Posts Tagged ‘war’

Where have all the protesters gone?

April 7, 2008

(First off, I apologize to anyone who now has that song stuck in your head.)

In the mindless web-browsing that generally accompanies temp work, I came across this article, and it got me thinking about how we think about the Iraq war. Or, rather, how we manage to avoid it.

In past wars (so I’ve heard), there seems to have always been a public reaction. The Vietnam War sparked protests across the country; World War II had people rationing their nylons and buying war bonds. These are very different reactions, to be sure, but both are strong, effective, emotionally-driven responses to a national crisis.

Contrast that to the response that Sean Gilfillan (the veteran who is the subject of the above article) has found:

Everyone he met expressed polite support. “But,” he says he wondered, “what are you doing? Are you joining the military? Are you protesting? What percentage of your life does the war actually take up?” Most people seemed more likely to have a strong opinion about Britney Spears than about Iraq.

We (and I most certainly include myself here) do not consider the war on a regular basis; the fact that most people underestimate American casualties by 1,000 is proof of that. Perhaps it’s true that previous wars only got the reaction they did because of the draft, or because daily life in the US was directly impacted. Perhaps the administration has done so well at turning “not supporting the war” into “not supporting the troops” that people feel guilty about speaking out against it. Perhaps we have access to so much media now that it’s too easy to avoid anything uncomfortable. But the fact is, we are five years into this war with no end in sight, and people are dying by the day. We can’t afford to turn away from it.

So take a stand in the fight against apathy. If you’re against the war, speak out. Loudly. Join a protest. If you can’t find one, start a protest. Write down what you think, and tell people to read it. If you’re a knitter, make a pair of Lisa Anne Auerbach’s Body Count Mittens. If you support the war, speak out for it, and tell those around you why you do. Engage in debate, with informed opinions.

Whatever your stance, the most important thing is to be involved. Don’t turn away because something is uncomfortable; keep yourself informed, and inform those around you.