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Notes From the Boonies

By Paul Wisovaty

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Every six months, Joe Miller e-mails me with a reminder that my next Veteran column is due. I then call him and say, "Joe, I got nothin' man. I'm drawin' a blank." He reassuringly, if not confidently, replies, "It's OK, Paul. You'll think of something." Longtime Veteran readers will understand that he is occasionally correct. So here's what I got as we enter into our ninth year in Iraq and tenth year in Afghanistan.

I was watching a network news show about a week ago, and the anchor moved into the "in other news of the day" category. The news magazine, The Week, labels this category "boring but important." Pretty much the same thing: there's no March Madness news tonight, but we have to fill the time slot with something.

In that other news of the day, Gallup reported that 65% of Americans believe that we have no legitimate reason to be in Afghanistan and should pull our troops out as soon as possible. The anchor immediately moved on to a shocking story that scientists have discovered a rare butterfly species thriving in a country I have never heard of. A five minute interview with a respected entomologist followed. My eyes were glazing over.

I do not recall exactly when anti-Vietnam sentiment hit 65%, but my guess is that by that time there was serious shit taking place on campuses and in cities in this country. In 2011, we have almost two thirds of Americans telling Gallup that this Bush-inspired and Obama-perpetuated fiasco is just that and, at the slim risk of overstatement, nobody seems to care. I was informed in mid-March that some serious anti-war demonstrations were planned for Washington and other major cities for March 19, and when I picked up the Champaign, Illinois News-Gazette on March 20 I found nothing. (OK, the Champaign paper decorates its front page with cute little tea bag images. This may not have been a reliable source.)

I'm guessing that we lose about 30-40 men and women in the Mideast every month, maybe a few more. In Vietnam, we were losing well over a hundred a week by 1968. That is certainly a big difference. Unless, of course, those 30-40 Americans are your child, parent, spouse or sibling. So I guess it's all about the numbers. Or maybe it's about the fact that middle class white kids don't get drafted when they are graduated from college. Or maybe that our taxes aren't going up to pay for these wars. Hey, nobody died and made me a sociology professor. But the bottom line seems to be this: this year's NCAA basketball tournament rates a lot higher on most Americans' radar screens than the longest and one of the least popular wars which this country has ever fought.

Enjoy your Memorial Day.

Paul Wisovaty is a member of VVAW. He lives in Tuscola, Illinois, where he works as a probation officer. He was in Vietnam with the US Army 9th Division in 1968.

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