05 May 2004 Apparently, We’re Unpatriotic
I received a rather odd e-mail a few minutes ago. It is from a fellow who considers our entire organization unpatriotic, and wants us to know that his soldier nephew thinks we’re “a bunch of assholes.”
I gather the correspondent objects to our press release Amid the Nightline Controversy, Remember: Our Troops Are Doing A Great Deal of Good. He seems to think the press release is anti-soldier, and unpatriotic.
The press release begins: “Believing that it is the best way to respond to ABC broadcaster Ted Koppel, The National Center for Public Policy Research today has posted on its website an extensive list of the achievements of just one of the many U.S. units operating in Iraq. On his April 30 broadcast Koppel will recite the names of all the Americans killed in combat in Iraq. The list recounts the achievements of the 16th Combat Engineer Battalion, part of the 1st Armored Division, which has been in Iraq since the war started and remains on active duty there at this time. It was provided by Spc. Joe Roche, who serves with the 285-soldier unit.”
This seems uncontroversial to me, but it really hit a nerve with this guy:
The National Center for Public Policy Research:It amazes me that somehow you wish to draw controversy out of a simple reading of the soldiers who have died in Iraq. Shame on you for your simplistic opportunism to get press for your organization.
My deceased father George Massie Gividen, Jr. will be inducted into the US Ranger Hall of Fame this July. He served as a Marine before he was accepted at West Point. Among his many citations and awards from the Korean War are the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver,Star, Soldiers Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and 5 purple hearts. He then taught at West Point and served in the Civil Service until he retired a few years before he died. If he were alive, he, like me, would have sat through every minute of the Nightline program paying his respects to those soldiers who have died over there.
I spoke to my brother J. Richard Gividen, a retired Army officer. Though he missed it, he also wanted to see it. In fact I am sending him a copy. He also confirmed my father would have been glued to the television.
My nephew, SPC Dustin Schafer with the 2nd Brigade Recon Troop Iron Horse, just got back from Iraq about a month ago. He told me he is shocked that someone would not want people to know about those that have given their life in Iraq–in fact he was injured while his driver died in a Humvee accident. His words about you–“what a bunch of assholes.” His friends in his unit share his sentiments.
As you can see my family is full of military people who all support the idea and spirit of this show. I teach government here in Texas and I tell my students daily the number of soldiers who have died. Why do I do this? Because I think they should know the sacrifice which goes on daily in their name. That at least for those couple of minutes they will soberly think and pay their respects. I do not see how an informed public is a bad public. Does this somehow make me a bad American? Does this make the members of my family bad Americans? I think not.
Maybe you need to reexamine your beliefs and see if you really are pro-soldier, and pro-American. From here in San Marcos and Fort Hood, Texas, and from Arizona you are not looking to patriotic. I will be sure to mention your group as a fine example of partisan politics over substance to my class. Thank you for your time.
J. Michael Gividen, MA
[street address deleted]
San Marcos, TX 78666
I made several comments about the Koppel broadcast in this blog, available here, here, here, and here, but none of them urge people not to know about or pay respects to our military war dead, or take the position that “an informed public is a bad public.” And there was certainly nothing obviously partisan about anything we said about Ted Koppel. Heck, I watched the show myself — I just wanted it balanced with something about what those men and women died for.
As I said at the time, the Nightline controversy really was much more about perceptions of Ted Koppel’s entire body of work than it was about the soldiers and Marines. I’m not convinced even now that Koppel himself understands this, but the controversy over that broadcast played the useful role of making sure the broadcast could not be turned into an anti-war tool.
We do get rather a lot of hostile mail here. It is not the first hostile e-mail that has me perplexed, and I don’t suppose it will be the last.