Since the end of the Civil War, we have been relatively safe on American soil. Mass attack here was unheard of until the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed in 1995. Then things went quiet until a year ago, when the World Trade Center bombings again shocked this nation's way of life. Yet even those horrors did not permanently alter everyone's way of thinking and acting. New Yorkers may feel differently today, but for millions of other Americans, life has slowly returned to normal. We again gather in large groups, we walk freely into public buildings, we still travel on planes and trains and buses.
But that is likely to change.
With George W. Bush's plans to attack Iraq, now compounded by Ariel Sharon's vow to respond if Israel is attacked, Americans can expect a fundamental shift in how we think and act. Unlike the tragedy of Vietnam and other wars, where our grief came home in body bags and etched itself into the subtleties of our society, this conflict will bring violence itself right to our door. It will directly put at risk all that we hold dear -- our children, our freedoms, our homes, our futures, our hope.
Bush's proposal of an unprovoked attack on Iraq already has spawned condemnation and skepticism among our allies in Europe where, outside of 10 Downing Street, there is widespread opposition. In the Islamic world, much of which suffers from poverty and animosity institutionalized by years of lopsided U.S. foreign policy, this illogical war will burn hatred and a thirst for revenge into generations of Muslims. And because Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, Americans will re-learn and re-live still more bigotry, prejudice and fear.
Long sympathetic to Israel's plight, Americans will understand precisely the fear and second-guessing Israeli civilians experience every day when they get on a bus or send their children to the mall, when they go shopping or to the cinema or to a nightclub, or even when they go about their lives at home.
More dramatically than any other recent conflict, this one is poised to transcend the rhetoric of foreign policy and politics; the interests of big oil money and arms deals. This impending disaster has become the eyes of our children as they look to us for safety and security; it has become the poverty of our poorest communities, which produce the preponderance of the soldiers who will be called upon to fight on battlefields already toxic and radioactive from the weapons we used in the last war in Iraq; it is the bobsled ride down the mountain of our civil liberties. This impending war will blend racism, sexism, prejudice and economic disparity into the dirty bomb that implodes our society and turns the world as we know it on its ear.
As such, this war is not the territory of white, male policymakers in Washington. This war becomes the province of every woman who has produced a life; every community of color whose young men and women it stands to decimate and poison; every Jew who yearns to see Israel live in peace; every Muslim whose Allah is a god of peace; every teacher who believes in education; every scientist with a conscience; every doctor and nurse who work to save and protect life; every American who seeks to live in comfort and security.
We cannot follow our president with blind faith. Patriotism means thinking and acting as we have been taught to do -- with critical and clear analysis. It means protecting those we love and all that we hold dear. Patriotism today is drawing the line; it is telling George Bush that we do not agree, that we will not stand idly by as he brings this nation to her knees.
In no uncertain terms, say no to this war.
Kathryn Casa is the Editor of the Brattlebore Reformer
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