This is definitely a departure from my normal subject areas (cyber, homeland security, etc), but I really felt moved to write this. It is a comment on the Supreme Court decision to uphold the right of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at the funerals of fallen service members. The bottom line from the highest Court in the land: “Even hurtful speech is protected.”
Let me begin by saying that as a career Army Officer, and the proud father of another officer, what these protesters do at ceremonies designed to be non-political expressions of loss, grief, and remembrance personally sickens and angers me. I cannot imagine the feeling of the families have when, at their most horrific moment, these intruders turn the solemn event into a “circus.” The fact that they do this, not to protest the war but because they draw a very tenuous (and theologically dubious) line between America’s moral decline and the fact that we lose troops in combat makes it even more difficult to stomach. They literally celebrate the losses as our due comeuppance for not toeing the line they draw. As a Christian, it makes me even more upset, as one might imagine.
OK, so what is the point of my title? I do not want to get into the (political) philosophical validity or lack thereof concerning the concept of “American Exceptionalism.” This is a long-standing debate that hinges on our getting away with behavior we condemn in others on the world stage, because “we’re different.” (Political philosophers, please excuse my short vernacular version of this concept.)
What I am talking about is much simpler and less intellectual that that. To put it simply, it is that there are few (if any) countries in the world that would even suffer their highest court to consider that this was legitimate. These disruptive, disrespectful intrusions into the final honoring of individuals who have died serving and obeying the lawful orders of the nation’s leaders would be broken up and banned in pretty every other country. Are there any other countries who would then rule that the Westboro Baptist screed is lawful, protected, and must be allowed? I do not think so.
Political philosophy be damned; any reasonable person has to admit, America is one pretty exceptional place. I thank God that I can be counted as one of her citizens, and I am glad I was willing (and my son is now as well) to lay down my life so the Westboro Baptist crowd can desecrate the memory of my comrades. As hard as it is to accept, it is what makes America exceptional. We are not perfect, we make errors, and we should not expect the world to allow us different rules, but make no mistake, there is no place like Our Land.