Saturday, April 17, 2010

You Have the Remain Silent

America is not immune to flaws and faults, but some of the things that makes this country great - a true democracy - are the freedoms we celebrate every day, especially the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

It is the freedom of speech that allows me to post on this blog, to say whatever is on my mind, and for you to respond. It is the freedom of speech that allows us to protest things we see as unjust, incorrect, hurtful or just against what we believe to be good. Because of this, unlike many other countries, we have the liberty to criticize our government and our own leader, the President of the United States. It is not just a right, but sometimes, it's our duty.

Except if you happen to be in the United States military, apparently.

A Marine, Sgt. Gary Stein, created the Facebook group "Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots" to voice opposition to the Obama Administration's new healthcare bill (if you're not familiar with the tea party movement, let's just say, it has nothing to do with cups and saucers.) Stein was asked to take down the site because he is on active duty and his actions contradicts the Department of Defense directives. I quote from the article "According to Department of Defense directives, military personnel are prohibited from sponsoring a political club, writing anything that solicits votes for a political cause or speaking at any event that promotes a political movement."

There had been talks last year by the Department of Defense to ban these social networking sites altogether, but I guess they haven't yet because their own site has links to such sites.

So, the debate: can active duty troops criticize the President?

It's tricky. My immediate response is that if these brave men and women are risking their lives to defend such freedoms, they should be able to enjoy those freedoms as well. They are citizens of this country, and for what they sacrifice - my goodness, they should have whatever they want! They've earned it. But...they are not ordinary civilian citizens. They are military personnel. Criticism of the President or government puts our troops and country at risk of actions by other people/countries ready to attack America, its infrastructure, its government. Troops cannot take sides politically; their mission is defending the principles and policies of the entire United States of America. So, they have to keep their thoughts to themselves...or at least, not posted on public sites.

But is that fair? What do you think?

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