I got an angry e-mail this week from a woman who had visited the Flyer Web site to vote in the "Best of Memphis" poll. She was upset by an ad on the site for a bumper sticker that is a parody of the little black "W The President" stickers that were so ubiquitous a couple years back. But instead of a "W", this little black sticker has an "I", and the small type reads, "Impeach the President."
"I think this bumper sticker is the pits!" the woman wrote. "Instead of supporting OUR president, you put out garbage like this! Now I know why I never look at your rag!"
The woman is obviously one of the 33 percent of Americans who still support President Bush, and I respect her right to do so. But criticizing the president -- or even suggesting his impeachment -- is not un-American. It's expressing an opinion. It's what this "freedom" thing we're fighting and dying for is all about. And, like it or not, if there is money to be made selling "Impeach the President" stickers, then someone will sell them. It's the essence of the free-enterprise system.
But what's troubling is how perfectly the woman's e-mail reflects the relentless efforts of Republican leaders to conflate criticism of the president and his policies with disloyalty to America. Vice President Cheney said as much this week when he suggested that the voters who ousted Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman in that state's Democratic primary were somehow "helping the terrorists." Lieberman himself accused his opponent of taking the party in a "fringe" direction. (Sorry, Joe, but a majority is not a fringe.)
The latest polls show that 60 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war was a mistake and we should pull our troops out within a year. That doesn't mean 60 percent of Americans are "anti-war," "cut-and-run," free-love hippies who are afraid to stand up to terrorists. It means they are anti- this war. It means they have figured out that the best way to fight terrorism is precisely the way the British did it this week: with intrepid police work and undercover agents. And they've figured out that leaving our soldiers in Iraq to serve as collateral damage between two warring Muslim sects is not fighting terrorism; it's a horribly misguided policy and a waste of our precious resources and manpower.
You might even say it's the pits.
Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor