With the midterm elections next week, candidates are bringing forward the most pressing issues of concern for Americans. But what are these pressing issues? According to a recent CNN poll, 45 percent of Americans said the economy should be our legislative priority, 12 percent said the national deficit, 11 percent said health care, followed by 6 percent who said the Afghan War.
Really, just 6 percent? It seems to me that this lack of interest reflects a lack of news coverage. Our hyperactive 24/7 news cycle has put Operation Enduring Freedom out of sight and out of mind. Do they think Americans are no longer concerned with the war? Is nine years too long to sustain America’s interest? It shouldn’t be. So let us quickly reflect, lest we forget: According to icasualties.org, over 1,200 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 – 2010 has seen the most with 400. 7,266 have been wounded – 2010 has seen the most with over 2,000. Last December, President Obama ordered an additional 30,000 troops to enter Afghanistan, and has asked Congress to rise defense spending to $708 billion next year – that’s 6.1 percent higher than the peak of Bush’s administration. And still, on a weekly basis there are approximately 100 attacks on coalition forces. These numbers show that the war is reaching new heights, and the fighting is unfortunately far from subsiding.
So why is there so little Afghanistan coverage in the news?
Vietnam comes to mind and, as those alive at the time will attest, towards the end of the war graphic images of death and destruction appeared in the media on a daily basis, reminding citizens of the horror occurring abroad. Television largely created a public sentiment that influenced nationwide protesting and eventually forced the government to abide by the public will to end the war. So when comparing generations, it’s easy to condemn today’s for not getting as involved with its wartime government. But is it really this generation’s fault? Well … not completely.
Seeing is believing. We are a nation influenced by television. News coverage is not based on our interests as much as our interests are based on news coverage – a lack of Afghanistan coverage creates a lack of public interest. Try searching the TV for rhetoric on the Afghan War – you won’t find any. This leaves us with a large number of Americans opposed to the war based solely on a natural gut-instinct against violence, and with little insight into the political nature behind the war. That is not to say their position is unjustified, merely that their position lacks a pragmatic basis, in turn making them hesitant to voice an opinion for fear of appearing ignorant. It would seem that pragmatism is left for experts, and idealism for the silent masses.
If television ignores the war, it is every individual’s duty to delve deeper into alternate news sources to learn the facts. It is only when we the people become adequately informed that we have the strength to join politicians in political discourse on matters such as war, and hold our government accountable for its actions. Only then will our democracy truly work. Only then will this war end.