By Daniel Clarke, 18, Hamilton Music Academy
Print This Post

Illustration by Tammy Phan, 16, Mountain View HS

It seems everywhere you go these days, there’s the American flag. On T-shirts. Waving from cars. Hanging from buildings.

Even in school.

We had a peace assembly at Hamilton High School a few weeks ago where people sang and different clubs did dances. Everyone on stage either wore red, white and blue clothes or shirts that read: I love New York.

It seems the country is bursting with pride and patriotism these days and all gung-ho about our soldiers killing Bin Laden. This all feels like a trend to me with the T-shirts and talk. I wonder if it’s a fad. People in our country go through crazes, like when the Lakers won the championship, everyone had to have T-shirts that read "Back to Back." Now that’s been switched with God bless America T-shirts. Even saying, "United we stand," is trendy. It makes me think that this loyalty will end when something bigger comes along. For now, I think this makes people feel that they’re a part of something bigger.

I wondered just how deep everyone’s loyalty really is. So I asked some classmates how they felt about going to war, if they were drafted.

My friend Daisy seemed confused about the question, because she never considered being drafted and fighting the war. She’s not one to wear a flag T-shirt anyway.

"I don’t know. At first I’d be mad. I know it’s my duty as an American to fight. But I think I’d rent a bike and ride to Tijuana and tell them I had a peeing problem or something, so I couldn’t fight," Daisy said. "Or I’d break my leg on purpose."

My friend Mark is always talking about how he hates the Taliban and that they should all be killed. But when it comes down to the possibility of Mark carrying a gun and pulling the trigger in Afghanistan, it’s a different story.

"If I was drafted, I’d probably tell them it was against my religion," Mark said. "I couldn’t kill anyone."

My friend Leo plays on the football team with me. He’s a junior and has one more year of high school before him and plans to play ball in college. He talks about college all the time. If he was drafted, all those dreams would be gone.

"I think everyone has the right to decline going to war. It’s my right to decide. No one has the right to decide for me," Leo said. "If I was drafted, I’d go to Mexico."

I was surprised to hear all this. I wondered if people were really patriotic underneath it all, or just talking the talk to be cool. It seems that people at school are excited about the war, but don’t want to be that involved with it. Like it’ll interfere with math class or eating their sack lunches.

When I first saw the terrorist attacks, I wanted to go fight. But then I thought, "If I die out there, that’s a waste of my life." Some people may say, "You’re fighting for your country." But what about my future? I want to go to college next year in San Francisco and major in business. Not carry a gun and shoot at the Taliban.

I don’t want to sound like I’m afraid to go to war. But I don’t want that one incident to change my entire life. I’ve been building dreams about what I want to do after high school for the past 17 years, and I want to accomplish them. I’m not one who would ever wear a flag T-shirt anyway. I didn’t even buy a Lakers T-shirt when they won last year.

On the news, I watched a bunch of people in the armed forces say their goodbyes before getting on ships and planes to go to Afghanistan. Most of them looked to be in their young 20s. They’re putting their necks on the line for all of us. They’re the true patriots.

It’s great for them, but everyone’s not like that, and I wish we’d all stop kidding ourselves.