Listening to a Disabled Vet


George Bush now has the dubious distinction of the lowest approval rating of any President since Richard Nixon. ABC News reported that 33% of Americans think Bush is doing a good job. Conversely, 67% of Americans disapprove of his activities in office, primarily as a result of the never-ending American occupation of Iraq. One would imagine that if 67% of Americans disliked something they might try to change it. After reviewing some activities on the anti-war front over the last few days, one would be horribly mistaken for imagining so.

Bobby Muller, president of Veterans for America, spoke at the University of Pennsylvania Wednesday night. Muller has spent the last 40 years of his life in a wheelchair after a bullet severed his spine while he led his Marine platoon in Vietnam. In his talk Muller highlighted the idea that when the American war in Vietnam started to deteriorate, the Administration widened its theater to include Cambodia and Laos. He predicts a replay will occur in Iraq. An American attack on Iran is just a matter of time. In his words, "The war with Iran is on the conveyor belt."

For those of us who have been paying attention, Muller argued nothing new. However, coming from a wheelchair-bound combat veteran, his talk resonated more poignantly than all the vacillations from our elected officials. Muller drove home his main point with a raised fist and shrieking tone. "Kristol, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, you name the neocon who urged us to invade Iraq. There is only one reason why they did so — none of them have ever seen combat themselves. I have fought in battle and have the scars to prove it." The saddest part of the evening resulted from my realization that only 15 students and faculty witnessed his moving performance.

Perhaps the pollsters have horribly misjudged Americans’ opinion on the prosecution of this war. On a campus of roughly 20,000, fifteen (15!) bothered to attend a talk on a topic that supposedly 67% of them are annoyed about. Maybe the wintry mix of snow and cold kept the Quakers from attending. Such an excuse falls flat when the speaker arrives in a wheelchair. Apathy reigns among the faculty and student body at the University of Pennsylvania.

Last weekend’s peace march in Washington, DC illustrated this same apathy on a national scale. In a country of 300 million people, 67% or 210 million of whom oppose the American occupation of Iraq, somewhere between 30,000 and 400,000, marched for peace in the nation’s capital. The Captain and Tennille would draw a bigger crowd if they decided to reunite for one last tour.

Skeptics never accept poll results at face value. Yet talking amongst friends and colleagues one gets the impression that a large percentage of the population has had it with this war. Unfortunately, such dissatisfaction does not prompt Americans to action in 2007. I have seen dog owners yell at their pets with more emotion than I have seen anyone argue against the occupation of Iraq. The pollsters should add an asterisk to their findings on the disapproval for the war currently hovering at 67%*.

* Disapprove but don’t really care either way. Certainly won’t do anything about it. And what’s that guy in the wheelchair so pissed off about?

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