"The ones that are over here whining and crying, all they're doing is proving they're not winners, they're whiners," Gary Qualls said. "Most of everybody over there has never had anything to do with the military service."
Gary Qualls is the father of a twenty-year old son who died in the battle of Fallujah. The "whiners" he was referring to are the group who were also in Crawford, Texas this week to protest the war in Iraq. This group is nominally led by Cindy Sheehan, who also lost her son to the war in Iraq. Qualls and his group gathered on a corner in Crawford to accuse the protesters of "dishonoring and disrespecting" the fallen.
This uniquely American tableau is being played out, effectively, on George W. Bush's front lawn. Voices of dissent are being raised while supporters of the President rally to make their point heard. Before there is any discussion of who is right and who is wrong, let us take a moment to respect a country and its workings that allows such a thing to happen. The challenge to free speech is generally that most speech is just that - free. Free of convictions and stress and meaning and pain. When speech starts getting loaded up like the stuff going on down in Texas, then it becomes even more important that it remains free.
It's also very hard to listen to free speech. You tend to hear things that you don't agree with, and then you kind of wish that whole first amendment thing didn't apply to everyone. Bill O'Reilly, who makes his living off this very notion, has a lot of concerns about people who blog. He is worried that these bloggers can just write anything they want and never worry about checking facts. Here's what he had to say about Dallas Morning News columnist Macarena Hernandez (who has been openly critical of Bill's views): "I mean, the woman is an incompetent all day long. I mean, she shouldn't be writing for anything. She doesn't know what she's doing. She's not a journalist. She's just a Latina ideologue who spits out stuff that she gets off the internet. But The Dallas Morning News printed it. Now The Dallas Morning News is big enough that I gotta take them on. And then her partner in arms, Cindy Rodriguez over at The Denver Post, says the same nonsense. And just lies, flat-out lies."
Opinions are tricky things, aren't they? Still, one thing is certain: Both Cindy Sheehan and Gary Qualls are knee-deep in processing the grief of the death of their sons. They seem uniquely qualified to have the debate that is taking place on street corners in Crawford. "Many of our servicemen and women have endured long deployments and separations from home. ... Those they leave behind must deal with the burden of raising families while praying for the safe return of their loved ones." That may be the one thing that Cindy and Gary can agree on, and you'll never guess who said it. Those were the words of George W. Bush. Free speech is an amazing thing.