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Where’s the concern?

Claire Kelley | Friday, December 5, 2003

In the two months since I arrived in Italy to study abroad for the year, I have been exposed to many cultural differences. But these differences from the United States go beyond the lack of huge shopping malls or better ice cream and coffee. The most sadly obvious difference to me this past month was the unified outpouring of public emotion as Italians mourned the 19 soldiers who were killed in Iraq Nov. 12 – a stark contrast from the way the Bush administration tries to avoid the issue of the growing number of American causalities and seems desensitized to the value of human life.In November, the Italian people and politicians showed their grief at public ceremonies held to honor the dead – Italy’s worst military loss since World War II. The bodies were brought to Rome and were placed in the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Piazza Venezia. Hundreds of thousands of people brought bouquets of flowers and waited in line in silence to pay their respects. Many of the shops and restaurants in Rome turned off their lights or closed during the duration of the funeral on Nov. 18, which was declared a national day of mourning. Outside Pascucci’s, the sandwich bar where I eat lunch every day, Patrizia, the woman who works there, hung a multicolored pace flag (pace is the Italian word for peace), which has become an international sign of opposition to the Iraq war and all that it stands for. When I told her that I supported this gesture, she hugged me and I could see in her eyes the sadness of a citizen in a country that cares deeply about the horror of the fatalities of this war in Iraq. Around the world, while families of those who have died in Iraq suffer, the bubble of the Bush administration remains completely removed not only from the pain of war but also the protests that are reflecting public opinion around the world. Bush avoids addressing reports of American deaths like those in the helicopter crash on Nov. 2 with brief public relations statements or he just says a few vague words about “freedom” or “combating evil” like he did during his Thanksgiving photo-op. What is our country coming to when our president not only gives false reasons for entering a war, but also tries to use simplistic rhetoric with little meaning behind it to justify loss of human life?In Europe, as protests continue both in London and outside my window here in Rome, I realize how lucky these people are to be able to express their emotion and opinion without the restriction and manipulation of their governments. The more I learn about the Bush administration the more I realize that the saying is true – “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”