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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

April 2, 2006

Tombers Ponders Passivity

My brother, sister, brother-in-law and I, were together in the same place at the same time for the first time in five years. It is a rare occurrence as we three siblings live in separate states.

Such a reunion seemed to call for reflection and I booked myself a bedroom on the Silver Meteor, the train which runs from Orlando, near my sister’s, to New York and settled in for twenty four hours of private time, with books and music and the rare gift of time to absorb it all. While I trundled north, slowly, as there were track repairs underway which held us up, I reflected upon family and nation, two things locked in the soul of this country. As the countryside rolled by, the U.S. was marking the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

The marking of the anniversary was very tame from both sides of the political spectrum. President Bush did barnstorm the country defending the war and, here and there, in smaller than expected numbers, protestors came out and rather politely demonstrated against our Iraqi adventure.

When I was young and Viet Nam was an inferno both there and here, I remember participating in my first Peace Demonstration, being a member of a crowd that seemed to stretch on endlessly in front of and behind me.

While riding the rails and listening to Rachmaninoff, I speculated on the reasons that this war has generated so little in terms of protest compared with Viet Nam. Certainly, there are similarities. A goodly portion of the country is opposed to our presence in Iraq as a goodly portion was opposed to our presence in Viet Nam. Viet Nam degenerated on every front into a quagmire and Iraq has every potential for doing the same, if it has not already.

Viet Nam had My Lai and Iraq has its Abu Ghraib.

But there is no draft as there was for Viet Nam; only those who in some way or other have chosen to go are in Iraq so there is no outrage from the young about being forced to fight in a war in which they do not believe. There is no immediate threat to motivate them; and their parents.

Thankfully, unlike Viet Nam, we are not reviling the troops, having come to understand the difference between fighters and policy makers.

My generation of baby boomers, the people who marched with me in that Peace Demonstration, seems to have lost the outrage in our souls. After returning to New York, walking on Wall Street, a middle-aged woman, my contemporary, handed out a postcard with photos of caskets returning from Iraq. Later, I wanted to go back and thank her. She had put action to her beliefs.

My generation has evolved from protesting to yuppie-dom to quietly living out our lives as the world swirls around us, content to e-mail our senators with our protests [if we have any], reluctant to take to the streets to demand a change or to engage powerfully in the life of body politic.

And there is always behind us the specter of the falling buildings on 9/11, an event which eventually led to our presence in Iraq and, in its devastation, helps explain our emotional ambivalence about this war. Yet, unlike World War II, we are not united in moral outrage. The moral ambiguities of our universe give us pause and result in political paralysis rather than activism. We lack both the moral certainty of WWII and the commanding voices of dissent that punctuated the Viet Nam Era.. Where is our Gene McCarthy?

When Bush stated, almost nonchalantly, that it would be for another President to withdraw the troops, a shot of electricity ran through the country and jump started a dialog different in tone than any heard to date about this war. Suddenly, the debate has become more vital overnight; a differing reality has set in. Dissent seems to have begun. Mr. Cheney is blaming the media for our discontent, reminding me of Spiro Agnew and his "nattering nabobs of negativity."

It may be that the body politic is awakening from a long slumber and will find a voice for this time