By Karen Jacob

I've lived in the heartland for more than two decades. And I can tell you that there’s nothing like a sultry July night at the local ballpark, rooting for the home team, eating hot dogs and quaffing beer, watching fireworks viewed from damp, warm infield grass.

This time of year, the Midwest is awash in flags and bumper stickers boasting one’s support for the troops and the good ol’ red, white and blue. But, lately we have seen more and more “Come home!” messages, and headlines such as, “Locals hope for an end to the war.” Unemployment, which struck the heartland harder than most places, still affects many who are at the end of their unemployment checks or are underemployed. War costs in Afghanistan, nearing $2 billion a week, particularly stick in the craw of these suffering Americans.

My son will be a sophomore majoring in music education at Butler University this fall (You know, that small Midwest college with the basketball team that went to the Final Four -- two years in a row), will graduate not knowing whether there will be music and band programs in public schools where he can work. Juxtapose that against the two decades of his life filled with costly wars. The first Iraq war started in 1991, when he was not yet born. That war, followed by bombing in the Balkans and elsewhere -- Afghanistan, Iraq again, and now Libya, with the hint of more to come … means that my son and his generation have grown up in continuous war. They know nothing else.

My son's generation thinks gas prices are about war. He knows this father was drafted during the Vietnam War, and that he escaped that fate. He has older friends who returned from recent wars as lesser human beings.

His generation has grown up in a time of plenty, and also a time of economic insecurity. As someone who has worked for peace all her life, I love the Fourth of July. I honor freedom, justice and all that it envelops. Yet, I worry about the constant drain on our American collective dream of freedom, justice and economic security.

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