I often tell my students that one of the most useful tools a writer can use is juxtaposition. It allows authors to show the real character of a person or organization simply by the act of placing it near something else. It’s hard not to think about juxtaposition when I consider the keynote speakers chosen by the Montana Republican and Montana Democratic parties for their signature events.
Who did the GOP pick? Michelle Bachmann, who hates veterans (at least she did, until she got caught):
If Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) wanted to make a name for herself by proposing to cut funding for veterans health care and disability compensation, she has succeeded. "Such an ill-advised proposal is nothing short of heartless," according to Disabled American Veterans Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman.
"It is unconscionable that while our nation is at war someone would even think of forcing our wounded warriors to sacrifice even more than they already have," Gorman said. "Their injuries and disabilities were the result of their service to the nation, and our nation must not shirk its responsibilities toward them. How do you tell a veteran who has lost a limb that he or she has not sacrificed enough? Yet Rep. Bachmann wants to do just that."
Who did the Democrats select? Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth has dedicated her life to public service and defending veterans rights since serving as a Blackhawk combat helicopter pilot in Iraq, where she was wounded in action during a rocket attack. She lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm. She was awarded the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge.
Since her recovery, Duckworth served as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and testified several times before Congress on medical care and employment issues for veterans. In 2007 she received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award and was named the 2008 Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans.
It’s that kind of symbolism that reveals the deep divide between the two parties. One defines its patriotism with flags on their lapels, the other defines its by staying committed to the promises our nation has made to its soldiers. That’s why Representative Rehberg talks about supporting veterans but doesn’t serve their interests.