A recent article on Iraq Body Count’s web site detailed the struggles of a soldier who came home from the war with devastating injuries. Blind, brain damaged, and missing both hands from an explosion, he is one of the many casualties of the Bush/Cheney debacle. This soldier is 25-years-old.
I walk the streets of New York City amid a rush of people who span the age spectrum. Many are young adults near the age of this maimed soldier—near the age of so many of our troops who have been killed or disfigured in the neocon nightmare of multiple tours of duty, improvised explosive devices, depleted uranium exposure, the obliteration of a culture, and a humanitarian crisis. And, most likely, they are near the age of many of the Iraqi suicide bombers who are fighting against American occupation.
Sometimes, during my walks, I overhear conversations. Often, the topic is American Idol, Apprentice, or something equally banal. I rarely hear mentioned the crimes and outrages of a president whose policies have resulted in wretchedness at home and in the Middle East.
I remember in the run up to the Iraq war, there was discussion of whether or not Bush would invade the country. My neighbor across the hall was sure Bush was bluffing. I was certain he wasn’t. I recall sitting in a restaurant, having lunch, when three young men (probably not much older than many of our soldiers) in business suits, were seated at the table next to mine. One of them began to praise the toughness of George Bush and gushed about our high-tech arsenal. “Smart bombs,” he repeated. “We have these smart bombs.”
My head began to pound. Finally, finally, I said, “These weapons of war that you believe are so precise aren’t. Bombs aren’t smart and neither is George Bush. Tough and stupid are a terrible combination.”
This guy let me know that he wasn’t interested in my opinion. My friends tried to distract me. His seemed a little embarrassed. One of mine said she knew I was going to say something. She just knew. I left, thinking that war to him must be a video game.
Now that this atrocity has moved into its fifth year, I don’t overhear any street-corner, café, or waiting-room debate about what is being done in my name and yours. Of course, the war and endless war are the main topics when I’m with my friends and fellow members of the different peace organizations.
Which leads me to ask: Are many of our young so captivated by entertainment that there is no interest in reality? Or is the drama of television competition their reality?
Surely, if conscription is reinstated for the Project for the New American Century’s endless war, eventually, those in their mid-twenties would be called to serve. If these young Americans aren’t roused from their stupor by the horrors of war, the horrors of Abu Ghraib and legalized torture, the horrors of Walter Reed, the horrors of inadequate body armor, the horrors of the contemptible and delusional George Bush and the contemptible and delusional Dick Cheney, then, only a draft will penetrate their consciousness. Unless it’s even worse than I think and they would march off, lemming like, as directed by the “Decider” or his successor, while discussing who they voted for as soon as the Idol phone lines opened.
I wrote the above words a week before my sister Laura and I spoke as members of Gold Star Families for Peace at Washington Square Park for the March 20 Student Day of Action Against the War. The New York University chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network planned the event at the park to coincide with actions all over the country. About 150 students attended the rally near NYU’s campus. One commented that her generation seems to be apathetic.
At the Harvard University rally, a shouting match erupted between members of the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ) and students from the Harvard Republican Club (HRC). According to an article in The Harvard Crimson, the president of the HRC, Jeffrey Kwong, said, “We wanted to make sure that students and Harvard community know that the Republican Club is right behind the troops.” Kwong went on to say that the antiwar protestors are not supportive of fighting terrorism. “We support our troops, and we support the fight against terrorism. We want victory,” he said. Someone needs to remind Kwong that our continued presence in Iraq contributes to terrorism, that Iraq had no connection to the terrorist attack on 9/11, and that if the HRC is really “right behind the troops,” he and all those members of his club need to get their ivied asses to the nearest recruitment station and enlist in one of the branches of the armed forces. Maybe, they, like Dick Cheney during the Viet Nam War, have “other priorities.”
Three days before these rallies, Laura and I were at the big one—the march on the Pentagon with more than 20,000 people opposed to war. There were plenty of young adults and teens participating in Washington DC. Passionate and vocal, they called for an end to war and the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney. The counter protestors were loud too and separated from us by barriers and police officers. Some carried signs that said, “Support Our President.” Others called us traitors. One displayed a sign that said, “PEACE SUCKS.”
Perhaps, soon, more and more of our youth will awaken, throw off that blanket of apathy, examine the crimes committed by this administration against the people of Iraq and the people of the United States, and emerge as defenders of justice who will not allow the peace baton to ever be dropped again.