Sean Smith & Michael Weil: A Democratic obligation

The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation,” Senator Joseph McCarthy said during his speech at Wheeling, W. Va. in 1950. Fifty-seven years have passed since that speech, and yet the ignorance of Joe McCarthy is prevalent among today’s reactionaries, including some of those at GW.

In a recent column in The Hatchet, leaders of the College Republicans called into question the patriotism of GW’s student body (“The Children of the 60s,” Jan. 16, p. 4). Gary Livacari and Peter Glessing claim that “anti-Americanism” permeates our campus. They write, “Our generation has been courageous in combat, but the home front has yet to wholeheartedly endorse America’s historic mission to transform the Middle East. Generation Y, which includes the GW student community, has denied the troops the steadfast support required for victory.” Our Republican friends believe that questioning one’s own government is unpatriotic and anti-American. The College Democrats could not disagree more.

True patriotism has to be more than blindly following a failed policy. By any measure, we are losing in Iraq. Contrary to the suggestions of our Republican friends, we are faltering not because of a lack of patriotism at home, but rather because of the geo-politics of the Middle East. Iraq is an artificial state of three distinct cultures; until the United States realizes this reality, we will continue to lose, regardless of how many men and women at home, or at GW, are devoted to the cause. President Bush has proposed escalating the war in Iraq by sending in an additional 21,500 troops. The College Democrats, along with much of the student body, will continue to show reverence to our country by opposing this escalation.

It is disconcerting that instead of focusing on the real issues facing our country, the College Republicans have resorted to small-minded attacks that have charged the student body as being unpatriotic. They fail to understand the true genius of American democracy – it is our freedom to challenge the leaders that makes us the envy of the world. As President Jefferson eloquently wrote, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” One must ask how the College Republicans can argue that we should spread American ideals around the world, while stifling those same principles at home?

The spirit of democracy is vibrant at GW – the greatest expression of patriotism is democratic participation. This is evident through the process of voting and individual devotion to public service. Additionally, students at GW are among the most politically engaged students in the nation. According to GW Votes, in 2004, 100 percent of our students were registered to vote, and that number stayed strong for the 2006 elections. Newsweek has rated GW a top school for “political junkies” because thousands of students come to GW to become engaged in domestic and international politics.

Ultimately, GW students pursue these careers not for individual enrichment, but to serve their nation and the world. Students on campus are unwaveringly patriotic by the most important measures. We will continue to serve our country by being engaged and dissenting with our leaders when they lead America astray. Our recent celebration of Martin Luther King Day reminds us of his immortal words: “Silence is betrayal.”

-Sean Smith, a senior, is president of the College Democrats.

-Michael Weil, a junior, is Director of Communications for the College Democrats.

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