We are now faced with a troubling situation. The recent U.S. strike on Iraq has divided nations and alliances, governments and families. The way our nation conducts its business – both here and abroad – has been forever changed.

We now see military vehicles in civilian places, immigrants are detained indefinitely and the list of things that we are advised not to do increases. We are, more than ever, living in a state of fear.

All of these things – and much more – have led many people to question the legitimacy of American actions. Others support our government’s decision regarding the use of force. I encourage all members of the UR community to weigh the evidence at hand, debate the legitimacy of this war and strongly consider American actions from every conceivable aspect.

Many of us do not want to be a part of what some would consider a troublemaking portion of the population and certainly no one wants to have their patriotism called into question.

But fear cannot be allowed to hinder a request for peace, and there is no more patriotic act than the kind of expression on which this nation was founded. We are living in a time when silence is inexcusable. Daily, soldiers and civilians face the threat of death and American citizens are anxious at the possibility of terrorist retaliation. In these circumstances, we must remember our constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly and exercise them.

This is the defining moment of our generation.

Will it be said in future years that when crisis arrived, our generation did not respond? Will it be said that when questions should have been posed, no one asked them? Will those who suffered as a result blame our inaction on an unfounded sense of helplessness? Will future historians shake their heads because we were more concerned with grades and games than we were with the welfare of our nation and the world?

It is with the state of current affairs, freedom and history in mind that I ask this university to do a bold thing. On Friday, March 28, I urge every member of this community who has concerns about the war in Iraq to gather at noon by the steps of the Rush Rhees Library. There, regardless of classes, activities and work schedules, we will exercise our right to peaceful speech.

This action has been organized with the cooperation of concerned students from all over campus and from every belief. It will be an hour when the campus stands still to remember the loss of life in conflict and to express our concerns over the continuation of that conflict. I urge faculty and staff to join the student population and to recognize the importance of this action.

Our speech will be heard on television and printed in newspapers, but more importantly, it will be remembered that when questions arose concerning the justice of war, UR rose to the occasion and addressed those questions directly.

The benefits that our collective action could reap – a campus where debate and discussion are paramount, where rights are respected and exercised – far outweigh the consequences of silence.

Together, in the name of peace, we can help raise the critical standards for this university, and our country.

Linczak is a senior and can be reached at plinczak@campustimes.org.

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