The mid-term elections are over, and the results are pretty much as expected. No one should run panicking in the streets: the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate and hello! We still have the White House.
What surprised me more than anything else about this election is the lack of any attention — and I mean any attention — on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can try to convince me that the American people are too wrapped in their own issues to pay attention to war, but I just find that too hard to believe. At the risk of sounding completely paranoid, I truly think that in today’s world of media hype and short attention span, the people who have a vested interest in these wars are controlling the message. And the message seems to be “Nothing to see over here. Move on. Look! It’s a Tea Party!”
If you are more concerned about economics than about violence, then at least pay attention to this: This fighting is expensive. You want a smaller government? How about starting by not sending our troops around the world fighting every insurgent who’s sitting by an oil field?
Let’s pay attention. Let’s know, as Robert Harriman of BagNewsNotes so aptly put it recently:
I think the basic problem is that people, at least collectively, decide to know. It is not the case that we know and then act. We decide when we will know, and then we are more likely to act. You can have the truth staring you in the face, but it doesn’t matter until you decide to suspend all the habits of amnesia, distraction, rationalization, and denial that are otherwise in place and reproduced continuously. Once we decide, we can look back and see that there was plenty of information there all along. But we have to make that decision.
The question remains, what will it take to get enough people to decide to know that our war in Afghanistan is futile? Sometimes, a photograph will make the difference. But how many photographers and soldiers have to be used up until that day arrives?
When we read about the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan, news articles are always accompanied by the formal portrait of the deceased. As they should be. These soldiers should be honored in the most respectful and dignified way possible. But with behind that respect, I worry that the American public has decided that this is the face of war: The shining young face and a well-pressed uniform. When the reality behind those words: “killed by a roadside bomb” are not a pretty portrait.