war and silence

I titled this entry in imitation of Jason, who writes about the silence on his blog resulting from feeling a need to say something about the war, but not feeling like he has anything “terribly insightful to say.” Reading Jason’s entry, I’m not sure that’s true, but his anxiety evidences perhaps the sea of information washing over us. So much of what we’re hearing is not terribly insightful. Who wants to add more of the same? Chuck has been writing many interesting thoughts about the war and how it makes its way to us via different channels. And, of course, even the most cursory perusal of blogdex reveals that the war looms large in the blogging world.

Do I have anything particularly insightul to add to this? A few thoughts and observations from an English professor:

  • There’s a quote traditionally attributed to Edmund Burke making the rounds to support out war on Iraq: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Sounds grand, but in the end, this statement is pretty empty. It doesn’t justify one course of action over another. I can imagine, for example, the men who flew the jetliners into the WTC agreeing with the sentiment, but also the men and women currently fighting to remove Sadaam Hussein from power.
  • We’re reading Christopher Marlowe’s Tragical History of Dr. Faustus in my early British literature course. In his first attempt at black magic, Faustus conjures a demon, but is so disgusted by the demon’s appearance that he orders him to return in a less offensive shape. An example of the lengths to which people will go to disguise to themselves the evil they are about to commit?
  • I asked the students in both of my undergraduate classes how they felt we should approach the topic of the war. I described it as the elephant in the room that we weren’t talking about. They said they would rather just talk about the readings for class, that they were suffering from war overload. It’s not that I want to cram my own thoughts about the war down their throats. Rather I think the way the war is being framed (pro/con) is limited and that the critical, analytical tools offered by English studies could provide some new ways of thinking about what’s going on. It’s hard to work through this and still keep up with my usual responsibilities, though.
  • I went to today’s Reflection on the War, a UMKC discussion series I’d written about earlier. It’s a bit odd that the university frames it as “Personal Well Being: Coping With War,” as if it’s an emotional or psychological health issue instead of a moral, political, or philosophical one. However, I think the series is a great idea, and I’m encouraging my students to go. Today’s was facilitated by Drew Bergerson, from history, and he did a great job. Drew discussed the history of the concept of national sovereignty, and the rights of nations to act militarily in the interests of their own security. The turnout was not as high as I expected, but the discussion that ensued was good. Low points included me saying, “If the U.S. is so interested in making the world a safer place, maybe we should be invading ouselves.” Not productive, G.

Terribly insightful? I don’t know.

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One thought on “war and silence

  1. Sounds a bit like some of my experiences in the classroom. Because I’ve been showing Twelve Monkeys, there really hasn’t been any opportunity for students to talk about the war in class (other than in passing references). I did set up an online forum for students to talk about the war, and, tellingly in my opinion, only a single student has posted so far. A few have written papers that address the war. I think they feel compelled to say something, but with all the information out there don’t feel like they can say anything new. As for me, I’m rarely sure that I am saying anything new, but it has been an opportunity for me to work out some of my own concerns about the war and the media.

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