Anyone who reads the New York Times each day knows how exhaustingly sad an experience it can be. “Dining Out” and “Escapes” sections notwithstanding, most of the paper—especially, the “International” section—is filled with images of violence and misery. Unfortunately, such content eventually become so repetitive, so expected, the reader builds a tolerance to it.
A few years ago, after noticing my tolerance to these sad images and stories growing, and not wanting this tolerance to mutate into apathy, I made myself a promise: Until the war's end, I’d read the list of names of American soldiers recently killed in combat, a list the Times publishes every day, which also contains the age, hometown, ranking and battalion of each soldier lost.
Although this list doesn’t even come close to representing the breadth of the war’s casualties, especially on the Iraqi side, still, it was some sort of reminder.
This is what I'd read:
Doe, John A., 19, Sgt.,
Buffalo, NY.; 40th
Second Brigade Combat
Team, First Armored Div.
Reading this information, word for word, hometown for hometown, I believed, would make the war seem somewhat “real.” Reading this info would remind me, at least for the moment, that the Iraq war isn't just of captioned photos and tightly written stories. These were real men and woman. These were real teenagers.
So what’s my whole point for this post? It’s quite simple: I recently stopped reading the names.
It’s not that I didn’t care any more, I did. But after a while the constant stream of death tired and sickened me.
Now I don’t serve as any sort of bellwether for America’s overall opinion or the way toward which we’re moving as a country on Iraq, but if I, a person who for two years actually ruminated over the fate of these dead soldiers (however minute an act it is), recently stopped bothering to read these names, If I’ve grown slightly apathetic and uninterested, what does that say about much of America, who, I believe, at least, may have never really cared about many of the issues in the first place?
What does that say about our future as a country? Is this the new status quo? Is America comfortable with being a country that entangles itself in foreign conflicts, and whose soldiers die in droves, while many on the home front simply ignore the daily deaths? Are we becoming a country that is comfortable with the fact that, so many of our soldiers have died, the New York Times is able to print a fresh list of dead soldiers' names each day. Each day!
America needs to realize that the halcyon days are over.
Not only are the halcyon days over, but it's time for some serious attitude adjustments. Instead of watching game shows like “Deal or no Deal?," in which money is profligately tossed about, instead of worrying about how we can buy into that luxury condo in Manhattan, or quibbling over a few cents’ increase in the gas price, we should all, collectively, be thinking of how we are going to prevent another of our soldiers from making that damn list.