War and Peace: A Roundtable Discussion

St. Louis' youth online magazine, Louie, recently gathered seven area high school students for a roundtable discussion on the war on terrorism. Travis Gregory, Shadi Peterman, Jessi Donahoe, Samantha Keppler, Liz Fuhro, Rebecca Halperin, and Wil Mowrey participated in the dialogue. Shadi is Iranian-American, and Sam and Rebecca have spent time in Israel.

Louie: How personally connected do you feel to the war on terrorism? How has this situation affected you?

Shadi Peterman: I kind of feel teens should pay special attention to the war on terrorism and what's going on in Israel and Palestine because they're not our problems right now, but should they not get solved, they will be in the future. So, we should be paying attention in case it falls upon us to take care of it.

Jessi Donahoe: I think this is an important issue to me personally because it's not just that some people are getting hit with bombs or are dying. These are families; these are people that are doing the same things I'm doing. I believe that, if it can happen to them, it could also happen to me. And that makes me very worried about how my family could eventually be affected.









At my school not a whole lot has changed. People are trying to ignore what's happening because it's so much, and it's so intense and it's almost too much to handle. If we do talk about it, it's very, very generalized.



Louie: How afraid does this make you? Is there a level of fear that has been injected in your lives based on what's been going on?

Shadi: I was more afraid for my family in Iran at first. When they declared the war on terrorism and said that Iran is in the "axis of evil," I felt kind of upset about that. But it becomes more general after a while. You just get kind of tired of seeing all these people being killed, over and over and over again. It gets pathetic after a while, and seeing that just kind of wears you down.

Liz Fuhro: Personally, I'm not afraid for my life, but I have family in Israel. My friends have family in Israel. And I'm afraid of what could happen to them. It's really depressing to think that there are people who think they're doing good by killing other people and they think they're gonna live a better life if they destroy themselves and others. It's just a really sad thing.

Rebecca Halperin: I sort of have two different but similar fears. One is a very selfish fear, and I guess it's that, with everything going on, my children won't see Israel how I saw it. And then the other fear is just that I guess it's possible for people to hate so much and so deeply, and you never think that it would be possible for someone to be able to do what people are doing to each other. It's not just a nightmare or something that you say one day would happen.

Louie: What are some of the ways that the war has changed dynamics at your school?

Liz: Actually, at my school, at least within the people that I'm friends with, not a whole lot has changed. People are trying to ignore what's happening because it's so much, and it's so intense and it's almost too much to handle. If we do talk about it, it's very, very generalized. We don't get in to details; we talk about the latest suicide-bomber. We just stick to our day-to-day discussions about what happened over the weekend because it's easier to deal with. It's not so difficult to manage.

Samantha Keppler: It hasn't changed at all, sadly, as much as I try to push to talk about the issues. I want to be able to be like, "Well, you guys, this is how it is." But I'm only one voice.

Rebecca: After Sept. 11, everybody was freaking out -- and rightfully so. But a lot of my friends that also shared a connection in Israel -- we sort of felt like this happens everyday in Israel, and finally America was getting a taste of what it's like to be freaked out because someone you know might have been hurt. I think that was the only time there was a response at my school -- a huge response all over the country. And I still had a different response, though, than everyone else.

Travis Gregory: I don't think that people don't care, or at least teens don't care. They don't know the real story, the real fight of the Israelis and Palestinians. This is a fight that's been going on not only in modern history but in Biblical times. So, I think the education factor -- a lot of teens just don't know what it's really about, and that's why it doesn't interest them. If they don't know what it's about, why get caught up in it? So, I think education's the key.







People will get in a playful disagreement with someone who is Arabic, and then the next word out of their mouth is "terrorist." I swear, it's just become an awful, trendy insult.




Samantha: The hard thing is just figuring out how to educate, how to get the message across and how to get peers interested in the topic. I mean, now it has come in to America -- just because WE were bombed. But before I have to admit though, once I went to Israel, it all became more because I lived with it. I lived down the street from the Sbarro that was bombed a few months ago, and I woke up to bombs. So, on 9/11, when it happened -- first of all, I was having a very difficult time getting reacclimated to America. Then that came, and I lost it; I completely broke down. And people were like, "What's wrong with you?" They didn't understand, and then I just was like, "OK, I'm done."

Liz: I just think it's not so much that people don't know. I think it's more that they don't want to know. The first three or four days after the 9/11 attacks, every TV in our school was on CNN -- all the time, all day. And as it gradually became a little more real, people just stopped paying attention. If it doesn't have anything to do with them, they don't wanna hear about it.

Jessi: The Arabic people at my school were already being called "brown people" by everybody at school. And now those people will get in a playful disagreement with someone who is Arabic, and then the next word out of their mouth is "terrorist." I swear, it's just become an awful, trendy insult.

Shadi: My teacher has joked about me being a terrorist before because of my Iranian background. I know he's just kidding, but on some level -- ouch.

Travis: People have no idea how Muslims actually are. These terrorists aren't so-called "Muslims." Their beliefs are nothing of their religion.

Shadi: Islam is a really beautiful religion. I think the misconceptions about how you need to blow yourself up, and God will be, "Oh, yea!" -- it's not like that at all. It's a very peace-loving religion, and I think a lot of the misconception has been over religion. And then it gets put onto a certain group of people: a woman who wears a scarf or a man who wears a turban. I just think that they're putting too much on image.

Jessi: Many, many people in our country and in the whole world are so quick to judge but you can't know anything about a person unless you hear them say it and you see them act on it.

Louie: How involved do think the United States should be in the war on terrorism and the Israel/Palestine conflict, and in what way?

Wil Mowrey: If anything, definitely morally instead of all the economical reasons. It's really selfish, and I think it should be more of what's right. And I don't think America has any grasp or concept of what's right, right now.







I think America's always in a lose-lose situation. If we don't help, we're sitting by, being selfish; if we help too much, we're poking our nose into somebody else's business.



Shadi: If it gets to the point where neither country is really working towards peace, we shouldn't be pushing it because it makes us look kind of odd. It's their problem, and we should be there to help them if they ask for it but nothing really beyond that.

Louie: What if there were a reinstatement of the draft and you were called up? What would you do?

Rebecca: In Israel, it's mandatory for girls and guys. Sam and I have a lot of friends and people that are close to us. Right now, we're getting excited about college, and our peers that are the same age are getting nervous about going into the army.

Samantha: It's not even nervousness. It's an awesome, awesome nervousness.

Rebecca: This is gonna come off sounding really awful, but I think I would be more eager to serve in Israel's army. I would not wanna serve in the American army if the draft was instituted here. But I don't think I'd have to be asked twice to serve for Israel.

Samantha: I agree. I'd go in a second.

Rebecca: Yeah, but it would be scary. One of my closest, closest guy friends -- his brother was in Afghanistan, in the troops that were going through the mines and stuff. Obviously, it would be scary; everyone's gonna say that if the draft came back, it would be sad to see your friends and your fathers and your sons go. I don't think there's any other way, but...[in a whispering tone] I don't know -- just that it's scary.

Wil: If I got word that there was any kind of draft, you'd probably find me with a one-way ticket out of this country. I disagree with just about everything that's going on and what our country is doing, and I just couldn't fight for it.

Travis: I won't disagree with anyone's opinion. But I believe every country has its sins, and everybody has certainly made mistakes. And, if anything, this country has certainly recognized its mistakes. I won't say that America is perfect, but I find it hard that someone would enjoy all the benefits of America, but when it comes to fighting against another nation, they would revolt.







I think that the whole excuse of, "What can I do? I can't do anything, so I'm not gonna do anything" is kind of an immature way of avoiding something. I don't think that's acceptable at all.



Samantha: I think a big problem that everyone has is, no one wants to admit that, no matter what we do, people are gonna DIE. And so, we're trying to find a solution where no one will get hurt, everything will work perfectly. The idea of killing anyone makes me nauseous. But, especially with teenagers -- I feel like I try to sit down and try to figure out, "Well, we could do this, this, this and this, and no one would have to get hurt."

Travis: I think America's always in a lose-lose situation. If we don't help, we're sitting by, being selfish; if we help too much, we're poking our nose into somebody else's business. We're the major power in the world; there's no doubt about it. So, we're gonna have to do something about something.

Shadi: I would have to be a conscientious objector to the war because I just feel that the United States has made so many mistakes, and they're not accidental. The United States has done disgusting things with its foreign policy in the past. and I cannot risk my life for a country that has -- and in my case --done terrible things to a country where my mom is from. And I've seen the effects of that firsthand. You know, I've seen people who have their legs blown off in the street from the weapons that the United States sold to Iraq, while selling weapons to Iran, while they were fighting each other. I can't go to war for a country that 's done that, especially if it gets to the point that the United States may choose to go to war against Iran -- and I would be there fighting against, potentially , family. I couldn't do that.

Louie: As an 18-year-old high school student living in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, what can you do?

Rebecca: This -- what we're doing now. Talk.

Jessi: Well, I've signed a lot of petitions and written a lot of letters. This sounds really stupid, but I wrote to Jimmy Carter because I know he opposes what we're doing, and I know that he's a great diplomat. And I asked him if there was anything he could do that would maybe influence our president to think about it differently. [sighs]

Sam: I think that the whole excuse of, "What can I do? I can't do anything, so I'm not gonna do anything" is kind of an immature way of avoiding something. I don't think that's acceptable at all.

Travis: I think you have to educate the public -- not only teens but older adults as well -- because, again, education is the key to everything. If we don't know what we're fighting for, we're not gonna fight at all for it.

To read the entire transcript of this Dialogue, visit Louie Magazine.





Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.