It’s The War, Stupid
November 7, 2008
“I’ll put it to you like this: in the aftermath of 9/11, I had a few friends join the army out of what they felt was their patriotic duty. Now, if a commie from Massachusetts like me had friends join the army after 9/11, I’ll wager that lots and lots of politically neutral people my age from across the country had friends who did the same thing. What’s more, I’ll bet a lot of these people were sent off to Iraq in 2003.
“After it was revealed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, a lot of people who saw that their friends and loved ones had been put in danger over a non-existent threat were pissed. What pissed them off even more were apologists within the conservative movement who said that it was no big deal if we never found a single weapon of mass destruction anywhere in the country.” (Brad)
When I think about it, something in the way I view Iraq changed once I got to college. I’ll be the first to admit that I grew up in a rather insulated East-Louisville-Bubble, and while I wasn’t quite so detached from reality as many of my high school classmates, even the Evanston/Northwestern Bubble required some adjustment. Other than one or two distant relatives, several times removed, whom I’ve met rarely, I didn’t know anyone currently serving in the military until I came to college. [UPDATE: That line is wrong — people who were upperclassmen when I was younger, and a handful of older siblings of friends should also be included there — but the fact that it took me until I was lying in bed to realize this proves what I was trying to get at.]
There’s an odd sensation, too, when you look at the newspaper and see that the soldiers who are dying are your age exactly, no longer six or seven years older. Or your brother’s age.
I’m still trying to fully grasp the day my freshman year when the girl who lived down the hall was curled up on a couch crying for several hours straight because she stumbled across a newspaper clipping that one of her friends from middle school was dead in Iraq. I remember that she was muttering, over and over, that she never even knew he was there, while a mutual friend held her, rocking her back and forth. I was so distracted shaving that I cut myself more than a few times.
I know I’m naïve and I’m sheltered, and I’ve been fortunate beyond belief not to have lost anyone over the last eight years. But seeing someone who I cared about who had was like a punch in the gut.
A friend of mine who I lived in a dorm with for two years gets up at four most mornings for NROTC training. There are times when I’ve been around him and it hits me: he’s willing to die—for me. And those are overpowering because of Iraq and the risks it entails for him, and I have an ever-growing respect for him. But it just makes me all the more pissed at the Bush Administration et al. They don’t deserve him, or any of the others I’ll never meet. And they’ve never even really tried to–the lack of honesty and responsibility is, frankly, disgusting when you consider the sacrifices that are asked for.
So while Iraq isn’t the whole story, and while John and I would probably have our differences on how the GOP ought to re-orient its foreign policy, I think he’s pretty much right when he says:
“[T]he stubborn refusal to acknowledge this reality is pretty much a death sentence for the present incarnation of American conservatism … and that is pretty much as it should be.”
And these conclusions, anyone interested in rejuvenating conservatism among the 18-29 year-olds should note, had nothing to do with what my professors said. It had a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that at eighteen, I saw no reason not to wait to shave until just before Shabbos services, then couldn’t get thoughts of war out of my mind while trying to sing “V’shamru” and not cry, and that I have a friend who I can’t talk to without thoughts of death creeping into my mind.