Many San Diego stores display the American flag and patriotic slogans, such as "United We Stand." Many draft-age men wandering in and out of those stores, however, don't seem ready to join the fight.
Loc Dinh, 21, works at the Fifth Avenue Card shop near Fifth and University. He has reservations about who is to blame for the terrorist attacks. "It's easy to say we're fighting a war if we know who the enemy is. I think in this case, that question is very ambiguous. I wouldn't necessarily want to jump off to war, not knowing who I'm fighting, and not wanting to accuse someone unjustly without knowing all the facts." Even if he had irrefutable evidence, Dinh still would not fight. "I don't necessarily agree that one can answer violence with violence. I think there are more effective ways of responding to what happened.
"I'm not sure exactly what they are, depending on our relationship with the Taliban. But I think that different approaches...instead of going over there and just fighting, to get people to help us and have the people step forward--to have the factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan point the finger as to who is responsible and have them volunteer the people, as opposed to us demanding and going in to use force. I don't think that's necessarily correct. There's a lot of politics involved with that, and the last thing I want us to do is respond irrationally and compound the tragedy. I think there's more effective ways of doing that."
Across Fifth Avenue, at an abandoned storefront near where the Guild Theater once stood, Steve Henson, 18, sits on the sidewalk, begging for change and cigarettes. Henson has no shortage of reasons why he would not fight. "I don't feel that any sort of physical rebuttal is justified in any way because the terrorists are reacting stupidly to anything that they object to in America, and America would be reacting just as stupidly by retaliating on the terrorists. There's no actual way except to appease American rednecks and stupid-ass Republicans and bald, fat white guys who have nice houses; I mean, that's pretty much the only reason -- to silence the populace would be the only reason to retaliate. We're all flying, like, flags and shit, but nobody knows why. Nobody knows about the trade embargoes on the kids over in Iraq. I mean, we kill a hundred kids a day, refusing them food and stuff, just because of Hussein.
"I think the U.S. deserved an attack. I'm not trying to make it okay, how many people they killed, I'm not saying that's all right, because I know a guy whose friend was killed in the Pentagon attacks. It's not cool that a lot of innocent people got killed, but that kind of shit has been going on for a really long time, and America is only just becoming concerned... take Iraq. America only becomes concerned with Iraqi genocide when our oil reserves are put in jeopardy. Our only concern with what's going on there is when they attack us. We need to get away from it. America gave Osama bin Laden resources back when he was fighting Communists; then they called him an ally. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' is really risky. It just comes back to stabbing us in the back. It's not justified, and further interference in their business will only lead to further problems."
Sitting next to Henson, Travis Riehl, 18, agrees. "I am not willing to fight. An attack like the ones in New York and all that is nothing compared to the genocide and torture that America causes in other countries, like sweatshop labor and exploitation of their lands and their goods and their economies. I think the attack was well deserved on America because it's like a good slap-in-the-face wake-up call to, like, silly redneck Americans. It's just too bad the media skewed it so bad to make it seem like it was 'Oh, they're jealous of America.' But it's not because they're jealous of America; it's because they're pissed off because of the harm that capitalism is causing to their countries.
Benjamin White, 23, works at Off the Record. Like others, he is unwilling to fight because of the lack of an identifiable enemy. "It's so unclear right now who the enemy is and what there is to fight. It's almost like it won't even involve soldiers and infantry at all. It's really hard to tell. It really seems like it's going to be drawn out before any actual fighting will happen. I'm kind of a pacifist as it is. I just know that if I was put in that position, I don't think I could fight somebody. It has nothing to do with patriotism, it's just my own beliefs."
At Taste of Thai, Albert Orti, 22, enjoys a leisurely dinner with his friend -- one of many comforts he refuses to sacrifice. "I don't think I'm ready to go. I have my family here, and I don't want to leave them. It would be good to save our country, but I don't know."
Jared Schoenemann is willing to fight terrorism. "Oh yeah. I mean, if I had to I would!" He discovers that this could cause problems with his girlfriend when she shouts, "You would?" and drags him away.
At Ralph's Hair Place, Sean Higby, 19, has just finished having his hair styled. Although he would not rule out fighting in a war, his prosperity at home finds him less than willing to go. "I would try as hard as I could to not do it. I would write a letter saying that it would be a financial hardship or something like that. The Internet economy has brought a lot of good things to me, and it would be really hard for me to trade. It would be really hard for me to get up and leave that."
Outside Rubio's, Trevor Perringer, 22, sees no need to fight. "As advanced as our weapons have gotten, I don't really think it would be much of a foot war or much of a land war. It would be more based on technology. I mean, just look at how advanced weapons have gotten, computer-age warfare and biological weapons. From our perspective, I can see why we would go to war over it, but there are other solutions. I don't really think that we're given many options really."