My final days of college are winding down, causing me to reflect on the last four years. Politically, there has never been a dull moment or a time to retreat to silence. Despite the war in Iraq, assault on civil liberties and abuse of power this administration flaunts, there have been echoes of dissent that must be acknowledged and remembered.During my college career, the war in Iraq began and dragged on from year to year. Before the war began, I stood on the streets of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and West Chester to protest. I will never forget the power and hope I felt, while chanting along with thousands of different people of all ages and races. We believed that we could stop the wheels of war from rushing forward.
My optimism increased during a weekend in mid-Feb. of 2003 when people gathered on the streets around the world to denounce the war mongering of the Bush administration. It was an outpouring of dissent and one of the largest protest moments in history. In Italy, Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia, France, the U.S. and every major country, millions of people said no to war.
After attending a demonstration in Philadelphia that weekend, I ended the weekend of protest by standing on the streets of West Chester. Flames of candles danced in the night. There was an eerie silence, as everyone pondered the consequences of preemptive war and feared that the U.S. was taking a new, dangerous path.
When the bombs dropped in March of 2003, it was one of the most crushing moments I’ve ever experienced. I’ll never forget how appalled I was that the real consequences of war were not shown. The reality of war was reduced to flashes of bombs that looked like fireworks and black body bags were absent on the evening news. Causalities were only faceless statistics.
As an aspiring journalist, I was heartbroken that no one had the courage to ask the right questions before the war began. I still believe that journalists are partially to blame for the invasion. No hard questions about Saddam’s WMDs were asked before the war began by any mainstream journalist. Before the war, journalists ceased being another check and balance and a watchdog.
At the beginning of the conflict, I wanted to stop writing editorials and lay down my protest sign, but I did not. Weeks and months after the bombing began, I still went to vigils and rallies. Even today, I still do. The death count continues to mount, but at least I know that many people have the courage to speak out and do not agree with the destructive path this country is on.
Once the war began, it took a while for things to unravel. Today, the truth is slowly surfacing. The administration has faced scandal after scandal over the last few years. The most haunting one has been Abu Ghraib. Pictures of hooded Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated appeared on network news and newspapers across the world. How did America become a country that tortures prisoners of war? How can the president speak about spreading freedom and democracy when pictures surfaced showing naked prisoners being taken around on leashes?
Other revelations have surfaced over the last few years, like the CIA leak scandal. It is still unknown who leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame to the press to punish her husband, Joe Wilson, a former ambassador and credible critic of the case for war. The scandal proves how far the administration will go to crush dissent and how flawed the case for war was.
Hurricane Katrina also illustrated how detrimental war is on the domestic front. When disaster struck, the government did not have the right amount of troops and money for the recovery effort because all resources are being squandered on endless war.
To say the least, it’s been a politically charged time to be in college. Writing this column, I’ve always had something to write about. At times, I felt like there was a new scandal every week.
The political events of the last few years will have a lasting impact on this country. America’s reputation with the rest of the world is in serious jeopardy. Who will forget the horrific pictures of Abu Ghraib? How can people across the world forget that the U.S. government ignored world opinion and preemptively attacked another country?
The policy of preemptive war and sacrificing rights in the name of security is a dangerous, slippery path for the country to be taking and could easily cause the death of freedom and democracy in the U.S.
Still, attending national protests and having countless conversations with people during college has made me realize there is hope. People are willing to speak out about the grotesque abuse of power and the erosion of checks and balances.
“I believe that we are lost here in America, but I believe we shall be found,” my favorite writer, Thomas Wolfe, wrote in “You Can’t Go Home Again,” his final novel. I hope that he was right.
Brian Fanelli is a senior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.