For weeks now, you have been watching missiles burst in Technicolor hues over an unfamiliar country while thousands of unfamiliar faces flee from violence. Hopefully, if you are not yet desensitized, you are abhorred.
If you are not personally willing to go to Yugoslavia and kill a group of people you have never met, then you can hardly support North Atlantic Treaty Organization's offensive. You acknowledge that they may be attempting to end an atrocious situation, but you are sure that a more creative solution must exist than escalate the violence. You can hardly applaud the talking-head leaders invading your television.
While you cannot applaud, similarly, you feel as though you cannot jeer. Who will hear? Were your house wired with a direct line to the White House, perhaps you would pick up the phone to tell a certain president your opinion. But that is fantasy. So you remain silent.
Talk of the tiny country occasionally rears its head in your daily routine. Friends utter that they wish the war would end. But their actions stop at that. They feel just as disempowered as you.
The distance, the confusion and the lack of a clear alternative solution halts your abhorrence in its tracks. You feel disempowered. What can you, a tiny atom in the world, do to stop such distant wrongs? What opportunities do you have for action?
Such sentiments are widespread. The evidence for their pervasiveness lies in the fact that there have been very little anti-war activity in our city which has not been spawned by people with direct ties to Yugoslavia. For them, the distance is not so great. The rest of us, however, tolerate the injustices because we feel it is our only recourse.
The feeling of helplessness is understandable. The avenues open to active individuals are dimly lit and poorly mapped. But there are avenues.
One side road from the ordinary steers us onto a path of information. When we begin to understand the horrors and the complexities involved, we can give a voice to them. We must have our own awareness of the issues before we can make others aware.
Knowledge is useless if it goes unused or unshared. With awareness comes the potential for activity. Disseminate your knowledge and opinions. Talk with those close to you. Write a letter to a newspaper or your government. Put up a web page. Help organize a protest. Act.
The trap of passivity is a seducing and subtle one, but one to be resisted. Our democratic system is supposed to promote discussion and free expression. When we fail to exercise that right, we are allowing others to make decisions for us. When our leaders are left to their own devices, the result is an unjust war.