Saturday, May 11, 2024

#132 / Campus Encampments (A Partial List )

Facebook has delivered the following listing to my computer screen. The list comes from a labor/community activist at the University of California, Santa Cruz: 

As witnessed by the picture at the top of this blog posting, showing an encampment at UCSC, and published online on May 2, 2024, that Facebook listing, immediately above, is only a "partial list." The UCSC encampment pictured didn't make it to the listing, although a number of encampments at other UC campuses do appear. 

Partial or not, that's an impressive list, it seems to me, with the list claiming that there are encampments at "120+ Universities." 

According to Students 4 Gaza, which has a constantly updated listing, online, there are actually 183 encampments ("and counting"). That number was provided as of the time I am writing. You can click that updating link to see what has happened since about 9:00 a.m. on May 10th. 

The fact that so many student encampments have sprung up on university campuses, in support of the people of Gaza, has caused great consternation - at least at a lot of schools. Some encampments have been broken up, physically, by the use of armed police forces, who have been called to the task by university presidents. What happened at Columbia, in New York City, is a good example of that. Other encampments (like the UCSC encampment) are peaceful - at least so far. One encampment (there may be others, too) has been disbanded after those in the encampment have entered into negotiations with school authorities

Some have portrayed the encampments as "antisemitic." Is this true? I haven't been in any of the encampments, and I don't watch any kind of television or online "news." I do, however, read a lot of newspapers, and I am convinced that while some people in or associated with the encampments have attacked Jews verbally (and maybe even physically), the main thrust of the encampments is not to be "against Jews," or even to be "against Israel," but to be in favor of a ceasefire, and protection of the Palestinian people living in Gaza. 

There have been statements made, in some of the encampments, that the nation of Israel should be eliminated. There must undoubtedly have been, I feel certain, both regrettable and unjustifiable actions, and outrageous and unjustifiable speech, coming out of some of the encampments. A horrific war is going on in Gaza, and there is a tendency for those who see wrong things done on the one side to decide that those wrongs justify, and in fact demand, that the very same kind of wrong things be done on the other side, too. That is, it seems obvious to me, a self-defeating set of behaviors, and while I believe that the impetus of the "encampment" effort is to bring a ceasefire and peace, there is the ever-present possibility that the actual impact of the encampment movement will be to escalate division and conflict. 

Still, despite the definite danger that the encampment movement may exacerbate divisions, instead of promoting reconiliation, it is my belief that most of the students who have interrupted their education to create and maintain an encampment in support of Gaza, are hoping that they can dramatize the suffering and destruction that is going on - that is continuing to go on - and are saying that this must stop. 

At least 40 babies, some beheaded, found by Israel soldiers in Hamas-attacked village
Sixteen children were killed during the Israeli bombardment between 5-7 August 2022. 

Scenes from Gaza amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Violence and destruction will never create a "path to peace." I believe that the encampment movement is trying to dramatize this, and that we, the public, should respond to this call, and should demand that our nation listen to the "better angels of our nature," to employ the words spoken by the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address. 

David Brooks, The New York Times' columnist, authored a column that appeared on May 10th, as I typed up this blog posting. What he said, in that column, titled, "How To Create A Society That Prizes Decency," restates the lessons I learned during my own time in college, when action against the Vietnam War, and in support of the struggle for Civil Rights, gave invaluable lessons to me, and to other young people who came together in protest, just as young people are coming together in encampments, today. 

Have we learned anything? Has the song so beautifully sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary made no impression at all? Are we actually content to "never learn"?

I am not willing to ignore the truth that war and violence will only bring more of the same. Dead babies in Israel will mean more dead babies in Gaza. That is, unless and until we (finally) learn. I am glad that young students, in 183 encampments ("and counting"), are trying to get our nation to "learn." 

And thanks to David Brooks, too!


How to Create a Society That Prizes Decency

May 9, 2024

In 2020 Joe Biden ran on the theme of saving the soul of America. Once he was president, he used the power of his office to help direct hundreds of billions of dollars through the infrastructure law and the CHIPS Act to the people and places that had been left behind. At the time, I hoped that these programs would not only create jobs and give people a sense of financial security but also be seen as a sign of respect, a sign to the unseen and the alienated that America had their back.

These policies were successful in economic terms, sparking a torrent of additional investment and lifting real wages, but economic progress has not produced social or spiritual progress — less alienation, higher social trust. American society, at every economic level, is still plagued by enmity, distrust, isolation, willful misunderstanding, ungraciousness and just plain meanness. The pain in America resides in places deeper than economic policies can reach. So how can we create a society in which it is easier to be decent to one another?

To answer that question, I returned to Howard Thurman’s magnificent 1949 book, “Jesus and the Disinherited.” Thurman, a Black theologian, was a contemporary of Martin Luther King Sr., at Morehouse and had a strong influence on the activism of his son Martin Luther King Jr.

Thurman argued that the first step toward reconciliation comes when we redefine the people on both sides of these power equations. When status categories are frozen, people in different groups meet as enemies. But you can scramble status categories by asking deeper questions of one another: How have you decided to live your life? What are the questions you have had to answer? These inquiries begin the process of seeing others in their full dignity. They initiate a process of sharing mutual worth and value.

Then comes my favorite sentence in the book, “There cannot be too great insistence on the point that we are here dealing with a discipline, a method, a technique, as over against some form of wishful thinking or simple desiring.”

A discipline, a method, a technique.

To be a good citizen, it is necessary to be warmhearted, but it is also necessary to master the disciplines, methods and techniques required to live well together: how to listen well, how to ask for and offer forgiveness, how not to misunderstand one another, how to converse in a way that reduces inequalities of respect. In a society with so much loneliness and distrust, we are failing at these social and moral disciplines.

Similarly, to create social change, it is necessary to have good intentions, but it is also necessary to master the disciplines and techniques of effective social action. The people in the civil rights organizations in the 1950s and ’60s spent a lot of time rigorously thinking about which methods would work and which would backfire. Thurman’s emphasis on methodological rigor and technique influenced King’s brilliant and often counterintuitive principles of nonviolent resistance (emphasis added):

1. It is not a method for cowards. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

2. It seeks not to defeat or humiliate the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding in order to move toward a beloved community.

3. The attack is directed against the forces of evil rather than against the people who happen to be doing the evil.

4. One must have a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from an opponent without striking back. Unearned suffering is redemptive.

5. It avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. It is a refusal to hate.

6. Nonviolent resistance is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. It has a deep faith in the future.

There are obviously times when this nonviolent strategy is inappropriate — in a state of anarchy or war, when the very existence of your people is under threat. But these techniques did work in Birmingham, Selma, Chicago and beyond. Most important, they altered people’s souls, fortifying the state of consciousness of the disinherited, undermining the state of consciousness of the dominators and elevating the consciousness of those who looked on in awe and admiration.

These thoughtful techniques are a long way from the tit-for-tat crudities that now often pass for public discourse, the tantrums of the merchants of rage, the 57 percent of Republicans and the 41 percent of Democrats who regard people in the other party as their enemies.

As many have noted, we’re not going to solve our problems at the same level of consciousness on which we created them. If the national consciousness, the state of our national soul, is to repair, it will be because people begin to think as deeply as Thurman did and begin to be intolerant of the immoralities of their own side.

I was impressed this week by Georgia’s former lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan. A conservative Republican, he announced his decision to support Biden, and he rebuked those other conservatives who are appalled by Trump but still vow to vote for him. Duncan’s reasoning was straightforward: Character is more important than policy. Or to put it more grandly, the soul of our democracy is more important than whatever the future top tax rate might be.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!