Ask any American about the most divisive issue facing the country today, and more often than not the answer will be the war in Iraq, one that the majority of Americans profess to disapprove of (65 percent, according to an October CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll).
It's interesting to contrast this with the reality that given the nature of this war (far from home, and lacking battles and causalities on the scale of Vietnam and World War II), Americans, by and large, do not maintain the mentality that the U.S. is, in fact, embroiled in a conflict that sees our service members fight for their lives on a daily basis.
Essentially, we've lost the notion of any sort of collective responsibility for this war in which we've involved. The ubiquitous daily news reports of a few more dead soldiers and Iraqis become easy to tune out, while the ins-and-outs of our hectic daily lives dictate what we focus our thoughts elsewhere.
Historically, the situation makes sense. The notion of "total war," a time in which a nation mobilizes almost all elements of its society towards the express goal of completely defeating another nation, hasn't really been seen since World War II, when Allied powers shifted their entire economies towards defeating the Axis. In these times, a nation has no choice but to continually focus on the fact that it's at war.
In the modern era of small-engagement conflict, which doesn't require our car factories be converted to produce tanks, the pervasive notion of war just isn't something that continually need be on the mind of the everyday person simply for them to function.
But given the gravity of the conflict, the adoption of a collective daily awareness of this terrible conflict would be a tremendously healthy shift for the nation, one that could transcend the boundaries of being technically in favor of or opposed to the conflict.
While such a move would surely not be commensurate with that of the social reactions to World War II or Vietnam, it would be representative of a recognition of our innate culpability for our government's actions. Such a recognition would dictate that Americans drop any notion of absolution from government actions, which in turn would lead to greater civic involvement and more action on the part of citizens to ensure that the government acts in accordance with their wishes.
Only by abandoning the idea of a rift between the government's actions (wars, etc.) and ourselves, can we hope to adhere to the fundamental guiding principle upon which we've based our society: that the government act at the behest of its citizens.
So go enlist in the Marines, or lace up your boots and go protest. One way or the other, always remember that we're at war, and one way or the other, we're all responsible.