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Declare war on silence

We should return to the noisy days when we cared about more than ourselves

We should return to the noisy days when we cared about more than ourselves

February 25, 2006|By David Bussard

I've been taking a lot of walks lately. This is part boredom and part New Year's resolution. No, I don't want to lose weight. I'm not that cliche. I want to see more of the beautiful city I'm blessed to live in for the next four years, if not more.

I don't have to walk far to see great things. Right out my front door is Washington Square Park, what is known as New York University's "backyard." Physically, the park hasn't changed much since it was built. Now, it's overrun with students bustling to and from class or taking a break from the day.

There is a coldness there now, not just one brought on by the winter. It can be found in the people passing though the park, with a messenger bag on their shoulder and a cell phone pressed to their ear. A naive visitor wouldn't suspect that such a place was the site of massive protests in the late 1960s.

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As I was walking down Fifth Avenue on my way home, I noticed a sign hanging high off the street that read "Unnecessary Noise Prohibited." I then glanced over at the ivory arch in Washington Square Park, where Fifth Avenue ends.

A friend of mine, slightly obsessed with the Vietnam War era and the park itself, came to mind. I saw this park full of fake protesters dressed in '60s garb for the filming of a movie late last year. I imagined them being real. With a real purpose. Certainly that wouldn't be unnecessary noise.

The fact is, there is little noise now in the park. NYU students take up some of the appearances of their predecessors, walking through the park in vintage clothing and listening to music that speaks of change. And yet they don't have the same attitudes. They walk like ducks, they just don't talk like them.

There is little noise anywhere. America has gone quiet, silenced by fear and doublespeak. We are afraid to talk, to yell, to object because of a man who deems those freedoms to be unpatriotic. The men and women who marched through Washington Square Park in the late 60's were not terrorists. They were not unpatriotic. They were loud. They were brave. And they were not afraid to speak up.

There is another one of these signs, shouting "Unnecessary Noise Prohibited," in front of the Judson Memorial Church on the south side of the park. It is placed high in the air, only a few feet away from the blackboard that displays the topic of this Sunday's sermon.

Below that are three numbers. The number of American deaths in Iraq, the number of Iraqi civilians dead, and the number of Iraqi civilians wounded. The middle number is the highest. And there is no noise. There is only a man passing by, briefcase in hand, cell phone pressed to his ear.

What happened to the America that cared about its future? We all live in a global village, and yet we are so concerned with our own lives, our own personal advancement, that we cannot stop to think about others.

There is a cloud of complacency hovering above this country, and we can't seem to shake it loose. The only way to get rid of that lax and lazy attitude is to make noise. Pick something, anything, and talk about it. Bring it to work. Talk about it over your lunch break. If you actually eat dinner at a table with your family rather than in front of a television, talk about it there.

It's time for a revolution. Again. This one has to be all us. We must be brave enough to stand up and say no. What's the use in patriotism if it's used to kill and destroy while our country flounders?

Patriotism begins, strangely enough, at home. Let's not forget that. To lift that cloud of complacency, we have to remember. We have to remember the social injustices in this country. We have to remember our murderous rage in the name of freedom and equality. We have to remember the two men who've lived down the street for 18 years and aren't allowed to marry. We have to remember the 18-year-old who's been denied an affordable education.

Change isn't always easy, but few things are. Stand up, talk, debate. No noise is unnecessary.

David Bussard is a former Clear Spring resident, attending school in New York City.

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