Why This Issue
Raise your hand if you're tired of hearing about Afghanistan. How do we interest you in a war that doesn't really affect your daily life? Even though 60% of Americans think that the war is 'un-winnable', who is really willing to do anything about it?
Ten years into this war (Ten years! We ask our relatives about growing up in wartime without realizing that today, no child under ten years old has lived without their nation being at war), it seems like another permanent fact of life. The nightly news has the sports, weather, pick-me-up story, a short update on Afghanistan, and a few soundbites of news. Is permanent war now inevitable for the United States? How are we consenting and participating (actively or not) to its continuation?
Right now, it feels like we are all just too darn busy to think about this war; our lives are consumed by both real and manufactured distraction. Many of us are in large amounts of debt, understandably worried about health insurance, concerned about our children's education, or how we will retire. Simultaneously, though, we are extraordinarily busy learning the new iPhone app, playing the latest Xbox360 game, and TiVo-ing our favorite prime-time television shows (followed by the obligatory Facebook status-updating and Tweeting to tell everyone about it.) The accumulation of these bloated days - both of real worry and consumerism-driven distraction - leaves us feeling unable to put our best intentions for justice into action.
We send you this issue of The Round Table to shine a bright spotlight on this illegal war and occupation. When brainstorming the articles for The Round Table, we wanted to pose some commonly-asked questions to our authors: Who are these people living in this war-scarred country? Sarah Latham does a thorough job of describing the history, culture, and religion of Afghanistan. What about the Taliban, the War on Terrorism, 9/11, and by the way, is all this really about oil? Teka Childress and Ben Schartman attempt to provide answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions in their well-researched article. What about Afghanistan's women? Colleen Kelly addresses this question, investigating the propaganda behind media portrayal of Afghanistan's women, and highlighting statements directly from (rather than about) the women there. What is the local connection? Andrew Wimmer discusses war's relationship to capital and propaganda, illuminating St. Louis' place within this country's war-making. So, what does the Catholic Worker (CW) have to say about this war? Megan Heeney details a brief history of the CW response to past wars, setting the stage for current CW action: protesting the rising use of drones, addressing the issue of torture and illegal detention, and participating in war tax resistance.
Following these main articles, Timmy Cosentino reflects on the how to describe the work of Karen House, Annjie Schiefelbein and I write a reflection on Teka Childress House, and Carolyn Griffeth reflects on the Catholic Worker's longevity.
There's no end in sight for this war in Afghanistan, nor any reason to think that the U.S. will end its practice of exploiting the globe for resources it deems necessary. It helps me, within the bloatedness of daily life, to regularly remind myself that I have a continuing responsibility to learn more, and to act for justice with those born without my privilege. It's important for me to acknowledge that the consumerism that fuels resource-driven wars lives strongly in me, and that I need to persistently seek to extinguish it.
I also know that it's hard for me to initiate uncomfortable conversations with my family and friends, and that consuming justly is easier said than done - it takes time, research, and often, more money. It's easier to stick to light topics, drive everywhere, get what's on sale at my “local” box store, and rationalize it all, while (directly or indirectly) providing the fuel for war.
It has been instructive and important for our community to publish this Round Table. We hope it will be a resource and an impetus for you as well. Can we step outside our harried lives to end these wars? It's up to each of us to answer the question.