Mary F. Commanday is the mother of J. Christopher Stevens, former U.S. Ambassador to Libya, who was killed in the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
The New York Times (of course) published her letter to the editor this past Friday in which she blasted GOP references to Ambassador Stevens’s death as “opportunistic and cynical.” She requested that Donald Trump and the GOP immediately cease using her son’s name for political purposes, claiming that her son would not want his name used that way.
I won’t pretend to know the depth of Mrs. Commanday’s pain, both in terms of her son’s death and the constant public reminder of it that she is having to endure. I don’t.
But endure it she must.
Calloused as it might seem, her son’s memory, and what he suffered, simply does not belong to Mrs. Commanday. Nor does it belong to her son, Ambassador Stevens. (I give Mrs. Commanday the benefit of the doubt that she does know best how her son would feel today, but even if that were true prior to Benghazi, is it that certain that this mother in fact knows best how her son would feel today for having lived through Benghazi? Until he didn’t.)
That shameful memory belongs to all Americans, particularly those who continue to serve in harm’s way, as her son did. And as the other three Americans did who also died in the Benghazi attacks. We must remain vigilant not to let such a deplorable event ever happen again. It’s too late to save Ambassador Stevens and the other three representatives who died in Benghazi. But it is not too late to do all we can to protect those who continue to stand in harm’s way to protect our country. Part of doing all that we can to prevent such matters from happening again is not allowing the memory of what happened in Benghazi to fade.
If such logic is not enough to persuade Mrs. Commanday of the error of her ways, then perhaps she should take a short time out and remember our Constitution that her son sought to uphold, in particular the right of free speech assured by the 1st Amendment.
Mrs. Commanday wants to sit in judgment of the GOP, calling them opportunistic and cynical, and denying them their 1st Amendment rights. And what about Patricia Smith? Mrs. Smith is the mother of Sean Smith, who also died at Benghazi, right alongside Ambassador Stevens. Mrs. Smith spoke at the GOP convention, blaming Hillary Clinton for the death of her son.
Does Mrs. Commanday also think Mrs. Smith is being opportunistic and cynical? Does she think Mrs. Smith should cease to express her views too? And to take advantage of the GOP convention to provide her with a national platform to do so?
And what about me? I often speak of Benghazi and wanting to be sure we do all we can to assure it will never happen again. Does that make me opportunistic and cynical?
This one’s easy. Mrs. Commanday simply has it wrong. All wrong. (And so does the New York Times for not including an opinion of the editors along side Mrs. Commanday’s letter to the editor making at least the 1st Amendment arguments set forth in this blog.) Mrs. Commanday certainly has the right to express her opinion. But her opinion is wrong. Even if it is strictly maternal, and not perhaps political as well. (Note that Mrs. Commanday hasn’t told us her political party affiliation and who she’s going to vote for in November.)
I am sorry for your loss, and your pain, Mrs. Commanday. I hope you know that all Americans respect and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice your son—and you as well—have made so that we can maintain our freedoms, including the right to say what and how we feel.
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