To my grandson: (posted on his New York University student blog, beerandphilosophy.com)
Those of us actively engaged in the anti-war movement have had a spectacular lack of success in bringing the current wars to an end. We can't help feeling that if the youth of America were part of our movement, things would be vastly different. Unfortunately, we've seen little signs of student involvement or even, to be frank, concern. To us, it seems as if there is tremendous apathy among our youth as to caring about or even noticing that your peers (in age) are dying and suffering horrendous wounds every day in wars which we among the anti-war people deplore as unwise and unnecessary, as well as unproductive in terms of making the U.S. more secure.
During the Vietnam War, there was a massive student movement opposing that conflict. I don't have the expertise to analyze how large a role that played in bringing the war to an end, but I suspect it may have been one of the key (if not THE key) factors in persuading President Nixon and his cabinet to withdraw from that trouble spot.
Of course, as we all know, there was a draft at that time, which probably fueled the huge numbers of students protesting the war. Or, were there other reasons, also, for student participation? Was there a difference in political consciousness or even character in a young person of the 60s and 70s-- or what? Would a return of the draft now have a similar effect? Would it mobilize you and your ranks to revolt against the wars in numbers large enough to stop the occupations? Or would it simply add to the carnage of young people being slaughtered in Iraq and, now, particularly, in Afghanistan without effecting a change in policy?
Those are the questions I pose to you in your brilliant blog. I hope to provoke you to pay some attention to this matter, and, in so doing, stimulate discussion among you which will assist us in understanding your attitudes. Perhaps, then, we can figure out ways to engage you in our struggle.
It really is more YOUR struggle than ours -- the trillions being spent to fund these wars decrease assets for education, housing, health care, and most pertinent to your needs, JOBS. And, I don't want to alarm you, but in years to come, perhaps there will be a conscription and your lives will be on the line. Not a happy thought.
If you oppose the wars, as do I, then I should expect you to have some interest in trying to stop them. If you support them, I wonder if perhaps you are at all motivated to volunteer to fight in them. Tell me, I want to understand. Maybe you are all so despairing about citizen action having any discernible effect that you just want to concentrate on the things at hand -- your studies, your fraternities, your college-related activities. If that's the case, I don't blame you, certainly. I am very discouraged, too, and sometimes think, "What's the use?" I also realize that you haven't got the time, in all likelihood, to add protesting to your schedules. I remember college well -- that feeling you're always lugging a hundred-pound weight on your back as you try to do all the required reading, write the essays, and prepare for the tests. Ye gods, what pressure!