Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Seditious Libelers Support Group

During AT (Annual Training) I had a good natured ongoing argument with a sailor from Massachusetts over the nature of matters political. It was quite civil because we were both in battle dress uniform, the same rate, the same rank, and stuck on the same island in Korea during the same gale. Our bona fides were established; a circumstance that does not occur all that often in arguments of this sort. I am more than willing to put up with a lot of crap from somebody who is out there walking the walk despite their reservations about the current political leadership.

One of his talking points we didn't get around to discussing at length was his contention that accusing former Senator Max Cleland of anything was beyond the pale because he had lost three limbs in Vietnam. He stated that the loss of three limbs gave anybody a free pass for life. He contended that because some people who hold some political viewpoints I agree with accused the former Senator of communist sympathy, my arguments were void. Such was his drive for moral equivalency that he seemed to willing to restore our country to early colonial justice. Back then one offensive statement against authority would get you branded for life.

"In Maryland, every county was ordered to have branding irons, with the lettering specifically prescribed: SL stood for seditious libel and could be burned on either cheek."

This is clearly unacceptable in physical practice today, but the intellectual practice seems wholly embraced in common discourse. Even though I had never accused Max Cleland of communist sympathies, I was guilty by association and similarly pariah. Nobody else in the tent bought the argument, mostly because they were pointedly ignoring us and hoping we weren't going to start throwing punches they'd have to pay attention to. I did not get the chance to resolve this point out on the island, but that is what we have blogs for.

Max Cleland did not get a free pass for life with his injury in Vietnam. I learned this from my father who was also blown up by a grenade, only in Korea years before Cleland took his hit. My father was an anti-war activist before Max Cleland went to Vietnam, but he never played his injury as his identity or insisted that his wounds made his behavior beyond reproach. If Max Cleland is allowing himself to be a tool for our nation's enemies, he should be called on it. If the people calling him on his failures are wrong, their facts should be assaulted, not their temerity to cast an icon in a bad light.

Our freedom of speech is founded on the principle that the truth is never libel. It is also a critical feature of our democracy that nobody is above the law or their fellow citizens. Injury in national service is not a patent of nobility or canonization. If we cannot criticize our war wounded when they are wrong, we cannot be free. Put away the branding irons.
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