Speaker: Wars are grim, not glitzy Hollywood affair

Sheila Burt

Drawing upon personal experience in war-torn countries, sociology lecturer Doug Hostetter on Wednesday night discussed the lasting effects combat has on all individuals. The speech was held during a reception for undergraduate students sponsored by the sociology department.

“War is often portrayed by the media as a glamorous event where high-tech machines are used with great accuracy to destroy the ‘bad guys,’ Hostetter said. “But when you’re (actually in the country), you discover its profound effects on (everyone).”

About 40 students and faculty members attended the lecture where they ate authentic Afghan food from a local restaurant and listened to Hostetter detail his lifelong involvement with war relief organizations.

Hostetter, who teaches a course on the role of nongovernmental organizations during international conflict, boasts 35 years of experience working in war-torn countries that include Vietnam and Afghanistan.

During the Vietnam War he aided native children by helping to improve their literacy skills. He also worked with Iraqi children and helped free four U.S. hostages in Iraq. Most recently, Hostetter volunteered to deliver food to Afghan refugees.

Throughout the lecture, Hostetter displayed many belongings from these and other conflict-ridden countries, including a sculpture of a deity given to him by a former student in Vietnam whose grandfather, a monk, died in the Vietnam War.

“He asked me to take these items that belonged to his grandfather and show them to the people of the United States,” Hostetter said.

Hostetter showed the audience an intact piece of a bomb; part of a chandelier from a bombed Sarajevo library, a building that once stood as a symbol for multicultural unity, and several pictures of other buildings that were destroyed in battle.

In addition to displaying these tangible items, Hostetter told many emotional stories, including one of a Palestinian professor who lost his wife and children in January 1991, when the United States bombed a shelter thinking it contained Iraqi intelligence officials. About 400 women and children died instead, Hostetter said.

But Hostetter offered encouragement when he urged students to “think creatively and critically” in order to find peaceful means to end war and help those in the middle of violence.

“Even in the midst of the most horrible situation, positive things can always be done,” Hostetter said. “There are people of life, hope and compassion, of all ideologies and religions, on all sides (of war). You can find ways to do good things even in the middle of war.”

Audience members said they were invigorated by the lecture, adding that Hostetter inspired them to find ways to help war victims.

“He showed me how you can do something,” Weinberg freshman Lindsay Kuehn said. “His experience showed me that it’s (possible to help) and not just a cliche.”