Pro-war residents wary to speak out

By Myles Murphy
Ashland Daily Tidings

While anti-war protests grab the crowds and the headlines, there are Ashlanders who support the war against Iraq – but you might not see them out in the streets.

Students from North Medford High School show their support for President Bush
during a March 5 anti-war rally in Ashland.
Tidings file photo.

“You can’t say anything without hurting someone’s feelings,” Ashland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post Commander Marion Jack said. “We’re all being bent to their way of thinking: ‘Think like we do or we’re going to vandalize your house or your car.’ ”

Others who were willing to speak openly also cited fear of reprisal as having a chilling effect on the free speech of Ashland residents who support the war.

“I believe people are afraid to speak out in this town because the liberals greatly outnumber the conservatives,” Joshua Tilley said. “It’s mostly the conservatives who are for the war.”

Tilley owns a vehicle which was recently vandalized with a swastika painted on the side of it.

“Somebody came by and vandalized my truck because I was flying the (American) flag,” Tilley said. “I guess freedom of speech is just one way in Ashland.”

Resident Marie Pugh agreed.

“I can understand business owners can’t speak out – you don’t mix politics with business,” Pugh said. “I don’t like war any more than you do and I don’t like seeing people killed, but you can’t tell me the protests downtown have been peaceful – stopping traffic and destroying property. People don’t want them coming to their homes and burning flags.

“I am solidly behind the president and I am solidly behind the war. We have to go that way now, and once the decision was made to go to war, I firmly believe these people on the left should have joined with the rest of us.”

Foreign Legion member and Ashland Police Department volunteer Frank D’Entremont attended the single pro-war rally in Ashland and a few others in Medford. He also noted an apparent lack of supportive voices in the city.

“People with the opposite view are speaking out, so what’s the difference?” D’Entremont said. “I think maybe they’re being intimidated.”

Most of those interviewed said they sensed hypocrisy from the peace rallies in Ashland in recent weeks.

“With all that anger and destruction – you can’t tell me that’s peaceful,” Pugh said, adding that the student protests of March 5 made her question the value of an Ashland School District education. “Now I’m hesitant to give them any more money, yes.”

“They have the right to do that (protest), that’s part of the Constitution,” Jack said. “But they don’t have the right to block traffic and scare people.”

The flag-burning episode in Ashland also incensed some pro-war advocates.

“I’m a veteran and served under that flag and don’t like to see it burned. That person dissed our whole country,” Jack said. “They don’t really seem to understand what happened in the past, but I don’t think all the people in Ashland think that way.”

For the most part, the pro-war position boils down to a belief that the world will be better and America will be safer without Saddam Hussein, those interviewed said.

“I’m not necessarily for the war, but I’m backing the president up because I

honestly believe he’s got good intentions and this Saddam Hussein has to be taken out,” D’Entremont said. “People say (what Hussein does) doesn’t effect us, but it does effect us – either now or later. This is a very dangerous person, this Saddam Hussein.”

Jack agreed, adding he believes Iraq supports terrorism against the United States.

“If we didn’t take it to him we’d be having more Twin Towers,” Jack said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. “It’s still possible he could sell any number of weapons to any number of people.”

“He’s killed, murdered, raped, pillaged – he doesn’t care about people,” Ashland resident and World War II veteran George Pugh said. “There are a lot of veterans here that do not sit well with this.”

But there is also a recognition that views in Ashland are in general more liberal than views in the rest of Jackson County, or for that matter, the nation.

“I’m not an activist. When I moved up to Ashland I thought be a wonderful place to live in,” Marie Pugh said. “But when I got here I started to see that everything was left, left, left, left, left, left, left. I don’t see how they can even march at all without using their right feet.”

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