i was in japan for the 2000 presidential elections. when i came back to the u.s.a., i thought presient bush seemed like a fine guy. when we were attacked on sept. 11, he stood on the pile of rubble with the megaphone and rallied america together, and i, along with some 80% of you, gathered behind him.
the fighting in afghanistan was swift and effective; at one point we had lost only six soldiers, while defeating over a thousand of the enemy. mission accomplished.
then one night in march 2003, we were hanging out in 104, watching tv, when the president came on tv and gave saddam 24 hours to get out of baghdad. he didn't, so we went in, and thus began the iraq war, or whatever you want to call it.
regardless of nomenclature, that is the most universally controversial topic of our current government leadership.
what is going on over there, anyway?
i don't know, and i don't know if anyone does.
we don't even know how it's going.
it is hardly a contestable point that news services are skewed, biased, and edited. the rise in popularity of 'the daily show' has created an interesting trend in edutainment; last fall i heard a statistic on npr that a significant percentage of college age adults get their information from 'the daily show.' heck, i think we did in 2004. it was clever, funny, and the jokes and snide remarks operated only after showing a clip of the 'actual' news. further, you had to be educated and informed on the issues to understnad the humor. and in the world of single-serving news bites, the clips shown before jon stewart were nearly as informative as anything on msnbc or fox news. so why not get your news with a laugh?
it's unfortunately true that it is all about the ratings, and the other 'serious' news shows have had to compete for watchers. thus they have started pundit shows with sarcasm and more trivial news, soliciting laughs instead of information, further diluting the already bland media world.
but where is the truth, anyway? all of us have seen movie trailers advertising one story, but the actual movie is a completely different genre. context can be created however the editor-in-power wants. what clips do we show of iraq? a tight shot of a small crowd gathered around a toppling statue? soldiers terrorizing an possibly innnocent family in attempts to find insurgents? children playing playing peacefully the day before we invaded? iraqis sharing their gratitude for liberation?
regardless of the clip, cynical remarks on 'the daily show' don't do anything to support the situation; sarcasm just doesn't work that way. by nature of the satirical show, it mocks the current administration and the situation in iraq. and, just like in high school, we tend to rally around the cool rebel who makes witty remarks at the struggling leadership. it's easier.
look anywhere on tv and it is nigh-impossible to find anything by or for a twenty-something audience that supports the war or the presidency. billie joe is selling far many more albums by protesting the amercian idiocy than proclaiming patience and endurance. john lennon's charisma carries on even today, left hands raising in proclamation of 'make love, not war', insisting that if people are dying, it must not be a good idea.
i am not advocating that everything is going peachy in iraq, or that there aren't things we could be doing better. i am saying that there is a problem with the modern popular american mentality. when the score was 6 to 1000 in afghanistan, we didn't have many complaints. now that it's actually become hard and difficult, we have cast away any confidence we may have collectively possessed as a republic and raise the easiest outcry: we simply yell 'no more war' and 'get out now'.
from talking with a returned soldier and friend, i have been told that there are still plenty of places in iraq that could have the notorious wmd's, and further, regardless of their existance or not, removing saddam was alone a very good thing for the country.
but that is not my ultimate point.
when the president went in to iraq, the majority of us said 'ok, you're the president'. he works for us, and we approved his decision. yet now that it has gotten hard, we all say 'this isn't fun' and want to quit. as soon as it becomes hard and the term 'blood, sweat, and tears' becomes much more literal, we want to retract, drop what we are doing an run. not only is that the antithesis of the united states, that is the sign of weak character and a lack of intergrity.
lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is not our place to complain anymore. it was a splash of cool water to hear brian williams [nbc's news anchor] on conan o'brien a few nights ago comment, in an almost off-handed fashion, that regardless of whether or not we agree, he is our president and we should support him. election time is the time to fight for your choice, and when the majority's voice is heard through a system that we agree upon by being americans and partaking of the services offered here, we then work together to support the chosen leader, even if they weren't our choice. at the very worst, eat your vegetables and then campaign that much harder for your choice in four years.
when someone is in a moment of difficulty and crisis, yelling at them and calling them 'stupid' rarely helps them perform to their best. when the cougars are down by a touchdown or two, the fans do not start yelling insults at quartback john beck or coach mendenhall. that is when we take off our shirts, paint ourselves blue, and put watermellons on our heads; we rise and shout, supporting the team all the more, yelling 'you can do it!', and that is what we need to be doing as a country.
yes, iraq is a mess. at least, that's what i'm told by the news, because that is the popular view for the age group that brings the most lucrative ratings. i honestly don't even know what my position on the war is, because i do not know what is true.
but just because the war has become difficult and our initial strategies have not worked as effectively as we are used to does not mean it was a bad idea or even that it is hopeless. stick with your choice and follow it through to the end. we cannot just get out of iraq; leaving now is the worst option there is. a doctor does not open a patient for surgery and then decide he is tired and walk out of the o.r. our leaders will not perform confidently and to their best if even their own people hate them as visciously as the opponent. we need to come together, accept that throwing a fit will not make it better, but that following through and encouragement just might do it.
we have started a project and we do not quit, we finish.