Dear Grandson (a senior at New York University):
Those of us actively engaged in the anti-war movement have had a spectacular lack of success in bringing the current wars to an end. We can’t help feeling that if the youth of America were part of our movement, things would be vastly different. Unfortunately, we’ve seen little signs of student involvement or even, to be frank, concern. To us, it seems as if there is tremendous apathy among our youth as to caring about or even noticing that your peers (in age) are dying and suffering horrendous wounds every day in wars which we among the anti-war people deplore as unwise and unconscionable, as well as unproductive in terms of making the U.S. more secure.
During the Vietnam War, there was a massive student movement opposing that conflict. I don’t have the expertise to analyze how large a role that played in bringing the war to an end, but I suspect it may have been one of the key (if not THE key) factors in persuading President Nixon and his cabinet to withdraw from that trouble spot.
Of course, as we all know, there was a draft at that time, which probably fueled the huge numbers of students protesting the war. Or, were there other reasons, also, for student participation? Was there a difference in political consciousness or even character in a young person of the 60s and 70s … or what? Would a return of the draft now have a similar effect? Would it mobilize you and your ranks to revolt against the wars in numbers large enough to stop the occupations? Or would it simply add to the carnage of young people being slaughtered in Iraq and, now, particularly, in Afghanistan without effecting a change in policy?
Those are the questions I pose to you. I hope to provoke you to pay some attention to this matter, and, in so doing, stimulate discussion among you and your friends which will assist us in understanding your attitudes. Perhaps, then, we can figure out ways to engage you in our struggle.
It really is more YOUR struggle than ours — the trillions being spent to fund these wars decrease assets for education, housing, health care, and most pertinent to your needs, JOBS. And, I don’t want to alarm you, but in years to come, perhaps there will be a conscription and your lives will be on the line. Not a happy thought.
If you oppose the wars, as do I, then I should expect you to have some interest in trying to stop them. If you support them, I wonder if perhaps you are at all motivated to volunteer to fight in them. Tell me, I want to understand. Maybe you are so despairing about citizen action having any discernible effect that you just want to concentrate on the things at hand — your studies, your fraternity, your college-related activities. If that’s the case, I don’t blame you, certainly. I am very discouraged, too, and sometimes think, “What’s the use?” I also realize that you haven’t got the time, in all likelihood, to add protesting to your schedule. I remember college well — that feeling you’re always lugging a hundred-pound weight on your back as you try to do all the required reading, write the essays, and prepare for the tests. Ye gods, what pressure!
Manhattan Congressman Charles Rangel has introduced a bill every year since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq to bring back the draft. Part of his reasoning is that there would be such a giant student uprising that the wars would be over within a few months. What is your opinion about that?
I queried some of the people in my anti-war groups -- Grandmothers Against the War, Vets for Peace, Peace Action, the Granny Peace Brigade, et al -- regarding the draft. Some feel it would not achieve the same results today as it did in Vietnam and that creating jobs and a better economy are what is needed. Some feel it is the missing ingredient in our unsuccessful quest to bring the troops home. Others, like me, are uncertain.
I really want to know your thoughts and earnestly hope you and your fellow students will think a bit about the questions I’ve raised and let me know what your conclusions. We grandmothers and other older people amongst the war opposition groups will not be here much longer to fight this fight. At some point, you will have to take on the battle yourselves.