OPINION – Having a clearly defined set of principles is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. I learned this the hard way about 10 years ago.
During the build up to the Iraq War, it became clear to me that our nation was being herded into an unjust, unnecessary conflict. Iraq bore no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. They had no capability of materially harming the U.S. The rationale for invading Iraq shifted every time the most current excuse failed to survive scrutiny.
As a conservative talk radio host, the safest bet would have been to jump aboard the bandwagon, wave the flag, and cheerlead for the war. But I could not reconcile those things that were inconsistent with the limited constitutional powers of our government and the concept of Just War.
I never claimed to have all the answers, but I could see that some things simply didn’t add up.
So I spoke out about it on my radio show. I questioned the wisdom and morality of ordering the members of our armed forces into harm’s way for such dubious reasons. I pointed out the inconsistencies in the official statements and the incessant fear mongering that was taking place. And the backlash was immediate and thorough.
Callers from throughout Southern Utah jammed the phones daily to take me to task for refusing to support the war hysteria. One co-worker made a daily pilgrimage to my desk to argue the war with me. Our station manager called an emergency meeting with the entire staff to stress the importance of supporting the war because that’s what the community wanted to hear.
At the time, my program comprised just three hours of the broadcast day. The other 21 hours were filled with undeniably pro-war hosts who agitated relentlessly for war with Iraq. But somehow, my admittedly minority viewpoint was perceived as dangerous and destructive.
The pressure to conform was constant, intense and, at times, very personal. My wife asked me on more than one occasion: “Is it worth it?”
Like most people, I have a deep desire to be loved and appreciated. But in this case, the approval and acceptance of others had to take a backseat to my desire to be true to my principles. Bucking the trend of popular opinion made life extremely uncomfortable for the next couple of years.
It’s possible to develop a thicker skin over time, but it’s a lot tougher getting used to being vilified.
In retrospect, it would have almost certainly been easier to either become a sycophantic supporter of the Iraq War or to have simply gone silent on the subject. But either one of these actions would have required a tacit denial of principles or truths for which I stand.
No matter how isolated I may have felt at times, by knowing and staying true to my principles, there was a surprising consequence. I retained my credibility with my listeners; even with those that vehemently disagreed with me.
In the years since, I have been approached by a handful of individuals who have quietly pulled me aside and expressed appreciation for my willingness to stand firm on the Iraq War. A few have even uttered the words “You were right.” But that’s not why I chose to speak out. If I had to do it again, I’d do it gladly. The only thing I would choose to do differently is incorporate more diplomacy.
Truth isn’t dependent upon consensus or approval in order to be true. In every age and in every conflict, there are times when it is necessary for people to stand for it — no matter how unpopular. Of course, this is often easier said than done.
As Joseph Sobran used to say, “in every controversy, most people care much less for what the truth is than for which side it’s safer and more respectable to take.”
Anyone who chooses to stand for truth will find that there is a price to be paid. One reason that many people are reluctant to take a stand is that they’re unsure what their foundational principles are.
We need more individuals that are willing to examine their own hearts and determine where they stand. And then we need them to stand strong no matter what the crowd may say or do.
This is obviously easier to ask of others if we’ve been willing to do it ourselves.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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