Originally created 07/04/06

Protests are good practice of our rights as Americans



Black and white.

That is what many people consider the world to be. They do not consider the gray matter between the two extremes. Something either has to be one way or the other.

In the United States, some people take this approach to patriotism.

There is an idea that if a person is against the actions of the government, then he must lack support for his country. Lack of support for the people running the country does not, however, equal lack of support for the country.

You'd never suspect that living in this post-Sept. 11, post-Iraq war, immigration-debate era where people are told to leave the country if they do not fully agree with how the administration is implementing policies.

It's a common comment in The Augusta Chronicle's Rants & Raves section.

No citizen of the free world should ever need to "leave" because he is not in full accordance with administrative actions.

We saw similar sentiment in the 2004 presidential election.

Many people consider Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate for president, to be unpatriotic because of his harsh criticism of the Vietnam War and the manner in which it was carried out. Mr. Kerry testified before Congress about the war April 22, 1971.

One of Mr. Kerry's critics, Dan Tran, the president of the Vietnam Human Project, an organization designed to improve the human rights of Vietnam in time of conflict, said:

"John Kerry and his antiwar movement tried to slander and mislead the American public about their soldiers by saying that they were in Vietnam to kill women and children and that they had no business being over there. That was wrong."

What was wrong? Reporting to Congress about how poorly the war was being executed? Trying to explain how the U.S. presence in the country was a mistake? Criticizing the president?

I have another question: What is patriotism?

At its basic level, patriotism is the love of one's country. Love doesn't have to equal blind allegiance or eternal agreement, but rather a wanting of the best for the object of that love. Why is it that we think because someone criticizes the government and organizes a group of people in protest, he loves his country less? That doesn't make sense. In fact, one way to show patriotism is to exercise the First Amendment right to a peaceful protest.

Critics of today's antiwar movement say that if you are against President Bush's decision to go to war, you must be pro-terrorism, and, thereby unpatriotic.

Though some people who are against Mr. Bush just want something to complain about, the majority finds flaws and decides to point them out, in addition to possible solutions, so that something can be done to rectify the problem.

These people, and the ones who came before and will come after them, are speaking out to make sure their country is still a democracy. These people are speaking out to try to ensure peace for their country. They are not anti-America. Instead, they are truly patriotic.

As we celebrate the 230th Independence Day, let us not forget that we can love our country regardless of our political views.

Don't be afraid to voice your opinion. You're a better American for it.

Andy Johnson, 18, a 2006 graduate of North Augusta High School, will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall.