Troops are Coming Home: Life Without Iraq on the Forefront



Soldiers who have spent many a holiday in Iraq without their families will finally be able to rest easy and come home this year. (Allen J. Schabut)

Since before most of us even hit double digits, our troops have been in Iraq fighting the “War on Terror.” It has been accepted as commonplace for nearly a decade, and as of Dec. 31, it will all come to an end. To think of the war in Iraq ending is utterly mind blowing and honestly, relieving.

In the war’s early stages, a new wave of patriotism and pride in our nation took over the home front: “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers stuck to every car and American flags rose high in front of buildings and homes. Children participated in drives where they made care packages for soldiers. We were taught to honor them, and care about them. We were made aware that we should do all we could to help them survive and to pray that they come home soon.

Just what we needed to heal our fractured nation, right? Maybe not. In fact, this may have fractured our nation even further, seemingly causing a great divide. This war birthed a whole new batch of prejudices, hostility, terror and fear. People became obsessed with stereotypes, fearing anyone of a Muslim background and associating them with terrorists. It seemed as if everyone, even women and children of that culture, was deemed a terrorist.

Cities and airports heightened security, which instilled even more fear in the American public. Through the years, this fear didn’t fade. People may have lost the strong pride that they had in the months following the attacks of Sept. 11th, but the hostility persists unfortunately.

Even last year there was an astronomical debate over the building of the Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero. Critics called it “un-American” to allow such an establishment to be built, believing it was dangerous to allow Muslim worship to occur so close to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was as if all Muslims were responsible for Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq.

For our generation, we grew up with this war, which also means we were brought up with this hostility, fear and prejudice. We are a generation that is about change. We are so much more open and accepting as a culture than any other before, especially here in NYC, one of the most diverse cities in the world. In fact, many of us go out of our way to try and be different than the norm. It’s accepted to be “different.”

But with an upbringing in such a hateful and discriminatory age, where profiling is deemed as being okay and even a safety precaution and fear is everywhere, can we ever be as fully accepting as we would like to be? The media put prejudices in our minds without us even realizing it. Until the troops are withdrawn, and there is nothing to fear, we can never be fully free of these prejudices in media, which carry over to our lives.

As students of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, we are among one of the most diverse and accepting student bodies. In the midst of all this acceptance, there is this prejudice in our subconscious, even if we choose to ignore it. We grew up hearing about the stereotyping and profiling of Muslims and Iraqis, and it has stuck with us, bringing us all the way to the end of 2011. This is such an unhealthy society to be brought up in, where certain cultures are not only looked down upon but also actually feared. We were children, we didn’t understand and the press and the nation’s reaction only furthered the terror.

On Friday, Oct. 21, President Barack Obama announced that nearly all the American soldiers in Iraq would be brought back home by the end of the year and would most likely be home for the holidays. At that point in time, he will be able to officially “declare an end to America’s…war in [Iraq].” In the coming months, many families will be blessed to have their prayers finally answered as their loved ones return home.

If we could stop our nation’s fighting elsewhere, then our generation could be the first generation of adults to embrace the idea of “peace” in our nation and our prejudices could end. The elderly may not be able to change their ways, but we can. Our children will hopefully grow up in a time where our nation is at war in their history textbooks, not on every news channel.