Wednesday, April 2, 2008

American Apathy?

Writing this post was difficult for me. It is difficult to criticize the war in Iraq without in some way implicitly condemning those who fight in the war. Because I am not (allowed to be) in the military, I have the privilege of saying that the war does not affect my everyday life too much.

Critics of war critics say that Americans must always "support the troops." Patriotism demands one response, they say. No matter what, criticism is prohibited. What goes unsaid is that apathy will suffice.

I am not apathetic.

It is that I feel powerless and irrelevant.

The other day, at the gym, I was listening to a podcast of testimonials from Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan. The testimonials included a family of a soldier who committed suicide while suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. One soldier, a woman, read the testimonial of another woman who was raped and then discharged from the military because she was raped. Another former soldier talked about torturing, abusing, and killing Iraqi civilians. With remorse in his voice, he apologized to the Iraqi people.

After hearing some of the effects of war on the human beings who are sent there, and of the abominable acts of our soldiers and military, again, I feel anything but apathetic.

The more testimonials of veterans I read and listen to, the more I come to believe the famous quote by Hermann Goring at the Nuremburg Trials:

“Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

But I am still left asking "What?" What is it we can do?

Do we watch American Idol because we don't "care" about the atrocity of war, or because we don't think we can do anything about it?

We are all told that we are "responsible" for this war, as citizens. But are we really? Within the bounds of the law, I have trouble thinking of what else I could have done. I marched. I contacted Congress. I donated to Peace Action.

When I think about the war, I feel incredibly sad. I feel guilty for what our government is doing and has done in our name. But at the same time, I am having some difficulty mustering up personal responsibility for it.

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