[A]ge is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.
-- from Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Sunday, August 15, the
Washington Post reported that recent polls show that President Bush's
popularity has plummeted among young adults in the past four months because
of their concerns over the war in Iraq and the sluggish economy. The article
stated, "In the latest Post-ABC News poll, taken immediately after the
Democratic Convention, Kerry led Bush 2 to 1 among registered voters younger
than thirty. Among older voters, the race was virtually tied."
Shortly after the latest heightened state of
alert was announced, a young man living in New York City sent me an e-mail
saying, "This is the first time in my life that I feel genuine unease about
my future." While reading his letter, I realized that this was the second
time in my life when I have seriously considered what it might be like to be
a Canadian citizen.
It would seem to matter very little which political party gets elected, yet this time it really does -- at least according to www.greensforimpact.com: "The presidential election of 2004 is not a debate about voting your fears or voting your conscience. It is not an academic or theoretical exercise. Real people's lives are at stake. Women, people of color, the GLBT community, our nation's poor, and many others, save for the privileged few, will face real consequences from the outcome of this election. As a result, we must view the effect of our votes collectively, not merely by what they mean to us as individuals."
The good are still dying young.
I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois when the icy, bone-numbing winds of January 1968 howled across the prairie with the news that a high school friend had been killed during the Tet offensive. I would have been there with him in the steaming jungles had I not been a fortunate son with good grades and the tuition money to stay in school. I'll never forget what my friend did for me because after all is said and done, he did not die for America's freedom or any other principled cause; he died fighting an old man's dirty war so I could stay in school and have a chance at living a full life.
On August 6, another fortunate son, Secretary
of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,
spoke to The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations/Commercial Club of
Chicago. On that same day an op-ed article that he wrote ran in the
Chicago Tribune comparing the Korean War with the war in Iraq, implying
that Iraqi "freedom" will be worth the heavy toll in American troops and
treasure. Rumsfeld also added a personal touch to his self-serving piece by
saying that Korea's freedom was won at a terrible cost, including a
high-school friend of his that was killed on the "last day" of the Korean
It is no accidental oversight that he did not mention the Vietnam War, the only war in recent memory that even remotely parallels the snafu in Iraq, and I find it difficult to imagine that Rumsfeld actually believes his own sophistry that the Chicago Tribune was complicit in publishing.
For those of you who don't know about the
speech movement at Berkeley during the sixties, a twenty-four-year-old Jack
Weinberg said, "We have a saying in the movement that we don't trust anybody
over thirty." Being in my sixth decade as a member of the human community,
I think that is still damned good advice.
Other Articles by Harold Williamson
the Postmodern World