In my Core Russia class last semester we talked about the things Russians consider ‘normal’ in society. It was shocking that they wouldn’t think twice about having to pay the mafia for simple rights to start a business, or that their own government would provoke a war with the Chechens. It was appalling that such injustices and violence could occur on a daily basis without protest, or even notice. “Thank God we live in America,” we thought. But America is not exempt from this phenomenon anymore than Russia is.
Last Sunday marked the four-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. How many people in America even noticed? Sure, there were some protests at the beginning of the war, but now it seems we’ve just accepted that we’ll be involved in costly conflict in Iraq forever. It has become ‘normal’ to hear that two marines were killed in Iraq today. It has become ‘normal’ to hear that because the military is overstretched, they’re unable to offer aid anywhere else.
This was most noted after Hurricane Katrina, but effects were even seen this past winter when Denver was buried under feet of snow and the National Guard was too busy being deployed elsewhere to aid the people trapped inside their homes. It has become ‘normal’ for the nation’s budget to run in the red by spending billions of dollars (no exaggeration) on the war each year. It has become ‘normal’ for America to be hated around the world for our foreign policy in Iraq.
Because these are such widespread and frequent occurrences, we’ve begun to tolerate this as normal. Theses things weren’t always true. We take them for granted as typical occurrences of life because they’re so commonplace, but they are more controllable than that. Everyday we carry on with our own lives, and when we hear the news we let it slip in one ear and out the other. Don’t we care anymore? I’m not saying to grab your picket sign and head to DC, but show a little interest.
A few weeks ago, The Maroon-News ran a letter to the editor criticizing us for not covering the war in Iraq more. I’ll admit I felt personally indicted by it; our country is at war, and my last article was about the necessity of Spring Break. Colgate is a top liberal arts university, and yet we students here seem to care little about the situation in Iraq. I would imagine that at other universities, there are pages full of angry editorials or students trying to justify and support the war.
I know how hectic life at college can get. There are a lot of things to squeeze into a day – studying, social events, sleep. Still, I’m sure we can all find a few extra minutes to flip through the New York Times, or read the News feed on AOL when you first turn on your laptop. Read the blurb about the latest events in Iraq and keep track of what our military is doing. Then at least the actions of our country, both right and wrong, will not go unnoticed. Whether you decided to do anything with the information you learned or not is your prerogative.
Personally, I’m glad that there aren’t a lot of (or any) protests out on the quad. I doubt you’ll ever find me chained to a building or marching on Washington; I’m not a politically active person. I am, however, a politically interested person, and that’s what I preach. Don’t accept our nation’s gross misdeeds as “normal.” Stay current with the news and know what your country is doing.