An Open Letter to Gary Lillie
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Background Information Concerning This Letter
Greetings once again,
You're right, the last (and first) time I e-mailed you, my opening was somewhat rude, or at least overblown. I would like to apologize for this and let you know that the main reason I opened the message in this way was that I was not familiar with the internal structure of your firm and I wished to avoid having my message never make it to your desk and only receiving a form letter response from a receptionist or secretary, which I was afraid might happen if the message seemed too "bland."
As you may have already assumed, I am writing you now regarding the current war that we are fighting with Iraq. Although I never responded to your previous message (which I regret not taking the time to do), I think that many of the current issues that I am going to discuss in this e-mail actually have quite a lot in common with several of the things you mentioned in your previous message.
While reading last Thursday's Michigan Review, I noticed that you had been interviewed for one of that issue's articles concerning a recent rally to support the United States troops in Iraq. In that article, you were quoted as saying, "When the shooting starts, the protesting stops. Our troops need our support; we must unite as one nation to show Saddam Hussein that we will not be swayed by his machine of propaganda. Now that there are soldiers fighting for our country, protesting against them only encourages our enemies."
I disagree with the main sentiment expressed in that statement -- that protesting should stop when fighting begins -- but furthermore, I think that that statement seriously mischaracterizes the nature and intent of the current protests and protestors.
I understand that during the Vietnam War, some Americans felt a great deal of animosity toward the actual U.S. soldiers who were fighting the war, and openly expressed this animosity to the soldiers upon their return to the United States. As you may be surprised to learn, I disagree with this sentiment and think that the negative treatment received by some or many returning Vietnam soldiers was quite disgraceful.
Regardless of what happened during the Vietnam War, my personal opinion is that invading Iraq at the current time and in the current situation was, from the standpoint of looking out for the interests of our own country, not the best course of action for the United States to take. However, I would like to strongly stress that holding this opinion does not imply that I think Saddam Hussein is anything but an evil dictator, that I don't want the United States to win this war as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible, that I don't "Support our Troops," that I am "Against the USA" or "Anti-American," or that I wish anything but the absolute best to the men and women serving our country in the armed forces.
Furthermore, I believe that this is the viewpoint of the vast majority of Americans who disagree with the current war with Iraq. I have certainly found this to be the case with almost all of the anti-war people I have spoken with, and I have spoken with quite a wide variety of them.
I realize that this viewpoint (of supporting our country and troops, but believing that we should not be fighting the current war) is not the simplest viewpoint that a person could hold. It does not fit very well with the popular slogan that "you are either with us or you are against us." It is not as easy to explain in 15 seconds as a completely pro-war or a completely anti-American viewpoint would be. However, it is not an excessively complex point of view either. It is certainly the right (and you might even say the duty) of every American to hold and to express his or her views about how our country should be governed. But if someone finds that he disagrees with a policy decision made by our government while exercising this right and duty, it positively does not imply that this person is anti-American or in the current case that this person wishes for an American defeat in the war or for American troops to be killed.
As I said before, it is my opinion that the United States will not be well served in the long run by fighting the current war with Iraq. However, this is only my opinion and I will be the first to say that this particular issue is legitimately open for debate and that my opinion could well turn out to be incorrect. (In fact I very much hope that it is incorrect, for obvious reasons.) I think that there is definitely constructive value to be found in debating this issue, and I would encourage everybody to do so. At the same time, I see absolutely no value in attempting to label everyone who holds the same opinion as I about the war as anti-American. We are not anti-American in any way, and attempting to label us as such only serves to shift discourse and debate away from the legitimate issues at hand.
To recap: I don't assume that all people in favor of the current war are warmongering, bloodthirsty, mass-murdering savages. I don't assume this because it obviously isn't true. By the same token, I would like it if fewer people assumed that all people not in favor of our involvement in the current war are anti-American, soldier-hating, Saddam-loving idiots. The second assertion is just as ridiculous as the first, and anyone perpetuating either of them does everyone a disservice by steering the debate away from constructive discussion (of the best course of action for our country to take) and toward destructive and pointless argument and hatred among Americans.
We aren't protesting against America. This may be different from the way it was in the past, but we aren't protesting against the men and women in our armed forces either. The vast majority of us are only protesting what we see as a poor decision to engage in war with Iraq at the current time. Please, if we are to engage in debate, let us debate the best way for America to protect and advance its interests. Let us focus on these very real and very important issues, not upon applying labels like un-American or unpatriotic to those who disagree with us on these issues.
Gary Lillie is an Ann Arbor-area realtor who frequently appears in local newspapers such as the Michigan Daily and the Michigan Review, expressing his views on various political issues - sometimes through being interviewed by the newspaper staff, and sometimes by taking out small advertisements espousing his political views on a given subject.
There aren't a lot of people who care enough about political issues to spend their own money taking out advertisements in newspapers, so last December, I decided to e-mail Mr. Lillie about an advertisement that he had run in the Michigan Daily, the contents of which I especially strongly disagreed with. He promptly e-mailed me back, pretty much answering all the questions I had asked of him in my first e-mail. Although it would have been interesting to engage in a continued debate with him over some of these issues, I did not feel that I had the time to do so, and so I did not.
Today however, while reading a copy of the Michigan Review that someone had left on the bathroom floor, I noticed that Mr. Lillie had been interviewed for an article about a recent rally in support of the American troops fighting in Iraq. Just as Mr. Lillie does, I fully support the individual men and women serving our country in the armed forces, but in the interview, Mr. Lillie (and others) expressed some views about people who do not agree with the decision of the United States to engage in a war with Iraq at the current time that I find not only to be largely incorrect, but also quite offensive. Reading the article prompted me to send this e-mail to Mr. Lillie, which I hope will cause him to reconsider some of his opinions on this matter. Whether he does this or not, I am sure that he will at least send an interesting response when the time comes.
It is during times like this that I wish I were more proficient at written communication, particularly at persuasive writing. I want to be able to get my points across clearly without confusing or inadvertantly offending people, but I am not at all sure that this letter will be effective in doing so. Even if it is not, I suppose that at least I have tried, which is better than nothing.