August 17, 2005,
A sensible look at where were are.
My friend Martha Zoller, a radio-talk-show host on WDUN in Gainesville, Georgia, has been keeping herself busy lately. Besides being a member of a group of conservative journalists who visited Iraq at the beginning of July, she's been stirring it up with a letter last week in the New York Times. Her letter was about Cindy Sheehan and it stated, in part:
Cindy Sheehan gave a very different account of her visit with President Bush in June 2004. There has been no president in modern times who has spent as much time meeting individually with families of military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice... I think the real issue is, whom do you blame if your son dies and he volunteered for duty? In the days of the draft, you could blame the government. But if he volunteered and believed in the mission, whom do you blame? ... This is America's war and the world's war on terror. We are proud of the sacrifices of the fallen, and they are proud to have fought and died for Ms. Sheehan's right to question her president.
Martha's letter was published alongside five other letters that were uniformly critical of President Bush and the war. Since then Martha has received more than 150 e-mails, all condemning her views.
"I don't know how they all found me but they all did," she told me. "And, of course, being liberals most of them go on and on and on. But they all say the same thing as if they have their talking points. Some were very, very nasty calling me a Nazi or a concentration-camp capo. And, of course, the media is making the most of Cindy Sheehan's protest. Look, my heart goes out to her as it does to anyone who has lost someone. But you have 50 people protesting and you hear about it on every broadcast."
Did Martha get any favorable comments at all from Times readers? After all, a survey last week disclosed that New York is not one of the top-ten most liberal cities in the nation. We ranked 21 (thanks, I'm sure, to Staten Island and Queens).
"Well," she said, "I got three favorable comments but one was from a listener in Gainesville who must subscribe to the Times."
Martha's time in Iraq has made her especially sensitive to the attention Sheehan's protest has received. "While I was there, I heard it from everyone from the generals to the soldiers, their biggest fear is that they won't be able to finish the job. They feel that many at home are supportive and do understand the importance of what they are doing. But [they also feel] that the media is only reporting the bad news, ignoring the many good things that are happening. And that, in many ways, the media can be as dangerous as the enemy."
She also said she found that troops in National Guard units felt they received better support from their families than the regular forces. "The National Guardsmen were all worried about the regular soldiers. In fact, everyone was worried, not about themselves but about someone else. I talked with a soldier who was in the Mississippi National Guard out of Gulfport. He is Sergeant Eugene Dufrene. He told me that most of the guys in the unit had been together for almost ten years. The families know each other and help each other. They also get support from the people they worked with in civilian life and those their wives work with," she said.
Their mission is training Iraqi security forces in remote areas around Baghdad. Many of them were policemen or firemen in civilian life so law-enforcement training was something they knew a lot about. The sergeant told Martha what his unit was trying to accomplish and how they had worked through obstacles, making sure they had what they needed and making sure that they got the job done, she said. "He made me so proud while I was listening to him because you heard the voice of a soldier who had ups and downs in his service but knew through his own ingenuity and the partnership of his brothers in arms how to work through the system and find the solutions to the problems they are faced with every day."
Since coming back from Iraq, Martha, who is a doctor's wife and the mother of four children, has been going over the galleys for her upcoming book. Its title might surprise some. It is called, Indivisible: Uniting Values in Divided America, and will be published in November by Stroud and Hall. Martha truly believes that as Americans, red state or blue, we are more alike than different no matter how many e-mails she gets from readers of the New York Times. Once when I was in Georgia she wanted me to come to her son and daughter's high-school production of Fiddler on the Roof. "You have got to see it," she said, "because you really can't understand what's so special about America until you hear a teenager sing 'Tradition!' with a Gainesville accent."
Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.