Ryan Hume:War TV: Tuning into the bigger picture

It would seem that every time I go on vacation something interesting happens in the world and I am unable to write about it. Take our latest imperialistic endeavor in Iraq: No matter how you feel about war, we had all seen it coming for a while, and then they go and declare war right before spring break! I was so disappointed with the timing that I completed my last final and reserved myself to sitting in the back yard and finishing the 12-gallon pina colada that I had concocted in a wheelbarrow the night before. While the rest of the week was spent watching Baghdad smoke like an Afghani poppy field on MSNBC, I found this spring break to be far from a vacation.

I find watching the war on television to be something of a perplexity. On the one hand, you are watching destruction unfold live: bombs drop, troops rush in, causalities amount. On the other hand, you are at home, or at the bar, or Circuit City for that matter: Wherever you are, you are safe, you are comfortable, and no matter how involved you would like to be, you are basically ineffectual to the situation at hand. In this regard, war has become a lot like a football game for the American public. There are commentators breaking down the play-by-play action, and whenever there is a break in the action, the analysts come out of the woodwork, stainless steel pointers in hand, circling things on maps, waxing philosophically about how the next stratagem will unfold.

People are tying yellow ribbons to anything that won’t be asphyxiated by one or is allergic to yellow No. 5. Other people are sitting down in front of cars. All of these people are trying to make a point that soldiers on the ground don’t have time to listen to because they are at war.

The home team and the away team.

All in all, I find the war coverage very depressing. The fact that every network seems more impressed with their witty network slogan (Attack on Iraq? Why not, Bomb Saddam?) than with decent, thorough coverage of the horrors of what is actually occurring in a distant part of the world is, for me, an atrocity in itself.

But how did war get like this for us? Are we so detached from the violence that accompanies war that it is easier for us as a nation to look the other way?

We do have the privilege to ignore our current situation if we wish to do so, but the same cannot be said for university students in Baghdad. There has not been a war on American soil since the Civil War ended in 1865, so with the exception of a few generations of veterans, no American has lived their everyday life on a battlefield for more than 138 years. In fact, living on a battlefield is no longer a prerequisite for some of our enlisted men to participate in the war. Some U.S. pilots of bombers live on military bases in Europe with their families and simply fly to work in Baghdad and are home for dinner after their commute.

No matter how detached it gets from us, war is very real for a lot of people right now, and no mater how it may look on television, there are some very real people dying right now: British, Iraqi or American; death has no sense of national dignity, it only knows tragedy.