commit. As soon as the War on Terror was announced, I knew that we would never be safe again. Not only is the tyrant stripping us of our liberties, he is exposing us to greater dangers than we have ever known.
Jones made freedom a joke word. Bush has made it a curse word. It is time for liberals to stop laughing. It is time for liberals to stop being offended. Liberal and liberty come from the same Latin root: liber -> freedom. Retake the words that belong to you. Take back your country. You want to appeal to those you’ve lost? Stop making fun of words like freedom. That’s what conservatives do.
Start using the words with pride. You’ve lost people because they don’t want to follow you out into the swamps and marshes of special interests. Stop with the bleeding hearts. Stop with the wringing hands. Hold up the light of freedom and let people come willingly to you. Freedom is the answer for what ails them all. The gay man can’t get married until he is free to give his consent. The environmentalist can’t save the land until he is free to own it. Blacks and Indians can’t have a level playing field until they are free to compete.
Stop using government to reward failure and punish success. Stop declaring Wars on This and That. Stop hating rich people — they are the source of all wealth. Stop making laws to engineer society — the unforseen consequences will destroy your plans. Stop alienating people of faith — they are neither stupid nor ignorant for believing in God, and the lines you draw force their hands. Stop compromising your principles in an effort to become all things to all people — it only leaves you disorganized and vulnerable.
Dump Howard Dean. He’s doing everything wrong. He’s drawing attention to himself, and distracting from the cause. He’s insulting and alienating all the people you need to draw. He’s bellicose and beligerent. He’s telling people that the Walter Joneses of the world are irredeemable. Obviously, they are not. In fact, you could benefit from the advice of his father, “Stand always first by your conscience, second by your constituents, and third by your party.”
You’ve made the mistake of trying to dazzle the populace with your dizzying intellects. People don’t follow intelligence. They follow courage. Martin Luther King Jr is not remembered for words that sent people rushing to dictionaries, but words that sent people rushing to the streets. Walter Jones might be a dumbass, but he followed his principles. What you need to do is make sure what when people go through that kind of soul searching and come out the other end, you are there. And when they arrive, don’t tell them “I told you so.” Just thank them for coming, and say, “Welcome.”