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Cost of War? 74 Billion. Cost of Free Speech? Priceless
Published on Wednesday, April 16, 2003 by
Cost of War? 74 Billion. Cost of Free Speech? Priceless
by Jill Rachel Jacobs

If truth is the first casualty of war, free speech may be closing in at a close second. Just ask Crash Davis.

Well, OK. So you can’t actually ask Crash, the veteran baseball player of the movie “Bull Durham,” because he isn’t real. But that didn’t stop the President from making an unpopular unilateral decision recently that left some calling for his resignation. No, not President Bush, but Dale Petroskey, President of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former Reagan press secretary, Dale Petroskey, thought it was best to cancel the 15th anniversary celebration of the movie, “Bull Durham,” scheduled for April 26-27 at Cooperstown, because its stars, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, have been outspoken against the war. According to Petroskey, the actors’, "very public criticism of President Bush ... helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger."

Learning the news of this latest attempt to intimidate and silence those who disagree with The President, (Bush, not Petroskey), has left me almost speechless. But as a mature adult possessing well-developed communication skills, I believe I speak for many of my fellow Americans when I say, “Ewww..."

While I’m no expert on the perils of war, it would seem to me that sending Americans to battle in hostile territories with real guns loaded with real bullets and other deadly weapons meant to kill may actually be the culprit here. So perhaps The President, (Bush, not Petroskey), has put the troops in harm’s way, not actors merely suggesting that they didn’t agree with the war.”

Is it me or does it seem that the collective maturity of the nation has taken a steep dive? What is about this war and the current political climate that has caused some of the good folks of this nation to regress to an emotional maturity level of about age twelve?

First if was that whole French Fry business. In order to get back at “Le French” for their refusal to join the “coalition forces,” a boycott of French products ensued. So I stopped eating French Fries and replaced croissants with rolls and only consumed “Freedom Fries," “Freedom Toast” and “Freedom Pizza,” (hey, what can I say, I like pizza).

Anyway, I guess I’ll be able to work off some of the excess weight I put on from all the stress and confusion that resulted from trying to figure out what foods are “war friendly” as I think I put on a good five pounds after consuming large quantities of “Freedom Carbs” while attempting to determine the appropriate patriotic food du jour.

The “piece de resistance?” In a throwback to the Boston Tea Party, some patriotic Americans began tossing perfectly good bottles of previously purchased French wines overboard from their flag adorned SUV’s. Sacre Bleu!

The Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore and Democratic Presidential hopeful and distinguished Vietnam War Veteran, Senator John Kerry have all become recent honorary inductees into the “Dare To Speak Your Mind During The War” Club,” after merely expressing views shared by millions of Americans. It seems that some of my fellow Americans remain under the erroneous impression that First Amendment rights are conditional and that a different set of rules apply during wartime.

But unless the constitution has changed, now may be the time to speak up or forever hold your peace. And while keeping quiet during wartime is nice in theory, it may not be realistic, considering the anticipated timeline for the war is expected to be a little on the lengthy side-at least until the next election or until the cows come home, whichever may arrive first.

Since when do we all have to think alike anyway? The world would be a pretty boring place if we all shared the same view and besides, differences of opinion provide a necessary system of checks and balances for those in power. And while we may agree to disagree about many aspects about our current foreign policy position and the ongoing “war on terror,” I haven’t met many who would argue that foreign regime change and toppling of governments, welcomed or unwelcome, has done much in terms of raising our popularity in an already increasingly hostile anti-American world, let alone, making us feel any safer.

The irony here of course is that the very thing we claim to be fighting for, “freedom,” is the very thing that is compromised when the rhetoric of war is used to silence those who disagree.

In one of the more memorable scenes from the film, “Bull Durham,” Kevin Costner’s character, Crash Davis, delivers his “I believe” speech. Well, I have beliefs too.

I believe that speaking one’s mind during wartime is not an act of treason. I believe that I am not always right, except when it comes to the preservation of freedom of speech.

Like Crash Davis, I also believe in long, slow, deep, wet kisses that last for three days, (providing both parties have been tested for any underlying potentially contagious life-threatening health conditions.) I believe that the end doesn’t always justify the means and I believe you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone.

I know there will be people who disagree with my feelings about dissent during wartime and some will even have some choice things to say about me. But as a mature adult possessing well developed communication skills, I believe I speak for many of my fellow Americans, when I say, “I am rubber and you are glue…”

Jill Rachel Jacobs' recent publishing credits include The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Syndicate, The Independent, The Baltimore Sun, The San Francisco Chronicle, Newsday, The Los Angeles Daily News, Pundit Magazine, Tom Paine, Public Radio's Marketplace and Morning Edition, The CBS Sunday Morning News and CNN's Crossfire.


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