Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Time to ante up and kick in

Two weeks ago, I went home to a large, home-cooked dinner with my immediate family and my grandparents. These events are a frequently renewed tradition in our family, which, as we age, become increasingly equal parts rare and sweet with each passing occurrence.

My grandfather slipped a disk in his back not long before I returned home. He now walked with a slight limp that was painful for him to endure and painful for me to witness. Quietly proud his entire life, it was sobering to watch him struggling simply to stand and walk. This, the man who impressed upon me, among other things, a love for history, civics, baseball, God, clear lakes, cold beer and the harmony between dirty fingernails and a clean mind.

He suffered through poverty as a child, the sort of which I could never hope to understand and the details of which he has never fully disclosed. There were times when he knew hunger, real want as you and I cannot conceive of it.


He worked to avoid that hunger and never forgot how, lifting himself over a lifetime like other members of his generation, carrying similar burdens. And he never forgot — I’ve yet to see a crumb of food left on his plate after one of those dinners.

His personality doesn’t lend itself to scolding, I was always ashamed as a child if a crumb was to be found on my plate in his presence, and, as I age, I’ve taken on his habit of avoiding wastes like those mentioned above.

We’ve had many of those dinners throughout my life; it is hard to imagine a day when the occupants of the room will change, as they fade away from heads of dining tables across America.

When that day comes to my own home, I will suffer deeply.


It’s hard to miss the new “fixtures” on Library Mall lately. “Suffering in the cold to show that the refugees must not be ignored!” their signs proclaim. “Stop the bombing!” (which is yet to begin).

I often wonder why the thousands of Kurds, innumerable tortured political dissidents and millions of Iraqi women who have been held as chattel and stripped of the last pieces of human dignity were ignored for the past 12 years.

Now, however, the chance exists to affect real change, create real “awareness” …

And so tents and edifices are erected with conveniently purchased supplies, whose inhabitants enjoy the comforts with thermal sleeping bags, Coleman tents, fresh food and breaks when desired.

Iraqi citizens don’t get a break while their supposed benefactors clamor for the status quo.

Literature distributed at the site by the group Stop the War! warns that such liberation would be “costly” and “dangerous.” “Billions of dollars should be spent on health care and education here at home,” they claim.

I suppose Iraqi health coverage is unrivaled the world over.

A group dubbed “Books Not Bombs” claims campus administrators across the United States must “freeze or lower tuition and fees.” This in the name of peace? Who, again, is motivated by self-interest?

What, I wonder, is the price of a western liberal education to an Iraqi? At the least, it must be bought through escape from his homeland at risk of death. At most, it is simply unattainable.

But those of typical student age in contemporary America cannot understand the pain of true oppression. We are more completely free of burden in thought and deed than any people who have walked the earth before us. And we are possessed of more comforts that disconnect us from our peers in Iraq than one could begin to quantify.

The constructs on Library Mall, the pamphlets, the graffiti, the marches, the strikes; all have little to do with suffering. They’re borne of an overt desire to assuage the guilt of inconsequence. Idealism only goes so far. For most on this campus, it’s as far as they’re willing to go.

Tragically, suffering in Iraq will not begin when bombs start to fall. Yet it certainly will not end until they do.


In the months to come, a boisterous few of us, secure in our insular, academic world of the docile Midwest, will chant with bellicose pride:

“NO BLOODSHED FOR OIL!” — in a land where oil is now more precious than blood.

“NOT IN OUR NAME!” — will a people be freed.

And, in the months to come, I will sit in my office perched above State Street, hear their chants and peer from a window to see them march — witnessing their “powerful acts of defiance” in a land where defiance is void of risk.

Simultaneously, and almost ironically, a brave and selfless few of us will suffer in the months to come. I will watch on television as they struggle, and will suffer for our generation as they suffer for our country’s safety and the liberation of a people to which they have no connection but humanity.

We bid them farewell from our classes and residence halls now, as orders are meted out. Their fates unsure, their destinations “classified.”

“NOT IN THEIR NAME” — will a calling be ignored.

“NO BLOODSHED FOR OIL!” — only bloodshed for consequence.

It’s comforting, and humbling to know there remain among our generation volunteers yet to forget the charge of their own grandfathers.

Eric Cullen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history and political science.

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