Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Free Speech in California

I have seen posts to this incident on No. 2 Pencil and Joanne Jacobs, and had to wait a little while before posting something rather than getting a little profane (need to keep the site clean for the kids).

It seems as though students have forgotten a statement by Jefferson that goes a little like this, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed by the blood of patriots." That may not be an exact quote, but it is pretty close. A few quick thoughts from the story. The story revolves around a career fair at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where a group of more than 200 protesters "stormed" a career fair due to the presence of military recruiters. For the uninitiated, any school that takes federal funds (which is just about every school thanks to federal grant programs) must allow military recruiters on campus. This is hte Solomon amendment.

The military recruiters, from the Marine Corps. made the wise decision to attend in civilian clothes rather than uniforms.

Two Marine Corps recruiters, dressed in street clothes, declined to comment.

Some students at the job fair defended them.

"It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, that has given us the freedom to demonstrate," said Adiofel Mark Mendoza, a sophomore from San Diego who came in his ROTC cadet uniform.

Two freshmen from Santa Monica put Marines stickers on their T-shirts to show their support.

"They are just providing an opportunity," said Patrick Casey, who grew up in a military family.

His friend Chris Swanson criticized the protesters.

"If they want free speech, they should let people speak to the recruiters," he said.

It seems that Mr. Swanson and his friends understand Jefferson's meaning.

I served in the military at the time of the Gulf War. In the weeks leading up to the war, my unit was forbidden from wearing our unit jackets, which were technically civilian but everyone owned one since our commanders allowed us to travel as a unit with the jacket over our jumpsuits. We were not permitted to leave the base alone for fear of attacks on our personnel--and we were stationed in Washington DC. My shipmates and I were actually called "baby killers" once, even though none of us had ever fired a shot in anger and I couldn't recall the last time I had seen a baby.

A few months later, I had a public relations assignment giving tours of the Pentagon to civilians when a woman asked me why I was such a war mongerer. Aside from the oddity of this anti-war civilian taking the tour of Pentagon, I replied in the answer we were told to give, which was that the military in America is under civilian control of hte political branches. If she had a beef with U.S. foriegn policy she should take it up with the President or Congress.

A little while later, a gentlemen came over to me and complimented me on my restraint, he would have told her what to do with herself. I replied that my job as a member of the military is to protect her right to say such things.

The difference between the recruiters and their campus supporters in this case and the protestors is that the military generally understands their place in the world and the role they play in keeping people like the protestors safe to complain.

What bothers me most about this story is the line:

The noisy sit-in ended after an hour of chaos and tension when military representatives vacated their posts. Student protesters hugged each other happily after administrators allowed them to hand out information on alternatives to military careers and agreed to a meeting to discuss future job fairs.

From reports, it appears as though the recruiters were among more than 60 employers. How many alternatives to military careers need be present to satisfy the protestors? In this meeting to discuss future job fairs, will military recruiter supporters like Mr. Swanson be present? (My answer is not likely).

Free speech is not a guaranteed right. Oh sure, the First Amendment protects that right, but it takes soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to guaratee that right. Which means we need leaders, which is why recruiters go to campuses to recruit future officers. Would the protestors be as vocal if the State Department or Department of Homeland Security had come calling? One wonders.

The only word that comes to mind to describe these children is dilletentes. Kids protected by the military, but failing to understand the role of the military in providing their security. As Jack Nicholson said in a Few Good Men,

I have neither the time or the inclination to argue with some who sleeps under the blanket of security I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide. I would rather you say thank you and move on your way, otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.

Students protesting military recruiters disrupt UCSC job fair By JONDI GUMZ SENTINEL STAFF WRITER April 6, 2005

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