This is a great country. Because of the sacrifice paid by U.S. troops, Americans are free to voice their opinions and no government can stop them. Indeed, Americans are even free to make dishonest arguments and hide behind dead U.S. troops as they do so.
I refer, of course, to antiwar opponents who staked some 420 crosses, Islamic crescents and Jewish Stars of David in what they call a memorial to the 2,800-plus U.S. troops who died in Iraq in Lafayette, Calif. City officials told the activists they were free to put up crosses. But when a sign went up a recent version read: "In Memory of the 2,867 Troops Killed in Iraq" it broke Lafayette's signage size rules. It was too big.
Since city sign rules apply to all signs, Lafayette told the cross-bearers to downsize the sign by Nov. 20. They refused.
They are protesting. They are special.
Besides, the headline-grabbing brouhaha has given the cross brigadiers what they desire most the chance to appear as victims without actually being victims.
The Lafayette cross-mongers have not bothered to apply for a permit for a bigger sign, Mayor Ivor Samson told me.
Samson is well aware of the need "to protect freedom of expression." He also understands the need for uniform enforcement of zoning rules.
Be it noted that if the city of Lafayette were to grant a permit for a big memorial sign, other political viewpoints would be entitled to the same exemption. Just as Lafayette cannot and should not limit the "troops killed" sign because of its content, approval of bigger signs would have to apply to all political messages.
"We've been accused of being political, but the sign isn't political," memorial leader Jeff Heaton told The San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a statement of fact."
Heaton admitted that all who put up the crosses were anti-Iraq war, but, "What we're trying to do is remind people there are lives being lost, families being devastated." It doesn't speak well for Heaton and his co-believers that they can't even be honest about what essentially is an antiwar protest that hides behind those brave troops who fell in Iraq. And here's how you know that they are not simply saluting U.S. troops' sacrifice: They forgot the 346 U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan.
More baloney: "It seems to be an effective way to make people aware of the number of soldiers who died in Iraq," Heaton told The Chronicle.
News stories, real memorials and services for fallen U.S. troops have made the public very aware of the heavy human cost of this war. It is the ultimate conceit to believe that 420 crosses not even one per dead American will or can make a deeper impression on the voting public than the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Not to mention that many Bay Area families are quite aware of what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan because they have family members serving there.
They don't need gimmicks to be aware of the risks of combat or the effects of the war against terrorism on American families, thank you very much.
Indeed, if Heaton and company really cared about these families, they would show some respect and sensitivity. They would not exploit the war dead to bolster a viewpoint contrary to those held by most in uniform. They think this charade shows them to be sensitive and thanks to simple zoning rules, oppressed, but the view from here is: smarmy.
The cross-bearers should claim their opinions as their own, instead of hiding behind dead soldiers.