I have respect for people who support this war for logical reasons. While I disagree, there are people on this campus and around our country who have decent reasons for being, as the media calls them, “pro-war.” However, I have no respect for those who question the appropriateness of opposition to the war. I am embarrassed that people take the position that in times of war, we must reduce our protest and stand in unity behind our troops.
In Jon Schwartz’s column in Monday’s Daily, Give intercession a chance, Schwartz follows the lead of our president and gives us a choice roughly parallel to “you’re either with us or against us: You either support our troops or you are anti-war.” This false dichotomy is painfully common. The apolitical statement of support for soldiers’ wellbeing reveals nothing about an individual’s opinion about war. People who are anti-war can support troops as well -the two are not mutually exclusive.
The underlying assumption behind this logic is that people who argue against the war once it has started are unappreciative of the common soldier, unappreciative of their own freedom and secretly wish for the triumph of Saddam Hussein. Somehow, protest against war has become equated with disrespect for he sacrifice of soldiers and anti-Americanism.
The start of war isn’t the death knell for protest. The day war begins demands comment from anti-war coalition forces. People who swung from opposition to the war to full-hearted support once soldiers were in battle display their moral relativism.
These fickle people had their opinions changed from one day to the next by the simple action of starting a war. Think about the awful precedent this sets. According to this logic, all a president must do to gain approval for a war is to start fighting.
This specious logic is readily apparent in much of the superficial analysis of the current protest movement. People find fault with those who protest war as the first bombs fall. Instead of protesting an event as it happens, apparently it would be better if everyone stays silent until the war is over, then we can all look back and say, “Oh yeah, I was opposed to that war.” Instead of immediate action and attempts to end this war while still in its infancy, some people would rather wait four or five years until it becomes painfully obvious that we should have been fighting against this war from day one.
Schwartz wonders, “why are we so unwilling to give this intercession (war) a chance?” He argues that is wasn’t until 1970 that major protests were held to end the Vietnam War, claiming that it took that long to find out for sure it was “hopeless and wrong.” I wonder why people are willing to wait six years before we begin to wonder if war is the correct action. After all, there are kids our age dying over there right now.
The comparison to our parents’ protest is understandable, though misguided. The anti-war movement today might appear to follow in the footsteps of our parents. After all, many anti-war activists fit the stereotypes that media and popular culture associate with protest. Some bang drums, sing songs, wear hemp and carry signs urging the government to decrease defense spending, but people who are anti-war today aren’t your parents’ protesters. Today’s movement is far more inclusive, far broader and far more focused. It is an international group of everyday people from every walk of life and every nationality, ethnicity, race and class. Some might be trying to live up to their parents, but unlike our parents who primarily opposed the war because they were personally fearful of the draft, the movement today is against the war for moral, political, humanitarian, environmental and a full spectrum of other reasons.
Certainly, some anti-war arguments are reductionist and maybe some of the protest is centered too much on dislike of George W. Bush. But people on both sides are guilty of these lapses. Within a coalition as wide and inclusive as the anti-war movement, one should expect differing opinions on the reasons to oppose war. Here on our elite campus, anti-war coalition forces are following the goings on of the war and its ramifications far closer than most.
Schwartz misses the mark completely when he says, “the anti-war protesters on this campus, though, are too caught up in organizing their rallies and making their signs to examine the way that issues change.” Instead, it seems Schwartz, and others like him who blindly follow our leadership in times of war, are too caught up in drinking at the bar and following their basketball brackets to examine the way issues change.
Piskor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.