The death of Pat Tillman is an indisputable tragedy, not just for Tillman's young bride and his family, not just for football fans, but for all Americans.
Tillman was killed April 22 when his Army Ranger unit was led into an ambush fight in Afghanistan. According to the Army, Tillman was shot and killed while fighting "without regard for his personal safety."
Last night, I found myself debating the very freedoms for which Tillman fought. A friend asked me how I felt about the now infamous Rene Gonzalez article -- the April 28 article published in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian written by a University of Massachusetts student that debased Tillman and all that he stood for.
In the article, Gonzalez criticizes Tillman's "Rambo" mentality, saying that in his Puerto Rican neighborhood, Tillman would have been called a "pendajo," an idiot.
"This was not a ‘Ramon' or ‘Tyrone' who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education," Gonzalez wrote. "This was a ‘G.I. Joe' guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy."
My friend's question about how Gonzalez's article made me feel was easy: I was disgusted; I was repulsed; I was angry.
Answering the question that followed was just as easy.
"Why would any newspaper in America run such a piece of garbage?" she asked.
"Because this is America," I answered.
People like Gonzalez, however misguided, are guaranteed the right, under the First Amendment, to freedom of speech and of the press.
As editor of this newspaper, I don't always agree with the letters that we publish on our opinions page, but as Voltaire said, "I'll defend to the death your right to say them."
"But this article does nothing but torture this poor man's family," she countered.
While it's unfortunate that Tillman's family has no doubt been exposed to such opinions, civil debate is always healthy. By expressing opposing views, however radical, Gonzalez has helped solidify in us our own personal opinions.
And in fighting and dying as he did, Pat Tillman was defending Gonzalez' right to attack these same opinions.