TORONTO — In the wonderful movie "Dick," two teenage girls find themselves in the White House in 1972. Hearing Henry Kissinger discuss "offensive action north of the 22nd parallel," one girl declares, with outrage, "War is not healthy for children and other living things."
You can count on young people to be idealistic, right? Wrong – judging from e-mails I've received. I am accustomed to angry, odd, and lazy messages from readers. "U R a typical necon" read a recent pearl of wisdom. (Writing out "you" and "are" was too much work.) "What's a necon?" I asked a friend. "I think it's a new hybrid car from Toyota," she answered.
But I could not have predicted the lengthy messages I received in response to a pro-US column I wrote on the anniversary of 9/11. I knew something was up when the carefully written e-mails – nary a comma out of place – were signed with names such as "Schuyler, Kylie, Tyler, and Megan," rather than with grown-up names like Michael, Liz, Mark, and Jennifer. It turns out that students in a Toronto-area high school class were asked to pick a newspaper column they disagreed with. At least 12 students picked mine. In groups of two or three, they explained why.
Explain they did ... and all I can say is, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained defeatism. Rather than the adorable youthful conviction that war is not the answer, these teens seemed sure of two things: 1) The United States is to blame for the anger and actions of Islamofascists, for "creating more enemies," and 2) War may be the answer, but since Islamofascists will always be two steps ahead of us, we're bound to lose.
The former didn't shock me. There will always be anti-Americanism in Canada, particularly in the Toronto area, our very own blue state. When in doubt, blame Washington. But the latter explanation was fairly unexpected and revealing – in a creepy sort of way.
Wrote one group: "... no matter how advanced we get, the Taliban, and terrorists in other countries ... will find a way around everything we have put in place to protect us." Well now, there's the spirit! No matter what we do, guys in caves who wish for a return to the 7th century will find a way to top us. What would these kids have said in 1939, faced with a technologically advanced enemy? "Hey, FDR! Why hire that Einstein guy to make a bomb? Nazis have way better scientists on their payroll!"
More student optimism: "As our technology becomes more advanced, so does Al Qaeda's. An example of this would be the liquid explosives disguised as Gatorade found in an airport in Great Britain this summer ... no matter how much we spend on precautions ... our lives will always be endangered...."
Ah, blithe spirits! Did your teacher happen to tell you about fighting on the beaches and landing grounds and never surrendering? Or did he at least, say, mention the intelligence that uncovered the liquid explosives plot and other information? If so, I'd be curious to know the spin he put on it, given these words from a pupil: "Our intelligence is useless today because they are always two steps ahead of us." Where can I order my burqa?
In case I missed the point, there was this: "For every wall we build around us, they find a new way over." Get it? We are no match for our foe.
A recent Decima Research poll of 2,000 Canadians showed that 59 percent agreed that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan as part of NATO forces "are dying for a cause we cannot win." So Schuyler, Kylie, Tyler, and Megan come by their defeatism honestly. Each Canadian casualty in Afghanistan is met with days of media coverage, with pundits debating whether we ought to continue fighting "George Bush's war," and whether said war is "unwinnable."
We might want to recognize that it is our war, too. Especially if this prophecy from the students comes true: "When it comes to the point that America has turned everyone against them, there will be no one left to come rescue them...." And no one left to rescue Canada.
But perhaps I'm interpreting this too negatively. After all, I am a typical necon.
• Rondi Adamson is a Canadian writer. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org