Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss defending America. Next week we’ll ask, “After almost two years, MIT has reinstated standardized tests as a requirement for undergraduate applications. Should other colleges do the same? Are the SAT, ACT and other standardized tests useful measures?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before April 12. The best responses will be published that night.
Supporting Our Ideals
A recent poll suggests that a plurality of young people would flee from war if it came to the U.S., no doubt feeling discontented with America’s modern reckoning with the sins of its history. Perhaps they feel our national destruction is deserved. Worth noting is that it costs nothing to give a patriotic answer to a survey question. If a land invasion of the U.S. were to occur, we should probably expect an even higher percentage to flee.
The poll’s dichotomy between fighting or leaving is not precise. A substantial proportion of the population would not be engaged in direct battle. The real distinction is whether we support or oppose the ideals of freedom, equality and representative government.
Given the global influence of the U.S., escaping the consequences of a war would be impossible no matter where one fled. I would choose to fight an invader on American soil without hesitation, although I hold no delusions as to my readiness or usefulness in doing so. No matter its faults, the U.S. is worth defending because it is the only nation in the world that has maintained a government and culture of individual rights for more than 250 years. Young people shouldn’t give up these ideals so easily and hand the nation over to authoritarians. They may never get it back.
—Sarah Montalbano, Montana State University, computer science
Fulfilling Our Duty
America has given me so much. Ever since I was adopted from China, my life has been blessed with opportunities, community and freedom. If my country is attacked, then I would stay to fight to keep my blessings. My family’s history of serving in the military also makes the decision even easier, with two active Air Force pilots and two scientists at national labs in my immediate family.
The youth of America tend to see only active soldiers as those fighting for their country. Defending America, however, also consists of researching new weapons, promoting morale and drafting new legislation. Everyone has a duty to protect our country’s lands, ideals and freedoms, and we should fulfill this duty.
—Therese Joffre, Hope College, chemistry
Ukraine Is a Mirror to See Ourselves
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has held a mirror up for Americans, forcing us to evaluate our beliefs, community, family and nearly everything else we stand for. I have had to grapple with unhappy thoughts about my nearly two years of military service while in the Army in Afghanistan, but watching this unjust invasion has made me realize I would not leave this country if it were attacked.
—Alexander Butler, University of Montana, law
Courage Reveals Itself in Crisis
I would like nothing more than to say that I would be courageous and stay to fight. America is my home, and I cannot imagine giving it up. I cannot make that promise, however, when I have never faced the threat of losing loved ones to a war or of my home being turned into rubble. We all have to ask the same questions: How can I protect the people and places most dear to me? How can I chart a path forward and rebuild once the war is over?
Even though courage makes a country’s best defense, we should not scorn those who say they would leave. Many who profess courage will flee when tested, and many who say they would flee will choose to stay, for courage often only reveals itself in times of crisis. I believe I should stay to defend my country. I can only pray that, should such a time come, I hold true to my word.
—Evan Carlisle, Ohio University, mathematics