Attention must be paid!
All four of us had our favorite focal points on our trip across the nation. Monuments, families, photos, letters, and of course, the troops, young and confident, coming back or heading out. But I think we will be forever impressed by our memories of the Patriot Guard Riders and their simple ways of making a difference in a stranger’s life.
I suppose most of all, I was struck by how, no matter how often we trained the camera their way, they would quietly redirect our attention. “It’s not about us,” they’d say. “It’s about them.” Their organization does not collect dues, they do not have meetings. They just keep phone numbers and email addresses, and when a family calls, the message goes out. As Don “Pappy” Papin of the Oklahoma PGR said, “Sometimes a few can show up, sometimes a hundred. But someone always will.” They provide escort and respect, protect the family, stand at attention to welcome back troops, walking or not. They quietly hold flags at airports and say, “Welcome back”, and then quietly leave until the next time a returning soldier is expected. Their names don’t matter, just their presence. They feel that, in the words of American playwright Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid!”
I recently came into possession of a copy of a letter sent to a chief of police from the legal representative of a certain group of protesters. It warned that “Once again members . . . will be in your jurisdiction reminding the people about the dangers of promoting homosexuality and that there is a God . . . we request that law enforcement fulfill their duty to take responsible steps . . . It is a sound and very simple practice for law enforcement to establish a place for each group demonstrating and place a reasonable ‘dead zone’ [interesting phrase] between the groups to deter attacks against our members.”
Personally, if I were a police chief, I’d consider it a tad insulting to be instructed in my responsibilities by someone so wholly unconnected to them, but that’s neither here nor there. The letter went on to say, ” It is well established nationwide that our members are at all times and in all ways law abiding and non-violent.”
I would be interested in asking several million survivors of verbal and emotional abuse, if they would consider such abuse to be “non-violent”. But I would not invade any family at a time of grief, after the worst kind of loss that a family can endure, to ask their opinion of such “non-violence”.
The letter went on to “request that your department have a police presence during this protest to keep the peace . . . to be a deterrent to those who oppose our message and would conduct themselves unlawfully in response.”
Like many groups, these people are using the freedoms of this country in the hope of provoking some sort of “unlawful response”, such response being the only thing that gives their own beliefs some credence. Let’s all join with the Patriot Guard and American veterans in not letting these people make a mockery of the civil liberties that a young man lost his life protecting. Let us all turn our backs to them and give them the attention they deserve – which is none at all.