The following essays were written in early April.
That sound of a helicopter motor churning blades round and round, cutting through still air, always seems to come when my day has turned silent; when I’m reading The Catcher in the Rye during third period, when I’m sitting at my computer with a case of writer’s block, or when I’ve just shut off the nightly news and pulled the covers up to my ears. It churns up fears and worries until I realize that I’m not an Iraqi youth living amidst the drone of helicopters over Baghdad. I’m an American youth living in silence.
I have nothing to stress over, not only because our military powers exceed those of Iraq’s and because every possible terrorist target is being guarded, but because there is nothing I can say or do that would alter the opinions of our politicians. Why worry when my president comments, “That’s my decision to make, not yours,” when asked about the war in Iraq? Why worry when all I can do is sit back while the American government plans to take $200 billion from an already suffering economy, money that the education system could use, money that my generation will pay after we’ve crawled out of that crippled system and into the workforce? Why worry when the American government can legally steal the life of my brother or friends without my consent? Why worry about events that will shape my future when the American government is making the decisions for me?
While our troops are overseas liberating Iraqi people, I feel as if I’m in restraint at home. I can walk out of my second- period class to protest the war, but my truancy will never influence Bush. I can wave signs in protest, but I’ll only be dubbed “unpatriotic” by citizens who fail to realize that rallying for peace supports not just the Iraqi civilians, but also our American soldiers who would return home alive if the war ceased. So instead of wasting my time trying to grab the attention of our president, I prefer to stress out about my SAT or finishing The Catcher in the Rye by Wednesday. I’ll worry about my future when I can vote.
- Megan Burks,
- El Capitan H.S.
Even though the war affects us all in some way, it never really worried me until my next-door neighbor shipped out to Iraq. I thought about it, sure — everyone does — but it never caused me to lose any sleep. I’m just a 15-year-old girl in California, and this battle is being fought on the other side of the world. No one I knew was hurt because of September 11, I didn’t know anyone being shipped out, and my opinions on the war didn’t influence anyone. The war was just some distant event. Since it didn’t affect my surroundings, I wasn’t going to let it affect me.
My family watched the evening news, and I listened to the radio for 45 minutes with my carpool every day. Despite all that, I didn’t think about the war unless I had to. I had an attitude: I didn’t want this war in the first place, so why should I care about it? I didn’t sponsor the cause. I prayed that our troops wouldn’t be sent in, and I didn’t like the fact that Iraqi civilians would die.
Actually, the “civilians dying” part stressed me out more than the idea of war. While everyone was concerned with the welfare of our troops, I worried about the poor innocents dying. Most people I knew didn’t understand that, and I was rebuked for not backing our troops. I couldn’t identify with soldiers and their families because I’m a civilian, and I think I knew how the Iraqis felt.
My outlook changed when my neighbor, a Navy SEAL, was shipped out. Now, things were different: I knew him and his wife. What would happen if he was killed or injured? What about his family? I then realized that it didn’t matter if I agreed with the war or not. Soldiers, sailors, Marines, pilots — people we don’t even know — are right now giving up their lives to defend us. So who cares if I’m only 15? The least I could do was support our troops. After all, “united” is a part of our name.
- Amy Culley,
- Lady of Peace H.S.
In a short period of time, the lives of many around me have been affected by the war and the increased tension over terrorist attacks. Since the war has started, I have watched more TV than I have in the past year and a half combined. I tend to avoid the news, mostly because of the multitude of real-life horror stories. But now, even with the mind-numbing repetition of CNN and MSNBC, their in-depth reporting holds my interest. I usually devote about an hour of my day to the news, to catch up on the day’s events in Iraq and surrounding areas.
Though there is a heightened danger of aggression at home because of the conflicts abroad, I do not feel threatened any more than before the war began. My stress level during this time has also stayed constant. Besides school, producers of stress in my life are small and few, and when they do emerge, they don’t stay for long before I overcome them. Surprisingly, this being the first war during my lifetime that I understand, it has hardly affected me at all, except for my daily TV-watching and my compassion for the soldiers who are out there now.
People close to me aren’t affected much either. My parents have become glued to the television screen: besides the three major news channels, we have not had anything else on since President Bush’s ultimatum. They stay up late into the night watching the progress as morning creeps upon Baghdad.
Many kids at school have become very forward in their opinions. Being in the journalism class, I was able to watch a debate between the opposing sides, and as I watched them pore over facts and figures and finally come to an understanding, I was filled with an immense amount of fascination. I had never before seen teenagers argue without one side or the other insulting someone’s mom.
For the most part, the people around me are paying attention to what’s happening, but it isn’t adversely affecting their lives. They get out of bed every morning to go to school or work, and they are still the same people when I converse with them. Like me, they are probably not affected much, because nothing truly bad has happened yet, and the distance from the conflict makes it harder to comprehend.
- Jake Miller,
- El Capitan H.S.
To my friends, the war is more of a nuisance than a source of stress. With SATs, APs, ACTs, and other alphabet horrors, they don’t have time to worry about those Iraqis in Baghdad. As for myself, I’ve given up studying for these tests, so I have plenty of time to fret. This is my first experience with this country in an overseas conflict. I was four during the first Gulf War, and any hostilities earlier than that are chapters in my history book.
When war was declared, I was in NYC, staying at a hotel in Times Square. That evening an emergency protest was called, and, being a future journalist, my curiosity over- whelmed me so that I sneaked my way to the center of the mob. Holding up traffic, I found myself shouting, “Flamers for peace!” with the gay crowd and “Stoners for peace!” with those who were chemically imbalanced. Soon there were more police- men at the scene than there were when they opened a new Dunkin Donuts near my house. I knew it was time to jet.
Afterward, watching the war coverage on TV, I felt confused and stressed. Why are we going to war when so many people are against it? What do we hope to accomplish? How much is this going to cost?
Shouldn’t this money be earmarked for our own people? How is my life improved by forcing the Iraqi people to accept our form of government? It’s hard to make sense out of all this when you’re 17. In my history book, wars always seemed to have nobler purposes — to throw off the chains of tyranny, to keep our nation united, to make the world safe for democracy. I wondered how this war will be 30, 40, 50 years from now.
Adults forget that they’ll be dead in 50 years, and the consequences of their actions today affect my tomorrows. Even though the young are fighting this war, their opinions are seldom sought, and their suggestions are never considered. I’m worried that if the adults mess up, it’ll be my generation that has to pick up the pieces.
- Stephanie Feldstein,
- Bonita Vista H.S.
I am stressed and excited over the war in Iraq. My strongest fears, and what I stress over most, are the results of this war; not necessarily terrorist acts or the impacts to the economy, but consequences that we, as a country, may face for possible lack of good character and good policy.
To relieve that uneasiness, I find out as much as I can to under- stand the changing situation. Every morning, I attempt to read the front pages and editorials in the newspapers, and I watch close to an hour every day of television news coverage. I especially enjoy viewing CNN, Fox News, and the BBC and reading the articles of New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.
At school, Operation Iraqi Freedom has added stress. Every day in my political science class, there are questions asked about outcomes and, coincidentally, material in our books pertains to this impending political situation. Even in my film class, we debated over the words of Michael Moore at the Oscars, and it became heated, with many feeling it inappropriate and some deeming Moore’s speech needed. But soon it peaked when a usually calm, relaxed pal of mine spoke adamantly, with a thick, worried emotion, about how his brother flies over Iraq every day and that antiwar sentiments only “demoralize” our troops. Thereafter, our discussion settled, and we moved into the business of cinema.
At my school, students are stressed, and mainly due to neglect. Walk-out protests against the war have occurred. Our school administration has denied and lacked the insight to provide outlets to help students further understand the times. They have even forbid- den students from posting signs of peace on our school campus. This has added to stress and unrest among my class- mates. However, I am excited about the war. Not in the sense that it is an act of destruction, but in the sense that we have a hand in creating some- thing good and beneficial.
- Matthew de Lira,
- Point Loma H.S.
From politicians to mothers and wives of soldiers, from little boys and girls and informed college students, people are trying to answer the big question our country is facing right now: why are we fighting in a war that perhaps will be our WWIII?
Americans are watching a lot more televised news. I get an update at least once every day; it’s in my schedule now. Although I try to think about it so that I don’t feel anxiety about the issue, I find myself preoccupied with the thought of war. I wonder if something is going to happen to our country that will be remembered like the attacks of September 11. Could we face another attack at any moment again?
Some people say that it’s better to go about our daily routines and enjoy life and cherish our friends and family, but it’s getting harder to not focus on the war. Knowing that someone’s mother, father, wife, or husband is worrying about the safe return of a loved one is haunting. Around town, people aren’t talking about the latest movie as much as they are talking about what’s going on in Iraq. People strike up conversations about bin Laden rather than the weather. People’s focuses have changed, and most hope that their lives won’t be devastated because of the loss of a friend or relative; everyone seems to know someone around town that’s fighting for our country. My concerns have turned into stress.
My priorities aren’t the same anymore, knowing that other people have to worry about their lives or the life of a loved one. It’s shocking and disturbing, realizing that this isn’t going to be an easy, quick war, but, perhaps, long and relent- less. Knowing that our land could be attacked or our people killed has instilled, in many, a great pride for our country. Even though this war has brought anxiety into the minds and hearts of many, America will endure, and perhaps that will calm some trouble- some minds for the moment.
- Jessica Itschner,
- 2002 El Cajon Valley
- H.S. graduate