Wednesday, June 21, 2006 | I received two diametrically opposite communications on-line today.

The first, from a conservative friend and ex-Special Forces colleague, was one of those widely-circulated messages allegedly couched in the language General George S. Patton would use if he were speaking to us today – or more correctly, if he were speaking to those who disagree with this president’s handling of the Iraq conflict, and who have decried some of the acts committed by our troops in the course of that conflict (specifically, Abu Ghraib). This message says, in part, “To those whining, panty-waisted, pathetic Maggots, it’s time for a little refresher course on exactly why we Americans occasionally have to fight wars. See if you can tear yourself away from your “reality” TV and Starbucks for a minute, pull your head out of your flabby ass – and LISTEN UP!” So, if any of you disagree with the initiation and present course of the Iraq conflict, or if you have the nerve to deplore Abu Ghraib, I guess you know where you stand in the eyes of those conservatives who adopt this point of view.

The second message, Keith Taylor’s column, “The Great Hope: An Honorary Vet,” has quite a different message. Pointing out that he always disagreed strenuously with the politics of Bob Hope, and frankly didn’t even much care for the comedy that made Hope famous, Taylor nonetheless shows us what it is to genuinely value dissent and what it means to respect the inherent right of others to disagree with us. Over the years, Bob Hope became Taylor’s hero despite their acute political differences because, in his decades-long USO tours, “[Hope] was under fire more than most who wore the uniform. That would include me, a Navy veteran of 23 years.” The Legion memorial statutes that Taylor tells us about will be “life-size,” but he then adds, if so, “Bob Hope’s should be 30 feet high.”

Two messages, two entirely different tones. Take your pick.

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