NOTE from the teacher: Our UW-Madison students responded very positively to Tim O'Brien's award-winning "non-fiction novel" The Things They Carried. One freshman in particular, Irene Burski of Bethesda, Maryland, used an excerpt from O'Brien's book as an opportunity to articulate her views on all that's just and unjust about the nation's more recent "wars."
"There should be a law, I thought. If you support a war, if you think it's worth the price, that's fine, but you have to put your own precious fluids on the line." -- The Things They Carried (p. 40).
Had (such a) law existed in 1968, we never would have gone into Vietnam. We'd never have gone into Iraq. It's easy to warmonger from the remoteness of your couch in front of your television, or from the safety and sanctity of Congress, but what if the battles you picked you actually had to fight?
"It's the same old place."Barry McGuire's song "Eve of Destruction" tells the ugly truth of our America. Those that lucked out in the Russian roulette, birth randomness of gender, of demographic, and of socio-economic status wouldn't have to fight, leaving those "naturally selected against with" to bear the rifle and wear the uniform. We honor those that serve with our highest regards and then send them halfway across the world, while we watch from behind at a greater distance. The individuals with strong voices sell the wars they start as just with the old lie of denial that "we're not on the eve of destruction."
The last time we were "officially" in a Congressionally declared "war" was World War II. The last time the draft was in effect was for the Vietnam War. It's a pipe dream, but what if our leadership was responsible for being on the lines instead of just signing off on the next battle?
Silence is a good metaphor for the majority of the everyday American home front in response to Afghanistan and Iraq. We don't have to ration anything for the troops. We don't have protests uncomfortably glaring at us from all angles. If someone who had no idea about the war on terror were to judge us solely on lifestyle choices at home, they would not guess that we were at war.
By the implication of its name, the term "home front" denotes a line of civilian fighters chipping in to the war effort from home. But can that term really apply to home life in the U.S. both today and during Vietnam?
We're drifting away from our wars, and I worry about how removed and isolated we are. While the distance to Vietnam and Iraq is roughly the same (read as: far away), my generation that remains on the theoretical home front is much further removed from Iraq than the Vietnam generation that remained on the home front was from Vietnam.
Is there any way for war to become a nation-wide effort again? How can our government make it so the non-invested become invested again? Is it a free-for-all draft? Mandatory two-year service? Has there been a movement in recent years to institute such a change?
The system we have right now fundamentally isn't fair.
Because right now, the blood and consequences are left without absolution on the hands of our troops, when the rest of us are just as accountable.