From top left: Dinh, Henson, Riehl, White, Orti, Schoenemann, Higby, Perringer. "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."
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.
From left: Hawks, Elrod, Segerstrom, Urrea. "I don't think I'm suited for fighting in a war."
"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."
Gonzales, Henderson, Alba, Blanco, Gire, Dominguez. "If God chose me for a reason, then it's my time."
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."
Troy Hawks, 19, is angry at the terrorists but blames America for the attack. "I think what these people have done is indescribable. I think we should figure out a way to solve this problem, but me, personally, going to fight and being drafted? I think we're a lot responsible for what's been happening because we created Osama bin Laden in the '80s, and he beat the Russians, then we bailed out on him. So he's really pissed at us. If we didn't do that back then, we wouldn't be having this problem. But it's a worldwide problem, and I think America has to step in and do something about it because the rest of the world -- India, Israel -- have told us to do something about it for years. Now it's our turn. I don't want to be drafted, but if I was, I would fight for my country. But I personally don't want a war."
Ryan Elrod, 18, is a student at Grossmont College. His education has convinced him that the system he lives in is not worth defending. "I wouldn't go fight in another country for this country because I have no allegiance to it. I think nationalism is kind of silly. I'm a history major, so I'm looking at it from a historical point of view. People who, like, follow their country and go off to die for their country -- whenever I read about them, I just think they're silly. And now it's funny because I'm actually seeing people who are willing to do it.
"I don't believe in the United States' imperialism. I don't believe in what this country does overseas to poorer nations. Like, this is a rich nation and we take advantage of the poorer nations. I'm not downplaying what happened, and I think it's horrible, but I don't think we have the jurisdiction to go into a sovereign nation and take a person who is not under our constitution or our laws because we think we're the big boys and we have public pressure here to, like, get things done.
"I don't think I'm suited for fighting in a war. I wouldn't want to go through the physical training to get into the shape to go into war, and I don't want to go into the Army, because I don't want to take orders from other people. Even if I did get drafted, I wouldn't go because I don't think the draft is constitutional."
A computer science and music major at UCSD, Peter Segerstrom, 22, finds the thought of fighting a war pointless. "I object to the concept that what we're fighting now is a war. I believe it was a certain, very small group of individuals that did this, and though it's a heinous act, I really don't think we can exact any sort of punishment on some large group which would -- I mean, that's what's implied by the word 'war.' I'm just generally against violence."
Fernando Urrea, 22, majors in social science at San Diego State University. The notion of fighting in a war conflicts with his idealism. "A lot of people are taking the mentality that a war will just solve everything, when obviously it will not. The solution cannot be to just go off to war and drop bombs on a nation, because terrorism doesn't have a nationality or a cultural identity. It's something that...you could be a terrorist, I could be a terrorist. It doesn't matter what people's roots are; it depends on the individual person. Aside from that, I personally wouldn't do that, because I don't think that's the solution. Saying that you're going in a war against terrorism just perpetuates more violence, so that really doesn't solve the problem. It's just saying, 'We've encountered violence, so now we're going to counterattack with more violence.' That's not a solution."
Aldo Gonzales, 19, a graphic-design major at Grossmont College, doesn't think the war on terrorism is winnable. "I don't agree with the U.S.'s position with their policy on terrorism. I don't think going to war is going to solve anything. I don't think they're going to find Osama bin Laden. Even if they do find him, it's not going to stop terrorism altogether. There's still, like, thousands of cells all around the world. It's an impossible war, like the drug war. It's, like, never-ending. I just think it will never end."
Nicholas Henderson, 21, enjoys a cigarette with his girlfriend outside Peet's Coffee. Henderson is too involved with studying multimedia design to bother with a war that is meaningless to him. "I'm just not a patriot. I just don't think about that kind of stuff. I have a lot of other stuff, and I wouldn't want it to interfere with my life and my family and my life here. I'm not married, but I live with my girlfriend and soon will be.
"I'm just not one of those people...I don't ride around with a flag on my car. I don't pay much attention to the news -- I actually try not to. It's just not the way I was raised."
Jason Alba, 19, is not willing to fight in a war. "I just don't believe in it. I don't believe in war because it doesn't solve anything. It makes things worse. I don't know. I just know I wouldn't do it."
At 15, Vincent Blanco is too young to get drafted but would refuse to fight even if he was. His rapid-fire list of complaints raises the question of what the content is in his social studies class at Kearny High School. "I feel that a war is not necessary. They should only fund the war on terrorists, not on a country. Just because they are Muslim does not mean we should fight all Muslims. Just like the Oklahoma bombing, the dude was American; that doesn't mean we kill all the Americans. We should only aim for the terrorists, not the countries. They're mainly going after that religion, because that's what Bin Laden is and that's where he's from and that's their whole concept. We shouldn't be doing that because what we've gone through is nothing compared to what the children have gone through there, and everything they've gone through there is nothing compared to what we've gone through. We shouldn't bomb them. They've gone through endless wars, I'm not sure exactly what. Children, ever since they've been born, have known nothing but war, and we should not let this happen to them again in another war."
Travis Gire, 22, would find some way to get out of fighting if he was drafted. "I wouldn't want to be in the government's hands right now, even though something bad did happen. I wouldn't want to be manipulated by what they would think to be the right answer for it. I'd probably try to sabotage whatever network I was forced to involve myself in," he laughs.
At La Campagne de Provence, Ivan Dominguez is one of the few young men who sees something worth fighting for. "A few weeks ago, I wasn't willing to fight. But the way things are looking, you know, this is my country. This is one of those things where you have to look after your family, so if duty calls, it's just one of those things I'll have to do. As a man, and for my age group, it's just part of life. If God chose me for a reason, then it's my time. If someone's going to come over here and start attacking our country, that's putting my family in danger. It'd be my way of taking responsibility for my family and my country at the same time."