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Opinion: UMASS columnist should meet the real Tillman

Insensitive writer now getting what's coming to him

 by Christopher Drexel
 published on Friday, April 30, 2004

Christopher Drexel<br>THE STATE PRESS/issues/sports/676150
Christopher Drexel
THE STATE PRESS
 

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You had to figure it was coming sooner or later. Some-where in the world, somebody would use the tragic death of Pat Tillman as a tool to speak out about the war on terrorism.

In case you haven't heard about it or read about it on espn.com, University of Massachusetts graduate student Rene Gonzalez wrote a column in UMASS's campus newspaper, The Daily Collegian, in which he said that Tillman "got what he deserved."

Gonzalez writes Tillman was a "real Rambo, who wanted to be in the real thick of things," that Tillman was a "pendejo, an idiot," that Tillman was a "G.I. Joe guy who got what was coming to him," that Tillman was "acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in," and that Tillman was "a poster boy for the dangerous consequences of too much 'America is #1,' frat boy, propaganda bull." Gonzalez then goes on to argue against America's involvement with Afghanistan and Iraq.

After apparently receiving death threats, being publicly criticized as "disgusting, arrogant and intellectually immature" by UMASS's school president, and being rumored to be afraid to go outside, Gonzalez wrote in an e-mail that "I was partly sarcastic on an issue that seems to be clear to a lot of people," and that "I did not write my words with sufficient 'political correctness' to make them palatable."

While I refuse to get into a political argument in reference to someone's death, I am disgusted to read that someone else decided to do so. Regardless of what anyone thinks about war, it is no one's place to bring satire to another person dying.

Gonzalez also writes in his reply that, "there is freedom of speech in this country, but not much toleration for its expression. Freedom of speech exists only for those that parrot the 'party line.' For those that even peep a dissent, only scorn is awaiting them."

Gonzalez clearly has no idea what free speech truly is. If what he was saying in the e-mail were true, then his opinion never would have been published, especially since he has experienced so "much hatred" for writing it. Gonzalez was clearly able to express his opinion, but now he is not willing to accept that others are simply strongly disagreeing with it. While we're on the subject of free speech, I would like to take this opportunity to exercise my right to it, and call Tillman a true hero.

And while I have never been very big on political correctness, it is not a matter of political correctness when making fun of someone who is dead, someone who can't defend himself -- it is a matter of decency. Gonzalez gratuitously stereotypes Tillman as frat boy who watched too many "Rambo" and "Clint Eastwood" movies, and even says "I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures."

In fact, Tillman was never involved in a fraternity in his life, and I doubt he had enough time to watch too many movies while he graduated with a degree in marketing in 3 1/2 years and a 3.844 GPA. And while Gonzalez's statements are asinine, they could also be considered libelous, and Gonzalez very well could have been sued, that is, if Tillman were alive to take legal action.

If this article actually got to Gonzalez, I am certain that he would see my picture and classify me as some kind of meat-head with my short hair, or that I must not be as intelligent as him because I write about sports, or God knows what else. But that's OK.

Finally, I'd like to share my views about Pat Tillman. I don't think he was overly macho, and I doubt he saw too many movies. But I do think he is one of the more honorable people in all of modern history.

And while it is important to remember all soldiers of the U.S. military and their sacrifices for our country, regardless of what war they fight, Tillman is the most selfless person I have ever heard of in my life. Tillman's life is every bit as important as other fallen soldiers, but his sacrifice -- declining a $3.6 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals in favor of joining the Army Rangers -- was indeed bigger.

Gonzalez did make one good point in his article when he wrote "it's not everyday that you forgo a $3.6 million contract for joining the military," and that "this was not 'Ramon or Tyrone,' who joined the military out of financial necessity."

Indeed, Tillman did not need what little money he got from the Rangers, and he already had an education. But he was an able-bodied American man who did what more than 99 percent of us would never have the courage to do. May God rest his soul.

Oh yeah, if any of you want to exercise your right to free speech, read his column at www.dailycollegian.com and drop him an e-mail.

Reach the reporter at christopher.drexel@asu.edu.



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