Where do we go from here?

February 19, 2009

To wrap up the series, Moral Responsibilities for the Legacies of War, Margaret A. Post, director of the Donelan Office for Community-Based Learning at Holy Cross, moderates a dialogue of reactions and ideas with a student panel: Courtney Nicholson '10, Peter McMurray '09, Grace Campion '09, and Alec Scott '09.

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FRI FEB 06 12:20:28

My class, 1967, lost 6 classmates in the VietNam War. The fact of the war changed our lives in significant ways. Only one Jesuit, Fr. Gerry Kinsella, spoke to me about the issues at hand: in November 1963, he foretold doom in the US complicity in Diem's assassination. We had to figure out how to deal with the DRAFT on our own. I have been most proud of sharing Holy Cross in common with Fr. Phil Berrigan and Fr. Joseph O'Callahan. I have visited both of their graves! I know this: silence does not work. Add to the dialogue!

Jay McLaughlin,'67, Langhorne, PA


The discussion had raised numerous questions about war that followed up with the talks that we have seen the past few weeks. One student panelist discussed the responsibility of the host country. During the talk about Agent Orange it was apparent that the war did long-term damages that have not been addressed to what it should be. He also addressed that after the Iraq war the United States should not simply be worried about our own security but also about our reputation as a leading military power. I have not thought about the point of view from the other countries where the war is occurring. We are a leading nation that attacks on other lands and leaves the land with the damage done. A leading nation goes to war to help the country; shouldn't they have the responsibility of cleaning up the aftermath? Where does the responsibility lie was a reoccurring question that I was struggling with.


Another question that was raised is how to support our troops when they come back from the war? The word "support" is very vague since it affects a large number of our population. Not just our family and friends but other people we see on a daily basis. These are the members are society. How do we support them after all the trauma that they have experienced?

Melissa Jones, ‘09


I thought that the different perspectives that were brought to the table for the student discussion made the dialogue much more interesting than if it had been a strictly one-sided conversation. The perspective that I found really interesting was of that of the ROTC student. I thought it was particularly interesting because many of the topics that were being discussed were going to directly affect him in the future. Not only that, many of his family members are currently or have recently served in the military so these topics aren't hypothetical for him, they are things that he must face presently. I liked that the students were able to relate their personal experiences to what the previous discussions spoke about, what ultimately I wish that they had focused more on what we had heard about in their discussion.


Student, ‘09


Overall, I think that the student panel provided an excellent means of recapping the talk series and also provided some helpful insights into the three discussions that we have seen over the past few weeks. During the student panel, I was particularly inspired by the quote "the blemish of war continues long after the last shots are fired." I found this line to truly encapsulate the main theme in each of the three talks. For example, in Father Hehir's discussion, it was clear that active landmines are still blemishing the Vietnamese countryside, a consequence of war which still exists regardless of the moral or amoral justification for the war. Similarly, in Professor Fox's talk, Agent Orange has obviously affected loads of people, including multiple generations of Vietnamese citizens and American Veterans. But Agent Orange's effects have clearly affected something intangible as well - aside from all of the health effects, Agent Orange has affected the mindset of generations and has become a symbol of the inhumane nature of war that still continues today. For example, Grace of the student panel talked about the effects of depleted uranium on soldiers today - unfortunately, it seems that these blemishes of war still exist. Finally, in the last talk, it was clear from the third Bryan's tale of his own experience with PTSD that war truly has a lasting effect on veterans, their families, and their friends.


What I also enjoyed about the talk was that it really made me think about an application for the messages in these talks. The students represented a rather diverse group of opinions, from those who supported military enrollment to those who advocated for groups that promoted social awareness. Having seen this talk, the options for how students can get involved in addressing the issues of morality and war became more apparent.

Owen Fenton '10


It was very interesting to hear from fellow Holy Cross students discuss and make sense of the three previous Rehm talks. They each brought something different to the table and challenged the audience to DO something concrete, something positive to address the issue of moral responsibility in warfare in the days, weeks, and months following the symposium. One of the things that seemed to be brought up was a comparison between the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and the wars in the Middle East today. Back in the 1960s, even at Holy Cross, there was a great deal of activism-protests, walkouts, and marches across the country on college campuses-in response to the Vietnam War. Many people today seem to have some of the same sentiments against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there are not major protests, walkouts, and marches on college campuses today in response to U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. College students, instead, appear to be taking a more pacifist role in protesting these wars. How has American culture changed to the point where we are not seeing this kind of activism or we are not as comfortable making serious protests or engaging in the level of activism that college students participated in throughout the 1960s? Is this "pacifist" attitude to the wars effective or ineffective? Is it our moral responsibility as college students to DO something more than we are doing at the moment?


Christine Giamattei 2010


Tonight's student panel on conceptualizing our placement within the context of moral consequences surrounding war was thought provoking. As a conclusion to the moral legacies of war symposium, the panel brought to light issues we as college students must accept as leaders coming of age within our society and accepting the burden of different dynamics of moral responsibility home and abroad. We as students must engage within the responsibilities and challenges facing us rather than remaining complacent. As many of the student panelist echoed, we must be engaged with the subject matter surrounding war. While attending this forum and having the ability for open discussions generates acknowledgement about the existence of these responsibilities of war such as PTSD and Agent Orange, we must also actively pursue a cause to resolve these problems. Understanding the responsibilities of war is just the beginning. We must pursue a course of action, especially as college students embarking on our future career endeavors. The panelists today challenged me to think about the responsibilities of war in greater terms than acknowledging its existence but to remain conscience of possible action to uphold my moral placement within the burdens of war.


One of my questions for the panel was while we have talked about war's consequences on veterans and civilians subjected to land mines, where are the victims' of wars voices? I think it is important not to lose sight of those caught in the midst of battle. While soldiers and future generation groups which may suffer as casualties of war are essential when surveying the damage, we must remain open and conscious to those closest to combat, we have an obligation to ensure that victims' voices are not silenced. I think Professor Fox was on to this when she highlighted one Vietnamese family's story suffering from the aftermaths of Agent Orange. We cannot let the voices of war fall on deaf ears and this forum has brought to life even within our college community the responsibilities which result from war.

Kayla Pallas ‘10


The student panel was interesting because it was an opportunity for me to see students my age and how they individually were being proactive on dealing with the moral responsibility of the consequences of war. Each of the four students had a specific area of interest and knowledge about different aspects of war. One student's research was on the treatment of veterans when they return from service and how they fall back into everyday life again, another researched land bombs, one student is in ROTC and has a big family of soldiers doing service in Iraq, and the fourth student's interest was sparked by one of Prof. Fox's war seminar which deals with the humanity aspects of war.


The overall notion I took from the panelists was that we all should be proactive and learn how we individually can help out with the moral issues of war. We should find a topic that interests us and do our research, spread the word, and get people behind us to make changes. Our country has had so many grassroots movements from students about issues on the war, particularly in the 60's. It is our moral responsibility to ask the questions about the decisions made, the motives behind military actions, and how we as a country our affecting other nations through our powerful military force. We can't look the other way and figure that someone else will deal with these issues. Immense destruction of life, land, and power has occurred through war that challenges the moral values of the actions being made. It may be hard to figure out how individually someone can make a difference, but the issues of morality at hand are too significant to not deal with.

Student, ‘11