Archive for the ‘College Politics’ Category

Anyone who proudly brandishes a “Support Our Troops” ribbon on the back-end of their vehicle will be alarmed by the following news I have to report. One Iraqi War veteran -whom I shall not name for I lack the permission to rightfully do so- has been forced to step down from his position in the peace movement because of insurmountable obstacles. One of the “Troops” we claim to “Support” has succumbed to, after two years of hard work, acute inability to effectively appeal to public conscience on behalf of veterans who continue to die senselessly on foreign soil. This peace activist has encountered, within other peace-seeking veterans (“Troops”, that is), widespread resistance to act. These “Troops” are reluctant to act because they feel uncomfortable publicly voicing themselves on how they feel about a war that they, personally, fought. He points to the ‘pedestal’ on which the American Troops (whom we “support”) are placed and how that placement leads to ‘public dismissal’ of the message these veterans have to share about the war and its merits. This remarkable citizen, a veteran of the War in Iraq, a “Troop” that thousands of magnetic bumper stickers have informed me I ought to support, appears to have been marginalized, exhausted, and silenced by cold indifference under the cover of pop-culture patriotism.

As a veteran of the Iraqi War and peace-seeker myself, I wish I could say that this individual’s frustration is uncharacteristic of the public’s “Support”, but after enduing the same frustration myself, that public leaves me little reason to assert otherwise.

If indeed we “Support Our Troops”, let us grant them the greatest “Support” possible by listening to the unique insight and perspective they have to offer us about the War on Terror. We surely will not get a clear, unbiased message from the politicians who have invested so much in this seemingly endless campaign, nor can we hope to discern truth from the media mouthpieces those politicians embed within deployed military units. These ‘reporters’ are so intensively manipulated and censored, their stories filtered and distorted to such a great extent, that the ‘news’ we receive from the front lines cannot be appreciated for much more than propaganda -“cheerleading” as Amy Goodman would put it. We have an opportunity to gain an understanding -whose clarity is truly unmatched- of this war if only we will, in the absolute sense, “Support Our Troops”. If we deny them this, then who do we actually support? The men and women who bravely risk their lives, I sincerely hope, are the “Troops” to whom these stickers refer; if not, I fear greatly that the word “Troops” functions shamelessly as a euphemism for our societal self-worship.

–Dan Black

Read Full Post »

This evening, Marist College was fortunate enough to share company with Dr. Anna Brown, professor of political science at St. Peters College, who walked to Guantanamo Bay in protest against the illegal imprisoning of the detainees there. Dr. Brown is part of “Witness Against Torture”, a group of Christian activists who commemorated the fifth anniversary of the prison by walking directly to the Naval Base where the prisoners are held and attempting to visit with them.

She gave two presentations tonight in the Henry Hudson Room of Fontaine Hall. I attended the first one and found two things deeply off-putting; I am unsure which is worse. The images and facts that Dr. Brown shared were very upsetting, but as I looked around the room, I discovered the boredom made apparent on the faces of the students in attendance was at least as upsetting. These kids, no doubt, were forced to attend the lecture by one of their professors, and they did not appear very pleased about having their Tuesday night ruined by exposure to uncomfortable truth.

I apologize; I misstated the facts. These truths, I am unhappy to theorize, appeared not even to breed discomfort in the souls of the students. The only source of discomfort, presumably, was their losing out on whatever social opportunities that would have otherwise occupied their time. What a pity, we are forced to acknowledge the existence of the victims who’s humanity our own government has stripped and the cultures it is mercilessly killing.

My career as an activist, though admittedly young, has been defined by disappointment after disappointment as I feel I am getting closer and closer to perceiving with absolute clarity the extent of the our culture’s cold apathy. Never could I have imagined that I would ever believe our nation has a shortage of citizens -college students!- that dislike the idea of our government torturing and killing innocent people in the name of freedom. This nation has reached a state that is truly alarming. What is the answer for how to reconcile this injustice? How do you get people to care that people are being tortured and murdered with their own tax dollars? If you cannot even feign interest in these issues as they are being spoon-fed to you by someone who has been to the heart of the monster and is describing its chambers, what will it take? Must we have helicopters firing .50 calibre machine guns into the cell-phone towers, I-pod factories, night clubs and sporting arenas, and other venues you foolishly expend your menial existence, in order for you to care? How many bodies will it take? We are closing on a million in Iraq, countless million others in foreign lands. We are endowed, as college students, with so much opportunity to explore our ideals through changing the world, and we squander it by getting intoxicated and pursuing the opposite sex every waking chance we get.

I am flustered; I don’t know if anyone else shares this sentiment, but voice it if you do. Voices need to be heard; we are critically short on amplification. If you, unlike so many unconscionable college students I saw this evening, found my reference to “Witness Against Torture” intriguing, you may view their website at http://www.witnesstorture.org/

     — Dan Black

Read Full Post »

“You call me an enemy of American Democracy, and yet I along with only a handful of other Americans am even knowledgeable of what it means to practice Democracy.”It is frightening when even college students relinquish their sense of curiosity and skepticism. I know college students who are confused about the true meaning of words and I know fear.”

“Solidarity has been liquefied; apply as much pressure as your strength allows you to exert and pray to whichever God you serve that it is enough to reestablish our broken social bonds and recover unity.”

These are my thoughts for the day. I became frightened when I read a few things in our college newspaper (Marist College), though I am not easily frightened. These frightening things were widely known, so I’m unsure of why they struck such discord; they did nevertheless, and, low and behold, I am furiously blogging again after 2 1/2 months of silence. Read my columns in The Circle (Marist’s newspaper) if you’re curious, read Chomsky if you’re open-minded enough (read independent media if not), read Freire or Kozol if you’re a concerned educator like me, but -mercy of The Almighty- read something! Remember the Downing Street Memo. Remember Alberto Mora’s famous Torture Memo. (they call these things “memos”, they must be remembered)

Remember your God; to do so, you must first know your God. To know your God is to know yourself, and you have no God but the one you serve. If a slave cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), then choose your master wisely; you only get one. Religion, if it endeavors to achieve a relationship with something unobservable/supernatural, is as much an accomplishment of the mind as it is an accomplishment of the spirit. Both are gifts from our creator; both become cataclysmically toxic when misused. If your faith is tied to a secular agenda, you may very well be a murderer and not even realize it; better to err on the side of peace than to risk otherwise, I believe. I fail to accept that any man or woman who lived their life in pursuit of peace will, upon their death, be judged harshly for doing so. War has been around long enough for us to realize it is not altogether a good thing; it has proven most harmful, in fact, and will likely continue to do so. Perhaps we should try something else…

— Dan Black

Read Full Post »