Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Date With A War

Last week at the gym I was near a gentleman who was watching the television on his exercise bike. He turned to the person next to him and said, "Russia is at war with Georgia and they're playing in the Olympics. That's not right."

I'm paraphrasing, but that was the jist of his comment. It's funny because a few days earlier, I made the same comment to myself. Countries at war shouldn't be competing in the Olympics. But then I had to stop and think...the USA is at war right now too.

Initially, I started this post to discuss whether it is okay for warring countries to compete in the Olympics. But now my attention has focused more on how conveniently people overlook similar situations.

The question is: why did we so easily forget that we live in a country at war also? This is an interesting question especially considering the fact that the Iraq War recently passed its fifth anniversary. However, that's precisely the point. The war has been going on for so long that we are immune to it. (From here on out, I'll take license and use "we" to mean the average person living in the US who is not a soldier in Iraq or the family of one.) It's become part of the scenery. We've been dating the Iraq War too long. Just like in a relationship, it's new and exciting at first. But after five years you just get used to it.

And, even though we suffer from the effects of the war in many ways, we are largely insulated from it. This is mainly because the war is not taking place on American soil. Most Americans are not used to experiencing war. The last time a war broke out here was in 1890. It would be hard to find a person alive who even knows someone that fought at Wounded Knee. So it's easy to relegate a war going on half way across the world to a minor role in our lives, despite all of the "footage" and reporting we receive from the media. Now if you were an Iraqi, I'm sure the war would have a totally different level of prominence. We are grateful that we haven't had to experience any modern wars here. Can you imagine your house being blown up by a tank and foreign soldiers running through your street? This is why a video game like Call of Duty could only be conceived in the USA. We are truly simulating someone else's reality.

Ultimately, the fact that the South Ossetia War broke out on the dawn of the Olympics is what initially led me to question whether the countries' athletes should participate. When I heard about Russian forces entering Georgia my mind immediately traveled to the next hot international topic; the games in Beijing. The new war made me forget about our beleagured five-year relationship with the old war and I was more concerned about punishing athletes than the welfare of the Georgian citizens.

So as we sit around and complain about gas and mortgages and unemployment and which candidate is more incompetent, remember, that we can also ride our exercise bikes and not worry about bombs dropping outside the gym.

No comments: