Danny Dietz understood that "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing that is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept free by the exertions of other men better than himself."
Linda Cuesta and Emily Fuchs are among the "miserable creatures" John Stuart Mill was referring to when he wrote the words above. They're trying to keep the city of Littleton, Colorado from erecting a statue in honor of Danny Dietz, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.
Petty Officer Dietz was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, because, though badly wounded, he fought on to permit his team mates to escape from an ambush. Ms. Cuesta and Ms. Fuchs are among a small group of parents who want to keep his home town from honoring Petty Officer Dietz because the statue depicts him with his weapon.
"This statue's proposed location is within a three block radius of two elementary schools, a middle school and two parks, each with a playground," the protesters said in an email to neighbors and the news media. "As a community, we cannot allow the many young children in this area to be exposed to a larger than life grenade-launching machine gun."
"If I've got my 4-year old at the playground, I feel it would be a threatening image that would frighten her," Ms. Fuchs said.
"They should be putting up a peace dove instead," said Ann Levy.
Ms. Cuesta told reporters she was especially sensitive to gun violence because she had a child at Columbine high school in Littleton in 1999 when two mentally disturbed students went on a shooting rampage, killing 12 students and a teacher before they killed themselves. (Ms. Cuesta's child was not among the injured.)
Petty Officer Dietz's widow, Patsy, was offended by the comparison: "It's a parent's job, including these parents who are protesting, to teach their children the difference between two thugs who murder their classmates and a soldier who died fighting for their freedom," Patsy Dietz said.
"When a dove can protect our children from religious fanatics who'd like to behead them, I'll visit the National Peace Dove Memorial," wrote Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi. "For now, I look forward to taking my kids to Littleton and explaining why guys like Danny Dietz deserve to be honored."
The city of Littleton is standing firm, and the dedication in Berry park of the statue to Petty Officer Dietz will go forward as scheduled on the Fourth of July. The vast majority of the people in the south Denver suburb support that decision.
Somehow I doubt the scorn of their neighbors will make much of an impression on Ms. Cuesta, Ms. Fuchs, Ms. Levy and others of their ilk. To modern liberals, people like Danny Dietz are a puzzlement, because for modern liberals, nothing is more important than their feelings, to which all others should make accommodation.
The emphasis contemporary liberals place on "Me, Myself and I" was neatly expressed by one Jenny Ballantine at a town meeting presidential candidate John Edwards held at the University of New Hampshire last week.
Ms. Ballantine is a 22-year-old college student who, she told Mr. Edwards, has to work part time and has student loans to pay off.
"I'm busting my ass in school, I work 25-30 hours a week, and it's just me and my dog," Ms. Ballantine told Mr. Edwards. "So what can you do for people in my situation?..You know what? It's about me. It's about me voting for you or supporting somebody who's going to be the next president. So it's all about me right now. Just give me something."
Danny Dietz was just a little bit older than Ms. Ballantine when he died. Many who have perished in Iraq or Afghanistan to preserve the freedom for Ms. Ballantine to pursue her dreams of a graduate degree were younger.
Mr. Edwards praised Ms. Ballantine's single minded focus on herself. "If I were choosing a president, uh, that's what I'd be doing," he said.
"I was really impressed with you, Jenny Ballantine, and I think probably everybody in this room was," chimed in Mr. Edwards' wife, Elizabeth. At Ms. Edwards' instigation, the audience gave Ms. Ballantine a rousing round of applause.
We've come a long way down a bad road from John F. Kennedy, who just a generation ago told young people: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
JFK would have understood Danny Dietz. What would he make of Jenny Ballantine?