What's Red, White And Blue With Black Eye?
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What's Red, White And Blue With Black Eye?
Patriots can suffer all manner of indignities for their country. Nathan Eckstrand is no exception.
23-year-old philosophy student is one of about 90 people from Hampton
Roads who joined 30,000 others from around the country to march in the
nation's capital Saturday against the Iraq war. It wasn't his first
Somewhere between 21st and 22nd streets along the
march route, Eckstrand says, counter-demonstrators awash in black
leather, camouflage, Marine insignias and the American flag lined both
sides of a sidewalk.
It was a gantlet of abuse.
were literally shouting in our ears," recalls Eckstrand, who is
volunteering at a Mediation Center in Norfolk before starting grad
school this fall. Eckstrand's mother marched a couple of paces ahead.
of them I guess was carried along with momentum and the feeling of
hatred on their side," he says. "He spat on me. And as I was walking
away I heard him call me a traitor."
He called Eckstrand another name as well. Expletive deleted.
Langford of Poquoson marched the gantlet, too. She's 26-year-old
student government vice president at Thomas Nelson Community College in
She's also an Army veteran. So she was placed with other veterans near the head of the march.
had never demonstrated before and had high hopes. When she first got
off the bus, she was so overwhelmed, so grateful to see so many people
of like mind that she wept.
Later, at the gantlet, tears streamed down her face again. But they were tears of another sort.
was so much anger and so much hate," Langford says. "They were cursing
us. They were flipping us off, spitting. That was very difficult for me
to go through because there was so much hate in the air."
So much hate, heading into the fifth year of a quagmire.
So many towns and cities feeling the hurt.
Eckstrand and Langford marched for peace, Smithfield was mourning a
young man killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq just days before he planned
to marry. Army Sgt. Michael Peek is the latest of 28 men with
connections to Hampton Roads to die in this war.
And on Monday,
the fourth anniversary of U.S. bombs dropping on Iraq, reporter
Stephanie Heinatz profiled just a few of countless local impacts.
local military mother and retired Navy captain who had to face her own
son's deployment. A war widow who is learning to love again. An
employer buckling down to cover for a worker called up for his third
tour. High-school students struggling to grasp the ethics versus
realpolitik of war.
After four years, communities here and all
over this country know the reality down to their bones. They've buried
their share, too.
They've also taken in thousands of men and
women so badly broken from combat that they will never be the same.
Lost limbs, scarred souls. Brain trauma, post-traumatic stress.
Everyone hopes that the spilled blood and torn flesh, the body bags and the grieving at gravesides won't be in vain.
A sizable portion of the population fears that it will.
fear that put protesters and counter-protesters in Washington on
Saturday. One side afraid that good men and women are dying for no good
reason. The other side afraid that that will be the verdict of history
- and furious at the prospect.
So, with no clear enemy to engage, they bully the peacemakers.
With a tragically flawed grasp of the individual rights their own country stands for, they try to choke off protest and dissent.
As if the loudest voice wins. As if pinning a flag to your chest makes you a patriot.
As if American-style democracy is forcing everyone to goose-step to the same tune.
ones who spit on their own countrymen for the sin of marching for
peace, for calling for our servicemen and women to be brought home safe
and soon, and for indicting the president and his cabal for instigating
chaos need a more robust appreciation of democracy.
Eckstrand, for instance, didn't want to lash out at the man who spat upon him, but talk with him.
one hand, I'm actually glad they showed because I think it's always
healthy for democracy to see disagreement," Eckstrand says.
obviously the way he expressed it was way over the line. His side was
trying to shut down disagreement. Disagreement is a good thing. It's
out there and they need to respect it, appreciate it.
"The American flag doesn't mean anything if you don't put any faith in it."
Copyright © 2007, Daily Press