Amber Tester, president of the PSU Green Gorillas, addresses the audience at the start of a forum entitled Homeland Insecurity. It was held at the United Methodist Campus Ministry of PSU on March 28th. Seated, left to right, are Adolfo Castillo, Greg Brown and AmyKay Cole who were the first to speak on subjects related to the war in Iraq.
"Man-made psychological trauma is more devastating than trauma from natural disasters," Cole, a PhD Joplin-based clinical psychologist specializing in mood and anxiety disorders, told the audience. "It is more confusing, less dependable and has no low end from which to move on."
The anxiety levels of children in the US are extremely high, she noted, adding that this heightened sense interferes with learning, including necessary techniques for getting around in the world. Parents need to identify and provide the missing skills that children need to learn and deter any bad habits, she said.
Increased anxiety levels also cause nightmares, acute depression and further drug use, she pointed out. Feeling a sense of abandonment, the children of the men and women who have gone off to fight in the war need special attention.
The trauma faced by Iraqi children, whom she said constitute 30% of the population under siege, is especially devastating. Dealing with at-risk safety causes a constant state of hyper-arousal that leads to a foreshortened future, social estrangement and fight or flight behavior. If it is the intent of the war to free the Iraqi people, she said, in the case of children, it is not going to happen.
Student passivity unhealthy
Greg Brown speaking on the topic of "nationalism," wondered why more people weren't outraged over government censorship. "I don't like living with the feeling that somebody is looking over my shoulder," he said, after having joked that he probably was on the FBI's subversive list for having surfed onto a website produced by al-Jeezera. He queried, "Have we become brainwashed?"
PSU students, faculty, and members of several local communities take part in the forum. Many foreign exchange students had an opportunity to hear viewpoints not often publicized by the media.
The PSU English instructor teaches his students to learn from what has been written in the past--the role literature plays in the creation of wisdom, solace and guidance. However, he said he was disappointed that we're still dealing with the same issues. He also voiced discouragement over his students' increasing unawareness of the rest of the world. He said he has been grappling for years with "kids' disinterest in foreign affairs." "What's this have to do with my major" is a common argument expressed by students, he said.
Although the world disagrees sharply with US foreign policy, Brown doesn't believe they are expressing a hatred for Americans. However, French-bashing, an example of hostility fueled by ignorance, only made us look ridiculous to the rest of the world, he commented.
He quoted George Orville who, in 1945 writing on nationalism, said that people stick to their beliefs even though the facts are against them--they prefer to be isolated from the world and don't want to listen to anyone. They also don't hold anyone accountable for misinformation that remains uncorrected. Brown ended his comments with the remarks of Mark Twain. In "The War Prayer" Twain said, "only a dead man can tell the truth in this world."
Don't stifle dissent
Robert Swearingen, a St. Louis lawyer, captures the attention of the audience with his outspoken ideas about the Bush Administration.
The reasons why countries are upset with the US is not about us invading Iraq, Robert Swearingen, a professed activist from St. Louis told the crowd. Speaking on the new American foreign policy, Swearingen argued that other countries were reacting to the subservient roles in which the US put them. The first example of this US assertion was the mere fact of invading Iraq unilaterally. The US acted with its own legitamacy, a declaration of its own moral superiority. It didn't matter if Saddam had weapons or not. There was no room for dissent or democratic decision making, a situation that will end up affecting our own democracy at home, Swearingen said. The way the administration is going to manipulate us is by replacing the terms, "anti-American foreign policy" or "dissenters" with "terrorism or terrorists," he added.
Swearingen also called attention to our military build-up established primarily to contain the Soviet Union before its break-up. While President Bush senior brought about some military rollback, President Bush junior and his administration, according to Swearingen, is using military power to prevent the rise of another global rival and to assert our global superiority.
"Miraculous time in history"
Dr. Mark Peterson, faculty adviser for the Green Gorillas, concludes with quotes from Dr. Robert Mueller, former Assistant Secretary General of the UN.
On the topic of waging peace, Dr. Mark Peterson, PSU political science professor, expressed the opinion of former general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower when he said, "The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give, it to them." (DDE also said, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."--ed. note)
"Dr. Peterson also quoted from a speech of Dr. Robert Mueller, the 80-year-old former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.
Dr. Mueller called this a "miraculous time in history," the first time the UN Council shared in a dialogue to wage peace through global conversation. It brought the French and Germans together, the Russians and the Chinese and the Kurds and the Turks. Never in human history has the world been so united over the issue of war and peace. 93% said no to war, he quipped. And whom does Mueller credit for bringing together the world: George W. Bush.
Lone voice of support
Admitting that he held a black and white approach to life, Adolfo Castillo, who calls himself an Hispanic Political Advocate, was the lone voice in support of President Bush's foreign policy. Although much of what he said seemed to be of little relevance to the topic of homeland insecurity, Castillo took credit for "bringing the audience alive" and "opening up [their] minds in debate."