[sixties-l] College campuses are a hotbed of ... pro-war fervor? (fwd)

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Date: Wed Nov 28 2001 - 03:27:53 EST

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    Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 11:54:51 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: College campuses are a hotbed of ... pro-war fervor?

    College campuses are a hotbed of ... pro-war fervor?

    By Kris Axtman
    Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
    November 27, 2001

    AUSTIN - On the steps of the Texas Capitol, dueling demonstrations were
    under way. One, organized in part by University of Texas students, filled
    the air with patriotic speeches and songs in support of America's campaign
    in Afghanistan.

    At t! he other, UT antiwar protesters shouted, "Stop the bombing now. Give
    peace a chance" - an effort to drown out the competing rally.

    But in the end, chants of "USA, USA, USA" carried the day, prevailing by
    virtue of the throng of young people who turned out on a mid-November day
    to laud the war effort.
    Unlike their peacenik parents, today's college students are expressing a
    patriotism and a pro-war fervor not seen among young people since World War
    II. On campuses across America, support for President Bush and the war
    against terrorism is as high as 85 percent, some surveys say.

    Indeed, the antiwar sentiment that tore campuses apart during the Vietnam
    War is simply not much in evidence - at least not yet.

    "I think the majority of students on campus support what the government is
    doing," says UT senior Jessica Scott, pushing her cowboy hat from her face
    and surveying the scene outside the Capitol. "But we've grown up in luxury
    and prosperity and peace, so ! what do we know?"

    The war, in fact, is proving to be something of a crash course in world
    affairs for today's college students. Unlike their parents, who went
    through the searing experience of Vietnam and the cold war, this generation
    has until now been focused mostly on the Internet revolution and the
    booming job market.

    But on Sept. 11, the final destinations of four airplanes seem to have
    shaken the college set from its political malaise and introduced it to the

    There are a number of reasons young people have rallied so strongly to the
    cause - the unprecedented nature of the attack, an unjaded willingness to
    trust government, and no experience with the horrors of war.

    But perhaps a bigger factor is that none is at risk of being conscripted
    into the military against his or her will.

    "The biggest difference [between the generations] is that these kids don't
    see themselves as draft bait," says Sheldon Steinbach of the American
    Council ! on Education in Washington, which represents 1,800 colleges

    Mr. Steinbach spent the Vietnam years in college avoiding the draft, and
    remembers clearly the tension on campus. "A significant portion of the
    student population looked at the Vietnam conflict through the prism of an
    impending draft notice, which tended to make it far more personal."

    That was also a generation battling a wide array of social-justice issues,
    such as the civil rights movement, the free-speech movement, and women's

    Today's college students have been raised on the fruits of those battles,
    and their efforts and attention, until now, have been directed elsewhere.
    Just last year, for example, only 28 percent of college freshmen said they
    followed politics, according to a survey by the Higher Education Research
    Institute in Los Angeles. By comparison, 60 percent did in 1966.
    At the rally in Austin, UT senior Marc Levin agrees that Sept. 11 was a
    wake-up call fo! r many of his generation, those who cared more about music
    than mujahideen. "This snapped us out of it, and now so many more students
    are focused on politics and the world around them."

    Mr. Levin, who helped organize the rally, says the event was not about
    war-mongering: "It was a patriotic event that helped remember those who
    lost their lives in the attacks."
    His mother, Ellen, drove from Houston to attend the rally, and she
    remembers how unthinkable it was to flag-wave when she was a student during
    the 1960s. "My generation was ashamed to be patriotic. It was considered
    corny," she says. "Things are different now."

    So is this war. First and foremost, say students, the attack came on US
    soil. That gives this war a defined objective and an unquestionable purpose.

    "It's about America's fight for freedom," says freshman Jennifer Burnett,
    handing out mini flags to demonstrators at the Rally for America.

    Says fellow flag-pusher, Lizzy Ligou: "Our gen! eration thought nothing
    like this would ever happen to us. We thought we were the luckiest
    generation, living through so much peace."
    While the young women were raised on peace, they have no qualms about using
    force to resolve this situation.

    "We've grown up watching the US play mediator," says Ms. Burnett. "But
    after what happened to us, we can't just sit back. We have to take action."
    The two were among many students at the rally who acknowledged that they
    don't understand the situation well enough to judge what the US course of
    action should be. Thus, they are willing to trust the government implicitly.

    Austin Dullnig, co-chairman of the Travis County Green Party and a UT
    senior, groans in disgust over that response. One of many protesting the
    rally, he says he is dismayed that innocent Afghans have been killed during
    US airstrikes.

    "This generation has it better off than previous generations, and therefore
    has become complacent," he says. "They d! on't question authority."

    Scholars agree the Vietnam War reshaped a generation. Sept. 11 will do so
    as well, they say. The question is: How?

    Already, students are filling international-relations classes and teach-ins
    to bone up on the basics. They are genuinely willing to learn, says Robert
    Buzzanco, a history professor at the University of Houston and author of
    "Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life."
    He has heard the words "myopic" and "selfish" attached to this generation,
    but is unwilling to go that far - especially after watching students in
    action after the terrorist attacks. "This generation just doesn't have
    those historical touchpoints that their parents' generation did, when bomb
    drills and World War II stories were a daily thing."

    In fact, students today might be better prepared to handle this new kind of
    global war than previous generations were, he says. The classrooms are more
    diversely mixed, and the Internet is bringing culture! s closer than ever.

    But not knowing the horrors of war firsthand also has its drawbacks, says
    Dr. Buzzanco.
    Vietnam brought America the draft, a steady stream of body bags, and war on
    prime time. Today's wars, such as the Gulf War and this one against
    terrorism, are largely sterile bombing raids with little ground-troop

    Buzzanco says he heard from students immediately after Sept. 11 who said
    the images on the screen seemed like a movie. "Today's idea of war is very
    remote," he says. "I don't think they see it much differently than a movie
    or video game."

    That attitude could change if American casualties begin to mount.

    The antiwar protesters in Austin, relentless, are laid out on the ground
    near the Capitol to demonstrate the loss of life in Afghanistan. "They're
    taking it to an extreme," says UT senior Jackie Sharfin. "But if my brother
    gets drafted, I'm going to start acting differently."

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