Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Stand Up for American Values

One year while I was in graduate school I happened to spend the New Year holiday in Washington D.C. I visited several different museums--most notably I got to see the Deceleration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

I spent a lot of time that afternoon squinting and reading the very faint handwriting. They are in cases made of titanium and filled with argon gas to protect the delicate fibers and pigments on which our society is built. It wasn't the first time I read these documents. It hasn't been the last. It was, however, the most important of my encounters with these documents. I found it deeply moving to be so close to these documents. These fragile pieces of paper hold a contract that we all have with each other--the basis for our society and our civilization.

I don't know about you, but a lot of what I see parading around during this political season has absolutely nothing to do with what I think of as American values. The hate spewed around the country has absolutly nothing to do with the ideals held in these documents. Check them out for yourself. Maybe you'll agree that there is no reason for extremists to claim ownership to these documents for their perverted views of freedom.

This really is just a preamble for a video I came across this morning. As regular readers know, I live in an undisclosed location in the Merrimack Valley Region of Massachusetts. An Iraqi restaurant near my home recently was vandalized: a yet to be identified individual threw a brick and broke out the establishments windows.

Robert Mills of the Lowell Sun writes:

LOWELL -- An area veterans group pledged to fill every seat in Babylon, a downtown Iraqi restaurant where owners feared hatred drove a man to throw a 20-pound rock through a window last Wednesday.

Instead, those veterans filled every seat twice.

Lowell police said they identified the man who threw the stone, and that he confessed. He will be charged in Lowell District Court, though police say his motive was not hatred.

"Unless this gentleman is lying to us -- and I don't believe that he is -- he didn't even know this restaurant was affiliated with people from Iraq," said Lowell police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee. [People engaged in criminal acts never lie, right Superintendent Lavalee? --JEM]

The suspect, a New Hampshire man who will not be identified until he is arraigned, will be summonsed to court to face a charge of breaking glass in a building, a misdemeanor.

Patrick Scanlon, a Vietnam veteran and coordinator of Veterans for Peace who organized the show of support, voiced skepticism that hate wasn't involved, but said it was nonetheless important to show support for the family that had been hit hard by fear.

Scanlon was joined at 25 Merrimack St. by veterans of the Iraq war, such as former Army Sgt. Rachel McNeill, of Allston, who served from 2002 to 2010 and spent a year in Iraq serving on a gun truck that escorted convoys, and Chris Borden, of Chelmsford, who continues to serve in the Army Reserves after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scanlon was also joined by veterans like Paul Brailsford, 96, of Ipswich, a former captain in the Merchant Marines who served in the Pacific hauling weapons and supplies to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's troops during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The veterans, joined by the likes of Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy, held flags and signs in front of the restaurant as they took turns sitting down inside to eat meals.

Owner Leyla Al-Zubaydi and her father Ahmed Al-Zubaidi said their family was terrified the vandalism was fueled by hate. Ahmed Al-Zubaidi said the incident drove his wife to tears, and prompted her to question whether the family should close the restaurant. The show of support from veterans and the community drove her to tears of joy last night, he said. "This solidarity gives us the courage to stand," said Al-Zubaidi. "There is no more fear in my heart because there are such nice people behind us."

Scanlon had pledged to fill every seat of the restaurant, but by 8 p.m., Leyla Al-Zubaydi said more than 100 people had eaten in the restaurant, which seats about 50.

Lavallee said the man who threw the stone will be arraigned at a date to be determined.

I think the people from Veterans for Peace that filled the restaurant with support are a symbol of what true American values are. Don't you? I'm so very proud of them.

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