Are this war in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror the defining events of our generation?

Zac Peskowitz

I will acknowledge that these two monumental undertakings will have an extraordinary influence on the shape of our futures, and on our current way of life, but I refuse to allow for this generation of Americans to be defined by the T-word.

I am declaring that we are not The Terror Generation.

To resign to such a label is to resign to futility; it is to resign to fear; it is to resign to violence; it is to resign to lost hope. This graduating class and those that follow it are not being educated so that they can bomb caves in Afghanistan and die in the streets of Baghdad. We are scientists and philosophers and doctors and artists and we will do more good for this world than harm. We will not shirk from responsibility when action must be taken, but we will not be overcome by fear and violence. This is not The Battle. It is a battle, which may or may not require combat.

There are, from time to time, dire situations that call for war. Regarding this threat in Iraq, I have found myself growing more and more convinced that Saddam Hussein has a stockpile of weapons that needs to be destroyed, or contained. Secretary of State Colin Powell has pulled some aces from his sleeve and he displays an impressive hand. But it pains me, as it pains the several hundred thousand people who protested across the globe last weekend, that before there was an opportunity in this country for a discourse on peaceful action there was a rush to war and violence. That rush has been spurred by a Texan cowboy and his rhetoric of fear, and it aims to keep Americans unnecessarily frightened and vindictive. Diplomacy is not a dead end. Ask any man or woman who has seen combat, and your answer will be that war is to be avoided at all costs.

In response to the largest organized protests since the Vietnam War, President Bush asserted defiantly that “(To account for the) size of protest, it’s like deciding, ‘Well I’m going to decide policy based upon a focus group.'”

Maybe so, Mr. President. But when your decisions lack the support of your fellow citizens then they truly lack the full strength of America. You speak of strength and ask Americans to join in an era of self-sacrifice, but clearly Americans are not fully behind you. I applaud your language but I’m afraid the breadth of the request is too narrow. Rising to the occasion doesn’t always mean putting on a chemically retardant suit and shipping off to the Persian Gulf to flex military muscle, especially without asking a lot of questions. Rising to the occasion, in this case, means acting sensibly and intelligently. Your simplistic rhetoric is creating a panic and clouding the nation’s judgment. We may suffer a terrorist attack today, but we will not allow for fear to govern our behavior. There is a tyrant who poses a threat, and of course he must be addressed. I am not yet convinced that he must be addressed by firing ammunition at other people in the hopes of puncturing their vital organs and torching their cities.

These days are defined by fear, and if we are not careful they will be defined by more violence. “The Terror Generation” will not allow itself to be overcome by those painfully human characteristics. We – whatever we may be called some day – are not agents of war, nor are we perpetrators of suffering. We all see the crisis and are gravely concerned, but we understand that there are paths to peace that don’t include war. President Bush wants to create The Terror Generation, but we will not let him. However, we will join with him in finding a peaceful end to the tyrannical reign of Saddam Hussein. And when this beast is slain and we begin to heal rather than to harm, then a clever nickname can be assigned.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself, said Franklin Roosevelt. Smart man – and he wasn’t even being told to duct tape his windows.

Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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