The words that you are about to read hopefully will shock you: Students especially, and Americans in general, for the most part, do not care enough about the Iraq war. That is not to downplay the true sentiments of people's wish for our troops to succeed, but I do believe that the disconnect between your everyday Americans and the people fighting for them is greater now than in any other major war our nation has ever fought.
In a USA Today-Gallup poll taken a few months ago, "11 percent of respondents said they had a close friend, family member, or co-worker who was wounded or killed in the Iraq war." According to a story from the Washington Post, it is noted that "more than 1.3 million troops had been deployed to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." So why the separation? Why such a disconnect between those who have so much riding on this war — parents, spouses, children and everyone else? Isn't it disturbing that the families of those 1.3 million people are spending their time fearing for the death of a loved one while we idle here, our only concerns being that of keeping warm, going to class, and maximizing our party time?
On the subject of parties, something struck me at my last holiday party, the Super Bowl last Sunday. Maybe you didn't notice in the anticipation of such an important football game, but where was the moment of silence for our troops? After Sept. 11, 2001, we rightfully took moments out of every nationally significant event to honor the dead. So what is going on that, during the war, a war in which the American casualties have now surpassed that of 9/11, and one in which we know many more will die, we cannot take a single minute out of our festivities to honor them? Although a moment of silence may sound like a superficial concept, it is the idea that our troops are not constantly in our minds that is disturbing. While it is true that the best way to cope with a mortifying situation such as 9/11 is to go on with our lives, there is a point at which coping becomes indifference.
One possible reason for the student disconnect is that college students are mostly middle class and up, people who notoriously do not fight in our modern wars. That is because we are currently fighting a war with a completely volunteer army. There are two types of people who volunteer to die for their country. The first are the people filled with the utmost of patriotism, willing to die so that our nation's ideals do not. The second group is those left with no choices in life, failed by a system that didn't do much to help them out; they are forced to sacrifice so much in an attempt to achieve the quickly fading concept of the American Dream. While many of the students at this school take for granted their advantage of a higher education, there are people our same age and even younger who would love to be here with us yet are forced to die.
The good news is that things are changing. A little more than a week ago, a large anti-war protest took place in Washington, D.C., that numbered in the tens of thousands, including a large UW contingent. Although it was a step forward, where are the million-person protests that took place during the Vietnam War? Where are the student walk-outs? Where are the famous people defying the government to take a stand, a la Muhammad Ali? My hope is that it does not take tens of thousands of Americans lives — like Vietnam did — for us to realize the magnitude of our situation.
We need to experience this war every day of our lives. We need to talk about it, read about it, and organize against it. It's not enough to simply post flyers or write articles. This campus was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam activity and needs to take a larger stance in the atrocity of today. I'm not sure what the missing link is between the students of the 1970s and their failed war and the students of today and ours, but we need to do more to find it.
We need to heed the words of soldier Keith Franklin, who was killed in Vietnam: "If you are reading this letter, you will never see me again, the reason being that if you are reading this I have died. The question is whether or not my death has been in vain. The answer is yes. The war that has taken my life and many thousands before me is immoral, unlawful and an atrocity. … I had no choice as to my fate. It was predetermined by the war-mongering hypocrites in Washington. As I lie dead, please grant my last request. Help me inform the American people, the silent majority who have not yet voiced their opinions."
Ben White ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and sociology.