Have Faith In Americans, Not their Government

J. William Fulbright, former senator and longtime critic of US foreign policy once wrote that Congress should act as an educator to the American public via media outlets. Some argue that Congress could never be a good educator because special interest groups and biases corrupt the truth and make it near impossible to distinguish.

This argument is valid, but imagine if congress-people were seen on main stream media telling the public their “sides'” opinion. Although you might get positions on different sides of the political spectrum, it would allow citizens to hear and see the different sides of the issue.

Will this ever happen? Who knows? If it did, would citizens still be swayed by charismatic, television friendly people? Maybe. Still, it would be incredibly helpful if we had some politicians on the television screen telling us what they think, why they think that way and most importantly why we, as Americans, should take their side. Fulbright himself proved his hypothesis during the Vietnam War, when he, along with some other senators questioned the war on national television. Putting forward clear opposition to the war on national T.V. helped people to realize its uselessness. His televised specials served as a great tool for the anti-war movement because it added validity to many of the arguments being made against the war. Vietnam is also an interesting example of when the media itself helped the anti-war movement.

Daily death tolls and pictures of maimed and dead American soldiers shocked the airwaves and sent Americans into a fury. Today the American public has no Fulbright and no media outlet that shows images of dead American soldiers, the all-out destruction of Fallujah, or even stories about the positive things our forces are doing in Iraq. There are both good reasons and bad for being in Iraq, today there are positive things America is doing for the Iraqi people but you would never know from reading mainstream media. All we hear about is about a war on terror with no end in sight combined with rhetoric about Iraq.

What if Americans heard from the government the pros and cons of the war in Iraq, what if the media showed us real images of Fallujah. Would we care? Every week each and every one of us is faced with many decisions and problems. Many of which we qualify as incredibly important and necessary of our time and attention. Whether it be thinking about a grade on a paper, the debt we have accumulated from tuition costs or even things as trivial as whether or not the person we like likes us also and will make out on Friday night.

Seriously, if on Friday night when you were worrying about what clothes will make the opposite sex attracted to you, you were to sit down in front of the T.V. and see American soldiers with their arms blown off, and shrapnel being pulled out of bleeding hearts, would wearing the right piece of clothing matter as much, or seem so important? When was the last time you were at a party or a bar and someone said to you, “sh*t in Fallujah is f**ked.” Maybe I am going to the wrong parties but generally this is not what I hear from my friends or people standing around me.

Americans would be a lot more political and passionate if the atrocities of war were displayed to them. It would force us to question the comfort and the lifestyle we are accustomed. Today, Americans are very comfortable; they have more stuff, more freedom and more fun than a substantial portion of the world. Everyday I am thankful to be American but always in the back of my mind I know that this extreme comfort and decadence is only possible at the expense of people like those in Iraq and other places in the world.

During Vietnam, Americans were just as comfortable except they were constantly forced to see a very clear example what our comfort costs the world. During the ‘Nam period, a clear line was drawn between the doves and the hawks, there was very little middle ground. Today all we have is the middle. There are so few people with extreme feelings towards the Iraq and the overall devastation being done in Falluja. I know people who are for the war and also I have friends who are against it. But rarely do I meet anyone who feels very strongly one way or the other. And even more infrequently to I hear someone questioning how their lifestyle is possible because of wars like the current.

If Congress and or the media served as a tool for the American people, Americans would be able to make decisions and eventually our government would have to listen. Americans do believe in the free-democratic spirit, we enjoy our endless opportunities and our ability to consume, we also believe that the rest of the world deserves the same freedom. We want to help people not hurt them. Maybe the war on terror, in Iraq, and the one thousand American casualties are helping to provide the freedom we enjoy in the Middle East, then again maybe they are doing the exact opposite.

From our president we hear that we are spreading freedom, but does anyone know what this really means, or is it just a catch phrase to make us less/more enthusiastic. Congress is telling us that the war on terror is necessary because terrorists threaten American values, but they do not tell us why these radicals are so threatening or why it is they hate us. Daily the media helps blur the line by telling us that Americans are dying but they never show us a picture we can understand and with which we can empathize.

Fulbright was right, if the media, in conjunction with the government, told us a little more than Americans and the world would most definitely be a better place because instead of the status quo, which imposes business interests on the world, it would instead be the American interest that they decided on. Citizens would become leaders, not followers. Let’s stop following and start leading this country.