I’m one of those Rep. Charlie Rangel has complained about from the outset: I haven’t had to sacrifice much for George Bush’s war. I’m an East Coast, college-educated, yuppie, liberal gay. My friends don’t join the armed forces. The last family member to do so fought in Korea. Sure, I’ve marched, I’ve declaimed, I’ve voted my conscience. But in the end, I don’t think much about it. The Iraq war has been a conceptual concern for me, not the day-to-day emotional high-wire act it’s forced for tens of thousands of armed forces personnel and their loved ones. That’s as much the case on the six-year anniversary as it was on the first day of action.
Rangel’s point, I believe, wasn’t that we should all have to deal with war’s ugliness; I’d certainly go to jail before serving in anybody’s military. Rather, the larger point is that if the costs were more tangible to people like me, there’d be less war—it’s hard to imagine this fiasco would still be unfolding.
My own personal distance from the problem eventually allowed me to passively, blissfully block it all out. It’s not even the war I’m avoiding as much as it is the feelings of impotence it inspires. I see the worn, fading anti-war flyers around my Brooklyn hood—old fashioned calls-to-action for this or that day of protest—and they remind me of standing in the freezing cold back in early 2003, rallying outside the United Nations and nodding as Mos Def dropped truth about Bush’s warmongering. NOT IN OUR NAME, we all defiantly declared, as we had been doing for months. And yet, six years later, still my country kills and maims U.S. and Iraqi citizens alike, all in my name. Like it or not, I am complicit, and I just don’t wanna to think about that. So, like millions of Americans, I don’t—and war rages on.