Flag Days

I know every single word to my favorite songs, but I can barely remember the words to the pledge of allegiance. I don’t think I’ve said it since high school.

This is characteristic of my peers, the second wave of the MTV generation. We relate our lives to music videos, movies and television sitcoms. Last Tuesday, a familiar action-movie scene became a very scary reality, and suddenly my generation sees the world in a different way.

Earlier this summer, I went to a taping of The Tonight Show. It was June 14, Flag Day. I watched a video of Jay Leno asking people at Universal CityWalk if they knew what day it was. I giggled at the absurd answers. So did everyone around me. Then I noticed that much of the audience was close to my age, and I guessed that most of them had no idea it was Flag Day either. I certainly didn’t.

This past week, as I have watched flags fly at half-mast, several friends have forwarded e-mails asking me to “wear red, white and blue,” to “display my American flag” or to “light a candle at 7 p.m.”

And the same friends who wanted me to join them last summer as they headed downtown to listen to Rage Against the Machine at the protest at the Democratic National Convention now tell me they are thinking of enlisting in the military.

“We are at war,” President Bush declared last Tuesday. Already my generation has responded.

Listening to my favorite radio stations, Star 98.7 and KROQ 106.7, I have been surprised at the number of people, people my age, who are ready to fight this war. One caller to KROQ’s Kevin and Bean was ready to telephone President Bush (repeatedly teased and chastised in the past by the DJs) and give his military commitment right then.

Only last year, a forum was held in Washington, D.C., on “Why More of America’s Youth Are Saying ‘No’ to the Army.” Last Tuesday, military-recruitment offices across the country reported a jump in visitors and phone calls from angry teenagers and 20-somethings within hours after the attacks.

“If they draft me, I’ll go,” one friend said.

“I’m ready to go over there and kick some ass,” said one young radio caller.

So many I talk to are ready to make someone pay for this disaster; so many are ready to blow up some other country.

“Do you think you would enlist in the military?” I asked my boyfriend last Thursday.

“No,” he replied, to my relief. “They have enough people in the Army . . . it won’t be that kind of war.”

I wasn’t so sure, but let it go.

Gandhi once wrote, “An eye for an eye leaves the world blind.” I fear that the patriotism that has taken over my peers and the nation hides the fact that a war will require more innocent people to die. I wonder if they realize that we’ll be facing an enemy that makes heroes out of murderers.

As I pass children, parents and grandparents waving their flags on the street corners, my boyfriend tries to assure me that a war will not be fought in the United States. I’m afraid the war here has already begun.


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