Why use ‘freedom of speech’ to protest the funerals of those who defend it?

Most of us in Canada and the United states have collectively prospered under the umbrella of human rights, rule of law and freedom of expression. We live our lives secure in the knowledge that each morning when we awake, those freedoms are protected, safeguarded by the brave men and women who man the walls in defence of our sovereignty.

So, when one hears that a group of people have chosen to protest a particular conflict, be it Afghanistan or Iraq, at a venue that venerates one of our fallen sons or daughters, one may chuckle lightly in view of the irony painfully evident in such an act.

The fact that the very people with the freedom to congregate in groups of like-minded individuals, free from persecution, then choose to exercise that right at a ceremony honouring the men and women whom made the ultimate sacrifice not only in defence of that right at home but also abroad, is intensely sickening. That being said, one may support the fundamental right of free speech without hesitation; one doesn’t need to agree with the messenger in order to appreciate the value of the message.

But what message is sent to our soldiers and their loved ones? At a time when a family and nation grieves the most for their fallen child, a select number of our society feel their duty is not to honour the sacrifice that was and continues to be made in the name of freedom, but to protest a government’s policy. A soldier does not decide foreign policy; they are tasked with the unenviable burden of war. Our servicemen and women hold vigil in the dark places of our world while we sleep safe under the umbrella of freedom they provide.

One has to question the motivation of protesting at a soldier’s funeral. Arguing that we have the freedom to do so does not entitle it to be done. It has been said that, for a cause to grow, it requires the attention of the masses. Well, a funeral for fallen soldier clearly fits the bill, and you would be hard pressed to find a news agency unwilling to cover such an event. Subsequently, all the eyes of our nation would be focused on such a sombre ceremony, exposure ideal to spread a message…but is that taking the message too far?

Freedom of expression must be tempered with compassion or we risk alienating the very men and women we depend on for our defence, men and women ready to die for our nation should they be called upon to make that sacrifice.How many of us would be so willing to lay down our lives for a land we were never born in or a people we will never know?