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An idea that's ridiculous by any name you can call it

By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003


Ginny Brown-Waite, my congressperson and, sadly for some of you, yours, this week announced she is introducing legislation to allow family members of American servicemen buried in France and Belgium to bring their bodies back to the United States because she is unhappy with France's position on Iraq.

This, of course, during the same week that the U.S. House of Representatives announced it was changing french fries and french toast to "freedom fries" and "freedom toast." Next, I guess, will be the changing of Belgian waffles (Belgium, also, is not supporting the war) to "Territorial Toastems," and if Turkey doesn't snap to and start doing things our way we will be looking for Formerly Ottoman Baths and, probably reviving World War II's renaming of sauerkraut as "Liberty Cabbage."

Chinese checkers (China is against the war) will be replaced by "All American Checkers Played With Marbles on a Funny Looking Star" and anyone who is as sick of all of this as most of us are will be tempted to play "Pre-Marxist Tsarist Kindom Roulette."

Yeah, guys. It is silly, and that's not what we sent you to Congress for.

The Americans who died on French and Belgian (and a lot of other) soil died for the rights of those nations to have democratic self-determination. There was no clause in the contract saying the right only extended to agreeing with us about everything our leadership decides in all perpetuity.

These name games and political grandstanding about disturbing the peaceful rest of fallen American dead as a political statement smack of the same jingoistic lock-step that makes supporters of the war feel empowered to question the patriotism of those who are opposed to it, and -- check the polls -- there are a lot of us.

Believe it or not, it is possible to disagree with a president acting without a congressional declaration and with ever-decreasing internal and international support and still be a good American.

I thought it was insane when Ronald Reagan decided to invade Grenada to protect the rights of people who couldn't get into real medical schools and wound up rounding up a bunch of confused Cuban construction workers. I have some questions about how a Congress hearing perjured testimony from alleged Kuwaiti eyewitnesses to atrocities that were never proved went rah-rah crazy over our involvement in a flap between two Middle Eastern countries, and I wish to God I didn't get a blank stare every time I mention the Gulf of Tonkin and the Pentagon Papers to anyone younger than 35.

And I am more weary than I am capable of describing of hearing people say that any dissent at all from whatever the party line is on any given day is some sort of insult to our troops. I admire and revere the young men and women doing the bidding of our leadership, and I give them credit for having the intelligence to realize that one of the most precious things they are protecting is the right that all of us have to participate in dialogue about government.

Brown-Waite, with whom I have had a long and friendly relationship, says she is reacting to the concerns of a Hernando County resident who is angry with France.

He has a right to be angry with France if he wants to. I have a right to think this war is a really bad idea with no explainable, chronologically contextual reason for the perceived immediacy of its necessity, and George Bush has the right to keep ignoring the very real threat in North Korea that is going to wind up biting us all on the rear end.

If Brown-Waite and her colleagues want to keep playing childish games, I, as an American, support their right to do so, and for the remaining months in which this space is left to me, I intend to exercise my right (for which I, incidentally, fought) to say "Cowflop" when I see a big pile of it in the middle of the road.

Like now.

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