Activism is Key

Phillips Academy is a place where, as a student, I can feel comfortable voicing my opinion regarding the present state of world politics to both the faculty and the students. Andover prides itself on being a liberal, forward-thinking institution that accepts differences and understands the diverse backgrounds that make up the student body. With war quickly approaching, however, why is a cloud of apathy blotting out our ability to care about the events unfolding around us? I have faith that we, the student body, try to keep up with current events outside the town of Andover and to educate ourselves about our government’s foreign policies and actions. The media blitz surrounding the troop buildup in the Persian Gulf has reached post-9/11 levels. Our current policies are spread across the front pages, as are the military’s plans for an apocalyptic first assault on Baghdad. I do hope that we, as students and members of society, are well aware of the turmoil which threatens world peace. The argument that we live in the bubble that is Andover should not and cannot justify indifference. We like to claim that our school is filled with driven, serious individuals, students with high maturity levels and an intense capacity for learning. I do not underestimate our desire to absorb, and I do realize that most of us have too much work to look at, let alone analyze, the news. But it is all too easy to slip into the dangerous trend of not knowing the situation that exists around us. Like it or not, in a dozen years we all will be establishing ourselves in a global society formed from the events that transpire today, tomorrow, and in the coming year. Involving ourselves, if only broadly, will help us in the long run. Read a magazine. Take a look at the Internet news. Talk to your friends and teachers. Decide for yourself where you stand in the realm of world politics. Activism is key. In this school, choosing to stay out of the loop is a dangerous choice to make. Education is a means through which we can better understand the intricacies of the outside world. But we must question everything. Do Bush’s reasons for attacking Iraq, when North Korea has known nuclear weapons and Osama bin Laden remains at large after seventeen months in hiding, exist purely to rid the world of the “evil dictator” Saddam Hussein and to free the Iraqi people from Hussein’s tyrannical reign? Conservative estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths during the first Gulf War stand at 100,000; while liberal estimates reach into the millions. One of the great advantages about living in the United States is the ability to question our own government and the policies of our leaders without fear of repression or persecution. Last Friday, millions of people in the US and in other major nations around the globe joined together in a peace rally designed to show the Bush administration and its allies that the global community stands united in its commitment to peace. This weekend’s protesters were determined to show the world that people care and take action according to their feelings. Granted, I’m not asking Andover students to run outside with picket signs and bullhorns, but we all must, at least, understand why others do. Too many times have I heard a student say “Oh, I don’t know anything about politics,” or, “Yeah, I really don’t get into that.” As we go through Andover, we should try to be aware of what is going on in the world. Students should take advantage of the forums provided by the school to educate us about current events. Last year and this year, the History and Social Sciences department held extremely informative information sessions in Kemper, and notable government officials like Clark Randt, the US Ambassador to China, have come to campus to speak. Luckily, these forums are usually full of students asking legitimate and important questions. These debates should continue out of a structured setting. I don’t think most people would chastise you for asking, “What is the conflict between Israel and the rest of the Middle East?” or “What is happening to NATO?” World politics are an issue that will directly or indirectly affect every person at this school in the coming months. Give yourself an advantage by educating yourself about the world in which you live. This argument may seem naïve and childish, but over my time at this school I have found that many people here have little interest in life outside Andover. We are at a school with countless resources and receptive faculty. Use them. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to (gasp) do a little extracurricular research on current events. Every student here knows well enough that since September 11th, the balance of peace in the world had been in a fragile state. We were all effected by that day’s tragedy. But we must not let ourselves fall into a trap of ignorance by dismissing our interest though apathy, or we may just find ourselves lost in a world drastically different from today’s.