Saturday, March 17, 2012

Letters to the editor: The Mos Eisley of the newspaper

I know it's been a little bit since I promised a two part blog about the joys of reading the Florida Times Union while home with my parents. So long in fact that I bet one could assume that it was just a dirty lie and I would never follow through with part two. Not so fast my friend.

My favorite part of reading any newspaper in a city far from home is the letters to the editor. I feel like you can get a good glimpse of how thoroughly bat shit crazy the citizens of a populace are by reading what issues have caused them to angrily write to the paper. It is no secret that letters to the editor are rarely rational in the opinions they present. When people read something in the paper that they agree with they aren't going to head to their typewriter to write a thank you letter for such an inspiring article. It is only when someone is infuriated that the passions become deep enough to write in to the paper, and that's where things get good in my opinion. I want to read people's asinine opinions about how our country is going to hell because prayer is not allowed in school or how the local school board is conspiring to raise everyone's taxes to pay for their own yachts.

When the scandal of a burned Quran on a US military base in Afghanistan happened I knew that it would prompt some good venom from Times Union readers. Even when I expected to read some horrible things I was not prepared for one of the most hateful and ignorant letters I had ever seen published in a newspaper. While I am going to quote it pretty liberally in the rest of this blog I'll include the link in case you want to read it in it's entirety: Click Here! This is the opening lines from Totally Wrong by Frank Healey of Jacksonville:
"The recent apology by President Barrack Obama to the Afghan government for the burning of the Quaran confirms this administration's warped and pathetic opinion of the role of the US." Wow. Mr. Healey certainly doesn't pull any punches here, does he? What exactly is the role of the US in his opinion? Our military committed an act that is considered extremely offensive in Afghanistan and apologized, I don't see what the problem is with that. Things aren't exactly black and white, we aren't at war with Afghanistan. We are working along side them and want to foster friendship with their government and people, we aren't supposed to be a bully who does whatever we want while in their country. I think that in the situation an apology is a pretty reasonable response. Healey would go on to accuse the left of being weak for apologizing and groveling after every mistake the US makes. This was followed by what may be one of the most offensive things I have ever read:

"In my view, not enough Iraiqis and Afghanis died. Not enough to pay for our 7,000 dead or 41,00o wounded. Not enough to pay for their freedom. They didn't want these wars? Well, tough. They asked for them by not taking care of their own corrupt and terrorist-associated governments."

My jaw dropped after reading this. I was completely dumbfounded. Maybe I surround myself with a bunch of peace loving hippies but I have never once heard someone say that not enough people had died in a war. Ever. It doesn't matter what country they come from or what their religious or political ideas are, they are still human. You can't just throw the numbers into some equation to figure out an exchange rate of American lives to Iraqi lives and decide if the war was worth it afterward. These are people we are talking about. People with mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children. If one person dies in a war that is too many for me. Even in the most justified wars the loss of life is still a horrendous consequence, it is never a thing to be cheered or applauded. To clarify I'm not saying that it is wrong to celebrate victory in a war, I'm saying that it is wrong to celebrate the loss of human life and clamor for more of it. Each individual death is a tragedy, albeit on a small scale, but a tragedy nonetheless. It takes a person void of all empathy and compassion to wish for more death. Mr. Healey would go on to list all the casualties from our most recent world wars and conclude:

"...the 'evil' American military industrial complex earned the freedom, prosperity and future of millions and all their descendants. They can never, ever pay us back. America apologizes to no one."

Of course, how could I forget, the entire world owes us their freedom so we can do whatever the hell we want to do at all times. Silly me. This arrogance is absolutely disgusting. Frank Healey embodies what is known as "an Ugly American." While it's fun to joke with European friends that they'd be speaking German (or more realistically Russian) if it wasn't for the good ol U S of A it's a completely different thing to actually believe that the world owes us a debt. It troubles me that there is even one person out there who thinks like this. Sadly I know that Mr. Healey is far from alone and that many of the people who read this letter nodded along approvingly the entire time. I know that lots of people like to make the argument that "the terrorists hate our freedom." I won't even begin to point out the flaws in that. But if you want to say that our freedom is what allows many Americans to have this arrogant perception of how the rest of the world needs to bow down to the US and that their lives are far less important than ours, well, then I think I understand where the hatred is coming from.

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