Column: American youth needs increased political involvement

The Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times.” This wise old adage is more appropriate to our current situation then ever. As we initiate a pre-emptive war on Iraq, the world is divided and people are choosing sides. I would like to discuss the Iraqi situation as a catalyst to explore a larger issue, young Americans’ participation in the U.S. political system.
As the Bush administration wages war on Iraq, we have to look at several critical factors that are driving this decision and the ramifications of such acts. September 11 has created an environment in which conservative, right-wing groups are now in a position to influence American domestic and foreign policy. Bush’s idea of democratizing Iraq is a noble goal and ambitious in scope, but it is motivated by greed, moral evangelical superiority and rooted in the spreading of U.S. hegemony. We as Americans tend to live in a bubble, insulated from the ramifications of our government’s actions. The consequences from this unjustified war will be irreversible damages. This war will further inflame the Muslim world and radicalize the Middle East, not democratize it, as intended by Bush and Co. We will see this administration further isolate itself from the world. How is the United States supposed to fight terrorism, which has a global reach, when Bush slowly erodes our relationships with the same countries that we depend on in defeating terrorism? It is as illogical as it is arrogant.
The most disturbing thing out of this whole ordeal is the lack of opposition from the Democratic Party. The opposition party in our country has failed to stand up to this administration. Their silence, as Sen. Robert Byrd from West Virginia poignantly stated, is “deafening.” The voice of dissent is the binding force of democracy; it is the driver that propels democracy across the world. The idea of dissent and its practice are the crux of any democracy. This is an administration that cares about only two things – scaring people and telling you whom to blame. Piece by piece, this administration is destroying the very fabric that makes this country great. We do not have to worry about external forces destroying America, this president is on his way of doing it himself.
The idea of patriotism has been floating around lately. A true patriot, a true believer in Americanism, is one who voices his dissenting opinion. During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. accurately admonished the war hawks for expressing “superficial patriotism.” One movie described them as “the right-wingers claiming that they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans.” Wearing it on your sleeve and screaming it at the top of your lungs does not make you a patriot. Why is the above mentioned important to us as young Americans? It is important because we do not live in a vacuum – these issues affect us.
We have to begin to be emotionally and intellectually involved in what is happening around us. Thomas Jefferson said, “An efficient democracy is an informed one.” Thus, the first step for young Americans in getting involved is being informed. Whether we engage the political process directly or casually discuss current affairs with friends, we are obligated, directly or indirectly, to participate in this democratic system. Our voice is integral and we cannot continue to be bystanders. Beyond the Iraq issue, as a community, we need to voice our opinions. We are not vacuous machines being led to the slaughterhouse. As young Americans, as citizens, but more importantly as human beings, we are bound together by a common desire for peace and security. The challenge is bestowed upon us as we enter into this dark period of the world.
-The writer is GW graduate enrolled in CPA training at the University of Houston.

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