That Giving to the Whole Spirit 

opinion and analysis

We see you. Yes, we do! We see you on your college campuses risking your lives to protest the atrocities in Gaza, the genocide of the Palestinian people, and the outrageous and unjust U.S. support to Israel funding the genocide in our names.

As we all age by the day, evil never does, and you are standing up to that side of human nature determined to send us all to an early grave. It can’t be easy doing what you’re doing.

Many activists here in the Central Valley recall their days of engaging in similar actions, and they know what you’re going through, what you’re thinking and why you’re putting your lives on the line for others living so far away.

Why does it matter? Seriously, why should it matter? We know why it matters. We know that when college students like you across this nation refuse to be part of this government’s destructive policies, it matters for everyone, not only Americans, because evil is backed down and that causes changes, changes for the better, and those changes build a more just and peaceful society.

That is until evil rises to challenge us again as it seemingly does repeatedly, and here it is—again—in the most heinous of ways, but you have chosen to stand up to it, back it down, get in its face and do whatever it takes to send that monster back to the bowels from whence it came.

Sixty years ago, on the Berkeley campus, the free speech movement was born. My hope is that college activists today on campuses currently exercising their constitutional rights to assemble and free speech have heard of Mario Savio et al. because, like them, you are putting your bodies on the gears of the machine that has become too odious and has made you so sick at heart that you can no longer passively allow the genocide to continue and that you are now putting your bodies on the line, on the gears, the wheels, the levers, all the apparatus itself to make it stop.

You are willing to risk it all like the college students in the 1960s did because your government, much like the one in power 50 years ago, is not listening to the people, is not engaging in fair and just policymaking, is not valuing human life over profit.

The price up to this point is steep: tens of thousands of innocent lives brutally ended, starved to death, destroyed, traumatized, forced from their homeland, shaken to the very core of their existence.

No law made by man, no cop, no amount of pepper spray, handcuffs, batons, no jail cell, nothing exists more compelling than what lives in your hearts, and that is the commitment to stop the genocide in the Palestinian territories with your own bodies, and we see you.

Some 2,500 years ago, another prominent figure referred to himself as a gadfly. He is known by all who have studied ancient Greek philosophy, literature and history. Like Socrates, who died for his beliefs, you are the modern-day gadfly, irritating the powers that be, constantly being that nuisance and nothing will stop you now.

As of April 27, at least 57 protests nationwide had been recorded on college campuses; 15 of those saw police interactions and among those 600 students and fellow protestors were arrested.

The birthplace this time was Columbia University, whose president testified before Congress aligning herself and the institution whose care is under her control with legislators irritated by you, legislators supporting the genocide. On April 18, she had the New York Police Department come to your campus to take down your encampment. Since then, encampments like yours have popped up at colleges from coast to coast, and we see you.

On May 1, two weeks after the Columbia encampment began, in my hometown of Fresno, students held a sit-in on their university campus in solidarity with you and all those promoting a ceasefire, committed to ending the genocide, and demanding the United States stop further military aid to Israel.

On May 12, UC Merced students set up an encampment in preparation for a three-day UC Regents meeting. Their demands echo many of yours:

  • An immediate call for a ceasefire
  • Financial divestment of all UC investments systemwide and campus-specific investments that directly support the genocide in Gaza
  • Academic boycott ending all university ties with Israel including study-abroad programs
  • Amnesty for all student protesters
  • Reinvestment in direct financial support to support students needs and investing in aid to Palestine

A colleague referenced JFK at the end of his presidency in a recent e-mail to the Veterans for Peace no nukes working group, “His assassination began a return to might is right, to war ideology, trust and to the military industrial complex taking full charge…highlighted at the time with full Vietnam involvement and death of innocents…international laws to be trashed.

“Don’t see a leader like him, but then again, the system is [that] such a leader would not be allowed, but the ‘aging population’ may recall that giving to the whole spirit…it was in us.”

Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, the times were promising and uplifting, and that’s because of people like you taking a stand, risking your lives for that, giving to the whole spirit.

In Chris Hedges’ “Revolt in the Universities,” he ends by saying that “there are many shameful periods in American history. The genocide we carried out against indigenous peoples. Slavery. The violent suppression of the labor movement that saw hundreds of workers killed. Lynching. Jim and Jane Crow. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya.

“The genocide in Gaza, which we fund and support, is of such monstrous proportions that it will achieve a prominent place in this pantheon of crimes. History will not be kind to most of us. But it will bless and revere these students.”

As one of many members of that aging population, along with Peace Fresno (a Fresno-based organization), we see you, we bless you, we revere you.

Author

  • Carol M Goiburn

    Carol Goiburn is the Vice-President of Peace Fresno, Board Member of Center for Nonviolence, Disarm Committee Chair for WILPF, and VFP Chapter 180 member and will soon be co-hosting The Peace Dividend podcast. You can connect with her about social justice issues at gburn4533@gmail.com

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Ken Hudson
Ken Hudson
20 days ago

Yes, the youth are leading our nation on this issue!

Camille Russell
Camille Russell
19 days ago

The courage and activism of the college students and other young people in support of the people of Palestine is an inspiration! Those of us who are older activiists need to let them know we want to support them.

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