Last weekend I was driving through my hometown of Olympia, Wash., when something struck me as peculiar. Cruising across the Fourth Avenue bridge downtown, I could see hundreds of people holding signs and yelling about the Iraq war. Their united message was one of displeasure with war and President George Bush’s plan to send more troops overseas to continue fighting.
My observation was not what struck me as strange; there are often protesters in downtown Olympia. But what was intriguing, and troubling, was the lack of young people I saw as I drove past the demonstrators. After discussing the issue with my family, I realized they too had noticed the lack of teenagers and college students participating in the protest. Sure, there were a few college students. But not what would be expected, especially with the liberal-minded Evergreen State College so near.
That night on the news there were scenes of protest from across the country. Tens of thousands had gathered around our nation’s Capitol for the same purpose. In the national protest, the focus was also on the older generation, likely many of the same people who participated in the Vietnam-era protests. It seems strange to me to look back on footage from the 1970s and see that a majority of Vietnam War protesters were young people — college students.
Today it seems the bulk of war protesters are middle-age people. It is clear that as the leadership of our nation has strayed further and further from the people’s will on issues, such as Iraq, more people have come out to protest. The protests that took place across the country on Saturday may have been the largest demonstration of anti-war sentiment since the Iraq war began. But the older generation seems to be carrying all the weight.
I believe it is crucial for the teenagers, the high school- and college-age people of our nation to take some responsibility for their own interests. It seems that as an age group we are too lazy and apathetic to participate in political discourse. There are many possible explanations for our lack of involvement, maybe the simplest of these the most likely: We would rather sit at home and play video games or watch television. On weekends, I often have a hard time waking up early enough to catch an hour of daylight, but I realize now that sometimes we must sacrifice what is easy for what we believe. Whatever our personal opinions are, we must make some effort to support them. Eventually, there won’t be an older generation to do it for us.
Soon a time will come when the weight of public interest and civic responsibility will fall onto our shoulders. Will we be ready?
Trace McKellips Daily Nebraskan (U. Nebraska) U-Wire