Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 9: Private Slovik, Freedom of Speech, Coretta Scott King

Billy's antique mother passed out, and Billy was led from the room by a pretty nurse.  The body of an old man covered by a sheet was wheeled by just as Billy entered the corridor.  The man had been a famous marathon runner in his day.  So it goes.  This was before Billy had his head broken in an airplane crash, by the way--before he became so vocal about flying saucers and traveling in time.

Billy sat down in a waiting room.  He wasn't a widower yet.  He sensed something hard under the cushion of his overstuffed chair.  He dug it out, discovered that it was a book, The Execution of Private Slovik, by William Bradford Huie.  It was a true account of the death before an American firing squad of Private Eddie D Slovik, 36896415, the only American soldier to be shot for cowardice since the Civil War.  So it goes. 

Billy read the opinion of a staff judge advocate who reviewed Slovik's case, which ended like this:  He has directly challenged the authority of the government, and future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge.  If the death penalty is ever to be imposed for desertion, it should be imposed in this case, not as a punitive measure nor as retribution, but to maintain that discipline upon which alone an army can succeed against the enemy.  There was no recommendation for clemency in the case and none is here recommended.  So it goes.

It's a chilling little passage about Private Slovik.  The death penalty imposed not to punish, but to maintain military disciple.  Slovik is killed to be an example, so that other soldiers do not simply walk away from their duties like Slovik.  It's not that he's guilty of a war crime--some violation of the Geneva Convention or something.  Torture or chemical warfare.  Nope.  He just walked away, perhaps out of fear or cowardice.  Or perhaps he just didn't want to kill any more.

Standing up for your beliefs is a difficult thing.  Ask Elizabeth Warren, silenced by her fellow senators for simply wanting to read a letter on the Senate floor.  The letter was written by Coretta Scott King, Civil Rights leader and widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She took a stand--the right stand--and she was punished for it.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution of the United States.  It's the reason I can sit here in my living room, typing this blog post that questions the legitimacy of the actions of the elected leaders of this country.  I do this without fear of being thrown into prison.  Because that is my right.  For now. 

I'm not saying that any soldier who gets arrested for desertion is a patriot.  I'm also not saying that all opinions are equally valid or correct.  What I am saying is that, whether I agree with your opinion or not, you have the right to express it.  And I also have the right to argue against it.  That's what Senator Elizabeth Warren was doing.  Expressing a point of view.

You may not agree with Senator Warren.  You may think that President Trump's face should be carved into Mount Rushmore.  Write a comment about your beliefs on this blog.  Put it on Facebook.  Tweet about it.  That's your right.

And it's my right to disagree with you, with civility and respect.

Saint Marty gives thanks tonight for freedom of speech.  Keep persisting.

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