In the spring of 2003, when the U.S. government invaded Iraq, many high school students paid close attention. Many participated in protests, walked out of class, wrote about their views and debated with family and friends. A year later, though there are continued reports of violence in Iraq, teens don’t seem to be following the issue. Students from the L.A. Youth staff expressed some of their views about why.
"Teens are apathetic about Iraq because we feel like we can’t make a difference. Last year, teens held debates, risked truancies to protest, wore ribbons, waved flags, and all other sorts of things. But all these efforts seemed to accomplish nothing. How can we compete with the government, or, more importantly, how can we make the government listen to us?"
—Julia Barajas, 17, Narbonne HS
"When I watch the news with my mom—which I try not to do too often—it hurts to see the Iraqi people living in such poor conditions. I hear my mom praying for the Iraqis as well as for the families of the American soldiers who are still there. It’s hard to see people suffering. I cannot imagine how those people live, not knowing if they will die the next day, not knowing if a bomb may explode near them or their children.
I think people in America have not stayed into the issue because it doesn’t affect their lives. We are here, indoors, protected and free. We have streets to walk on and money to spend on our interests. I just become so grateful for all the things I have, to be living under an organized government, to be in a democracy. I can go to school and learn, I have people who care about me. I think of the unfairness of the world. You are just born somewhere, you can’t really choose where."
—Javiera Infante, 16, Van Nuys HS
"Many of the people I know don’t watch news and aren’t up-to-date with anything going on in the world. I am not so sure if teens don’t care at all. Maybe they are not aware of how important it is, or just don’t have the resources that will inform them."
—Jazmin Alvarez, 15, Downtown Business Magnet
"For me, Iraq is still a heated debate. My friends and I discuss how American imperialism affects world affairs and what brutality soldiers are inflicting on civilians. In my political awareness club, Youth in Action, we try to tell students a different view of Iraq, one that isn’t publicized on the six o’clock news. It is a shame that we see the slaughter of innocent civilians in the name of freedom.
But for most teens, Iraq is a dead issue. They are into MTV or their teen pop dramas and don’t care about events half-way around the world. Last year, being political was the "in thing." But as soon as the first few bombs were dropped, rallies were less full, people stopped caring and everyone got on with their lives."
—Stephanie Cruz, 17, Bravo Medical Magnet
"Most teens don’t care about Iraq or politics in general. They don’t even know the difference between Republican and Democrat, so the issue of Iraq is dead to them.
One of our teachers was called to duty in Iraq, and he sent us a letter, saying he doesn’t want to talk about war stuff. I think the last thing a soldier wants to talk about is war, so that subject may be dead to them as well.
I don’t agree with the war in Iraq because the adults that make the decision to go to war don’t think about the damage they will do to the country and how many innocent people will die. I grew up in El Salvador and I remember hearing the gunfire—once a bullet went through my wall. My dad tells about when he was a soldier there and he saw his friends die and he came close to dying as well. When I look back on the history of my country, I wouldn’t want another country to go through that kind of thing."
—Leticia Lopez, 18, Fremont HS
"Even though news of the war has helped people understand and care about what’s happening in Iraq, over time I think the coverage has muffled the harshness of the situation. There are drab reports on the numbers of casualties. We see only a few seconds of the trauma and heartache that has been inflicted on the people of Iraq. It doesn’t show the magnitude of the situation, so people see Iraq as a distant event with little or no relevance to their daily lives. Teens don’t want to follow the news about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They’d rather hear about Michael Jackson and his kids."
—Cesar Delgado, 17, Foshay Learning Center
"Now people don’t really care because the media believes coverage of Iraq just doesn’t get good ratings anymore. Out of sight, out of mind."
—Ray Tenorio, 18, City of Angels HS
"Most of the students in my school are busy with college applications, financial aid papers and other imperative things. People are too busy to focus on things that do not directly affect them."
—John Ochoa, 17, Lynwood HS
"In a way it irritates me that my friends don’t care about the war in Iraq because it is something that every American should be concerned with. I can’t say I watch the news every day or search the L.A. Times for articles on the war, but it has been on my mind. Just the other day I was reading my old diary entries and I just happened to come across an entry one day before President Bush declared that we were invading Iraq. I was scared, and I didn’t think we could do it. But here I am a year later, and I’m not scared at all. I have faith in our troops and I am behind them 100 percent. I hope more people start to express their concern about the war."
—Ashley Zartner, 15, Bell HS
"People are forgetting about the troops, if they ever thought about them in the first place. Some don’t even know that our troops are still fighting for our country. Even last year, people participated in walk-outs so they could get out of class, but most of the students didn’t participate. Maybe it’s because we’re so far away or we’re not directly affected by it, but my classmates don’t talk about it or think about it."
—Monica Maeng, 16, Van Nuys HS
"I saw on the news that a car bomb killed some civilians in Iraq and that made my heart small. I feel bad because a lot of people in Iraq are getting killed, while here in America we are enjoying ourselves and having fun. But it’s so common to see stuff about Iraq on TV, people take it as a routine, everyday thing."
—Esther Cuevas, Fremont HS