By Quinn Bowman
Athens News campus reporter
November 3, 2005
The college student-activist is a staple in the lexicon of campus cliches. Young, idealistic students who have yet to be subjected to the soul-sucking realities of the real world seek to make a difference through local and national activism.
I support students who want to effect political change.
But the Wednesday class walkout organized by the Athens Cant Wait Coalition reeks of misguided, unrealistic idealism. The protest was scheduled before the print time for this article. (See related article.)
The Athens Cant Wait Coalition says the purpose of the walkout is to protest mistakes the Bush administration made in the Iraq war, march on the Athens armed forces recruiting center on Carpenter Street and “remove President Bush from office.”
I am certainly no fan of the Bush administration. It has mired this country in a quagmire in Iraq through dishonest tactics, smeared those who tried to tell the truth about the situation, and fought to uphold domestic policies that I find abhorrent.
Suffice it to say, I’d like Bush out of office as well.
However, I think this walkout, however large the turnout was, is a waste of time.
Moreover, mindless demonstrations like this one can create negative impressions in the minds of moderate voters who aren’t sure how they feel about Bush or the war.
The war in Iraq is a total mess, but the U.S. soldiers who are fighting it are there by choice. Walking out of a university class to “shut it down’ or whatever the marchers plan to do, doesn’t make any sense. Does the coalition want to shut down all recruiting stations, forcing the government to draft unwilling participants?
This shutdown effort is an attempt by college students to revisit the revolutionary 1960s, where a mandatory draft sent tens of thousands of American men to their deaths in Vietnam.
Back then, shutting down, or actually burning down the recruiting station, may have stopped soldiers from being shipped off to their possible deaths.
This walkout, on the other hand, seems like an artificial, self-important exercise that uses
old tactics in a new situation.
Soldiers who are dying in Iraq are there by choice, regardless of the circumstances, and it is insulting to them to insinuate that they should not be able to make that choice. While it’s unfortunate that many enlisted servicemen and women are lured into the military because they are poor, our country needs soldiers, and I’d prefer that those who are there choose to go.
Furthermore, the goal of “removing President Bush from office” is just stupid. Yes, he sucks. Most people in Athens agree. But how does leaving class to protest national issues a week before an election day that has no bearing on national politics aim to force Bush out of the White House?
President Bush and national Republicans are already self-destructing. A more effective action strategy would be to focus on the Ohio constitutional amendments on the ballot next Tuesday.
A walkout, demonstration or public forum supporting Issues 2-5, which are attempts to reduce the power of wealthy special interests in state politics and make it easier for people to vote (always a benefit to Democratic or progressive candidates), would have a bigger impact.
Barring a sensational development in the CIA leak investigation or some other presidential scandal, President Bush will remain in office for another three years.
Those who want to do something about his bumbling leadership can make a difference in ways that don’t involve unrealistic and silly demonstrations.
A good way to start would be to start campaigning for next year’s congressional race, where Democrats have an opportunity to capitalize on Republican missteps and retake
control of Congress.
The Athens Can’t Wait Coalition can also focus on disseminating digestible information about military service to those in the area who may be duped into going to war because it seems like the only option.
If you walked out of class yesterday, that’s fine. But as a friend told me, “I walk out of class all the time, but that’s because I am bored.”