The current U.S. war was less than a day old before Brainerd area residents started carping at each other because they had different positions on America's conflict with Iraq.
Harsh comments between war protesters and their opponents have been exchanged in the Open Forum section of this page for weeks now.
Welcome to the home front -- 2003.
It's sad to say, but one would think that we would be better at resolving this wartime patriotism/free speech conflict by now. Lord knows we've had plenty of practice.
Brainerd High School students were shouting pro-military and anti-war slogans at each other during Thursday's noon hour. Shades of the early 1970s. They were in each others' faces during the confrontation and a pop can might have been intentionally kicked from one side to the other, but there was no violence. The fact that they were able to express political opinions without any real ugliness speaks well for the high school students and puts them light years ahead of some adult sports fans and certain members of the Legislature.
Passions run extremely high during a war -- and for good reason. The young men and women we see on television reports are the sons and daughters of people back home. The bullets and SCUD missiles they're facing are real. And so is the potential use of chemical weapons. Wouldn't it be sad to live in a nation where no one cared whether the government went to war or not?
Oddly enough, the devastation and death that are linked to war are what make both sides so impassioned. Pro-military action and anti-war factions recognize war is a life and death situation. They are conscientious citizens who refuse to stand on the sidelines and be apathetic about an important issue.
From someone who's old enough to remember the long-ago era when the Vietnam War and the topic of men wearing long hair were the themes of numerous family debates, here are a few observations to help the two sides co-exist.
-- We don't have to all agree with each other. It's pretty rare that citizens in a democracy will all reach accord on any course of action. That's OK.
-- Think before you speak or write. Words and written slogans can have consequences. If you wear a t-shirt with a political statement you might very well be challenged by a stranger with an opposite point of view. Be prepared with a civil response that won't inflame the situation.
-- Respect your political opponents. It might not even hurt to listen to them every once in a while.
-- Be forgiving of youthful indiscretion. Young people on either side of the war issue are likely to make inappropriate comments. Reflect on some of the statements you made as callow youth.
-- The higher up leaders are on the political food chain the greater our expectation is that their remarks will be tempered with maturity.
-- Educate yourself so you're expressing more than just raw emotions.
-- Keep some perspective. Youthful members of the Liberate Iraq and the anti-war factions will likely have kids in the same kindergarten class in a few years.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.