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The Wasatch Behind: a Rocky Reception in SLC

Sun Advocate Columnist

Next week, a National Convention of the American Legion will be held in Salt Lake City. Veterans from all over the United States and many foreign countries will converge on our fair state. The President of the United States will be a featured speaker and we should be honored to have him here. The President doesn't come to Utah often.

The convention is a good thing for Utah. Thousands of legionnaires and their families will bring millions of dollars into the state. Heaven knows we can use the money and the national exposure. It's an opportunity for Utahans to put our best foot forward. There will be news people in town from all over the world.

Unfortunately, Utah has a reputation of being a land of religious weirdos and comedy-central liquor laws. Many people see us as na�ve country bumpkins or slaves of the dominant religious order. The recent publicity about polygamist Warren Jeffs hasn't helped much.

Having a big convention in town is a chance for us to show the world that we are real people after all. We are not a bunch of weird, religious crackpots or fanatical red-necked members of the Mormon militia. We are normal, decent people with mortgages to pay, families to feed, and jobs to take care of. We are the backbone of the nation. Welcome to Utah, America's veterans and President Bush. You are among friends.

But then - enters Salt Lake City Mayor, Rocky Anderson - stage left.

Rocky is going to be sure the world doesn't see us as a group of right-wing, conservative, polygamist fanatics, bless his heart. He's going to show the world that Salt Lake City is full of left-wing, liberal, in-your-face fanatics.

I'm afraid we lose either way.

The mayor of the host city is actually going to lead a protest in downtown Salt Lake to dramatize his opposition to the war in Iraq and the overall policies of the Bush administration. Some of his radical far-left friends, Cindy Sheehan for sure, and maybe Michael Moore, are coming to town to be on TV while shouting obscenities at the President's motorcade.

Rocky did the same thing last year when the Veteran's of Foreign Wars held their convention in Salt Lake and invited the president to speak. No wonder an invitation for him to address the convention has been rescinded this year.

The mayor's protest promises to overshadow any positive news coverage of Utah or the convention. Rod Decker will be there with his microphone, and old hippies will strut their stuff in front of the camcameras. Rocky will speak and Gothic peace-lovers will swoon. Who knows, the whole thing might be as groovy as Woodstock.

I'm sorry Rocky, but I think you should be a more gracious host in spite of your personal views and long-held political leanings. Give us a break. In your official capacity as mayor of our capitol city, you represent all of us, like it or not.

In my humble opinion, you dishonor yourself, the office you hold, and every citizen of Utah by doing this thing in such a public way. As a private citizen, you are free to protest any way you choose. But while acting as mayor of the city hosting the convention, you should show more discretion and more class. When you address that howling group of protesters after being introduced by your official title, you shame all of us.

A few years ago Bill Clinton came to Utah shortly after the Monica Lewinsky affair. Though some of us had perfect contempt for the man, there were no organized protests. The Republican governor didn't lead any anti-Clinton rallies and Rush Limbaugh wasn't invited to speak. We had respect for the high office Clinton held, if not the man, and we showed the world that we are a civilized people with good manners. We sent Clinton a message at the ballot box, not the street. We would appreciate the same respect and consideration from your side.

Our nation's largest organization of war veterans should be able to meet in peace in Salt Lake City without dodging anti-war protesters. And they should be able to hear the speaker of their choice without it causing a riot. They too, have a right to free speech.

You've always claimed to be a champion of "tolerance," Mr. Mayor. Show us that you mean it.

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