Monday, March 19, 2007

Flashback to a war protest

I'd just scanned an article about the Iraq War protests, and moved on to an article about a student free-speech case, when I ran smack-dab into a flashback.

What set it off? It was this paragraph in the NYT article, Free-Speech Case Divides Bush and Religious Right:
Mr. Fredericks’s ensuing lawsuit...pits official authority against student dissent. It is the first Supreme Court case to do so directly since the court upheld the right of students to wear black arm bands to school to protest the war in Vietnam, declaring in Tinker v. Des Moines School District that “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
I remember that. I remember wearing a black arm band at school, and I remember Mr. Day, the conservative civics teacher, angrily challenging me and another student in the hallway. "Do you know what you're doing?" he asked, sure that we were just following the crowd, thoughtlessly aping the college crowd whose protests were then making headlines.

I may not have know exactly what I was doing, but I knew this: the Vietnam War was still raging, the draft was still in place, and a couple of my good friends had just drawn low numbers in the draft lottery...which meant that if they weren't accepted into a college, they'd have to decide whether to enlist, wait to be drafted...or make a run for Canada.

Tough choices, especially for young men who hadn't even finished high school yet. Beyond the mounting death toll and our growing awareness of the utter futility of the war, that one thing was enough to warrant black arm bands...a visible sign of mourning for all the lives already lost, and for the next crop of young men about to be thrown into the war's relentless maw.

Today marks four years and counting for the Iraq War. Is the situation really any different now (except for the draft, of course)?

Maybe it's time to start wearing those black armbands again.

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