Many cared about the Iraq War of 2003 and marched in the streets against it. I cared about that war only because I was in it. I cared about the soldiers who dug and shared trenches with me in the desert as we moved through Kuwait up to the border. I cared when we were bombed by possible chemical weapons and we shook each other awake to put on our gas masks. Often we’d sleep in our chemical suits; it was easier and they made the nights warmer. I cared about the Iraqi soldiers who surrendered and threw their weapons on the ground, followed by raised hands and “Mister, Mister” and pleading turned to smiles as I held out my hand.
I feel for the soldier who is now sent to a war which is ending. Obama says it’s nearly over. “How do you expect me to care, then?” this young soldier must think.
Twitter, Facebook, computer games, films, books, magazines, and the Internet are full of war. The images, words, and voices bring it closer but it’s still not real. The Vietnam vets cry that you don’t understand because you weren’t there, man! I suppose it’s hard to care if you weren’t.
In a few years when our war is over and others are still raging, how much will people care about the veteran in the wheelchair? Or the one on the street with a cup for coins? Everybody has roles they’re supposed to fulfill during a war. Politicians are supposed to lead the military with honor, the military is supposed to win the war, and the civilians are supposed to stay glued to the news.
When you hear, “A soldier was killed in Afghanistan today,” do you reach for the dial? Do you keep listening? Or do you tune away? If you have friends or family out there, I guess you stay tuned. If you’ve served you stay tuned but if you don’t know anybody over there, I guess you just get on with your life. It’s the intimacy that makes you care. It’s easier to care if it’s happening next to you. If it’s happening to you, your family, your friends or your neighbors, then you care. If it’s not, you probably don’t.
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