Do we really deserve our activist reputation?

By Amy Ledig

On Monday, three of my friends went on a run and came back with news of an anti-Iraq War protest on the corners of Snelling and Grand Avenues. After some persuasion on their part, a few of my other friends and I headed down to check it out. We ended up staying for over an hour, standing along Snelling holding an American flag and signs calling for American troops to come home. I showed up expecting to see a bunch of Mac students, but came away questioning whether the student body’s reputation as political activists is based on today’s reality, or rather the fading vestiges of former glory.

Pretty much everyone I’ve met and talked to here has been dismissive and disapproving of the War on Terror, and disgusted with our involvement in Iraq. I’m not completely against the War on Terror, but as the war in Iraq has dragged on for four years, I’ve become increasingly determined that, regardless of whether going in to the country to remove a sadistic despot was the right thing to do, we haven’t done much right from there.

It makes no sense to have American servicemen and servicewomen losing their lives or returning home physically and mentally traumatized because the government is too leery of the indignity of a withdrawal without a victory. Iraq seems determined to tear itself apart. There are significant ramifications of U.S. pullout, such as the subsequent partition of the country into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish territory and the almost certainty that this results in Turkey, Iran, and other Middle Eastern nations being sucked into the conflict. However, a civil war is an almost impossible thing to stop. U.S. presence in Iraq attracts foreign fighters to the country, fanning the flames of an already volatile situation. In a case where there’s really no good way for it to end, why not be realistic, accept that going in was a terrible, costly mistake, and get out before more Americans die for a horrific error in judgment?
I know that most of this is preaching to the choir. In my experience, there is nothing but contempt for Bush and his policies on campus. But are contemptuous, scathing remarks in class as far as people are willing to take it? I’m not calling for anyone to do anything crazy. I’m just a little surprised that more professors than students turned out for the protest on Monday. I can’t see how an outlet for political expression could be much more convenient than the stoplight at the end of the block.

The walkout on Tuesday was also a surprise. I was expecting a much more significant turnout. I don’t have a class then, and I’m not even that hard-core, but I went because I felt it was important to do something. From my admittedly casual headcount from the midst of the crowd, there couldn’t have been more than 200 people there. From a student body of almost 2,000? I’m far from bowled over. The event eventually devolved into a rant against the evils of capitalism, democracy, and the college administration, which was a bit hard for me to follow – I don’t really see the connection between alumni relations and poor foreign policy choices, but maybe that’s just a failing on my part. This desire to over-extend a movement and gather in too many far-flung causes seems to be a fault of liberals. Even so, at least the 200 of us who showed up said something.
Silence is complicity. Are we really content to remain that way? If so, Macalester isn’t the place I thought it was.