On the John
Selected for PBS’s Washington Week
What would you fight for?
I have been asked this question many times, both by teachers and by myself. For me, fighting is not usually an option because it is against my nature and because I am small, skinny and not very tough. But if there were a direct attack on my freedom or my life, I think that I would defend myself.
Our country has not been put in a position in which we had to defend ourselves since World War II, but we are faced with one now. The perpetrators of the September 11th attacks are ready and able to wage war against us, and they can win.
As much as I hate to say it, I am beginning to come around on the prospect of war as a reasonable response to the attacks. Growing up, the first war I heard about was Vietnam, and listening to my parents, as well as my parents’ records, helped form my anti-war views. If the Vietnam War began today, I would still be against it.
In Vietnam, we were fighting an idea, but now we are faced with a situation that attacks our freedom and our lives—the two rights that I would fight for. My hold up still lies in the possibility of killing innocent people. I give my full respects and prayer to those who were killed in the attacks, but just because innocent Americans died does not give us the right to kill innocent people from Afghanistan.
For the past month, the IDS has been filled with columns and letters addressing the attacks on September 11th. I have enjoyed reading all of the different viewpoints, both those that I agree with and those that I don’t. However, I am disappointed in the amount of anger that I have seen towards each other. Letters that attack other people’s responses do more harm than good, because they lose focus of the real issues: helping those directly attacked, and ending terrorism. One letter that chastised the verbal protesters went so far as to call them “anti-American traitors.”
Disagreeing with someone’s ideas is acceptable and understandable, and stating why you disagree helps us better understand each other as humans. However, because this is such a new situation, I don’t think that anyone is in a position to judge the validity of anyone else’s response. For those people who feel like war is the proper course of action, I understand, even though I don’t completely agree. At this point, I am against the war because I am not yet convinced that it is our only option, although I am quickly reaching that point.
It is possible that President Bush was right to react with war, because terrorists are not going to sit down in a boardroom and discuss the problem. I have been struggling with this question of the correct response ever since I first heard about the attacks. It is true that sign holders will have no effect on the terrorists, but attacking them won’t do anything either. This is not a time to judge one another as Americans; it is a time to listen and to understand. After all, if we are going to war, we have a better chance of defeating one opponent than we do of defeating two.
Copyright 2001, jm silverstein