March 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq. Here in Geneseo, a candlelight peace vigil was held to commemorate the occasion. Binghamton University students took a slightly different approach, holding a traffic-stopping protest that ended with over nine students being arrested. And the question I find myself left with is… so what?
At least in Geneseo, participants had the safety of the troops in mind. But we are still at war. There are still American men and women dying every day halfway around the world. We haven't changed anything. Americans have been protesting from the beginning, yet here we are, five years later, still with no end in sight. The war in Iraq is a big issue on the table of the current election, but in truth, it doesn't matter who gets elected in that sense. John McCain wants to send even more troops over there and still wants us to blindly believe that long-term success is possible. Whomever the Democratic candidate ends up being will want it to end, but will recognize that a mass exit from Iraq is politically and economically irresponsible. The truth is, we're in for the long haul, and it's a distressing thought for anyone with military friends and family.
A friend recently told me that our generation is terrified of authority and accepts what we are told, rather than run the risk of fighting it and getting in trouble. We don't hold a candle to the baby boomers and their immediate successors, who spent two decades protesting everything from race issues to the Vietnam War. Granted, many of them were strung out on acid, but they tied themselves to trees, marched on Washington and picketed until they couldn't stand anymore. They really believed that they were going to change something. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't, but they never stopped trying.
But really, can you blame us? Look at this situation in Iraq. Did our peace vigil or BU's raucous protest change anything? No. Do I really believe that whom I vote for in November will affect whether or not we exit Iraq? No. The world is different, and it's too easy to look around and recognize that we've been beaten before we've begun. The only thing those BU students have to show for their efforts is a bunch of police records that will follow them around for the rest of their lives as evidence of their conviction being put down by governmental authority. You would be hard pressed to find enough 18- to 24-year-olds to people a reasonably sized march on the Capitol, because our collective opinion is that they don't listen to us anyway, so why expend the energy?
Maybe when we were younger our parents told us we could change the world, but they meant by becoming doctors and lawyers and teachers, not by shouting and storming the gates of injustice. So America is still occupying Iraq, and we're burying our noses in our textbooks, and the world goes on around us. Glad to see our freedom is serving us well.
Amanda Senft is a sophomore English major who really is a glass-half-full kind of person.