---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 12:44:25 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Peace activism a tougher sell on campuses
Peace activism a tougher sell on campuses
By Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
April 21, 2002
As the United States wages war in Afghanistan, supplies weapons to Israel
and fights terrorism at home, all's quiet at American university campuses.
Sure, anti-war groups conduct occasional vigils and seminars.
They fill the Internet with peace propaganda. They even marched on
Washington, D.C., on Saturday, hoping to spark a new age of activism.
But, dude, this ain't the '60s, when campuses nationwide challenged the
Vietnam War and a variety of social issues. Students of the new millennium
have classes to juggle, jobs to worry about and parties to attend.
"I have a frat brother who's in supply-chain management," said Jonathon
Bashford, a 21-year-old player in the progressive movement at Arizona State
University. "He recognizes there are a lot of serious issues, but he
doesn't have the time or energy to care in a major way. . . . Peopl e know
there are problems, but they don't recognize them as their problems."
"It's a remarkable contrast," said Charles Howlett, a New York teacher and
historian who has written extensively on the Vietnam-era peace movement. "I
don't see much activism at all on the campuses. . . . Today's students are
far more career-oriented. They don't have the same sense of social conscience."
Randall Amster, a Prescott College peace-studies instructor who wears a
tie-dyed shirt, says the message of peace often gets lost on today's
university crowd. Thanks to Sept. 11 and the Middle East mess, he adds
hopefully, the times may be a-changin'.
"It's at the post-embryonic stage, but not quite a viable fetus," Amster
added. " . . . I hope we don't have to wait for the apocalypse for people
to get interested. I sense a growing momentum."
Some of that energy was evident Saturday, when 50 members of an anti-war
group gathered in Tempe Beach Park and marched along Mill Avenue carrying
signs with sentiments such as "Peace in the World or the World in Pieces."
Before the march, Dwarko Sundrani, a disciple of Mahatma Ghandhi who runs
an ashram in India, spoke to the crowd about resisting violence with
"We don't really call this a protest," said Emily Gaardner, who is working
on her doctorate in justice studies at ASU. "We call it an event, or a
meeting where we come together to think about alternatives to war."
Age of Aquarius
Young guys like Joe Oliveros, an ASU freshman who juggles 13 units, 20
hours a week at Mervyn's, a girlfriend and soccer matches, hardly have time
for peace campaigns.
So Oliveros - and 99.9 percent of his peers - didn't attend Friday's
daylong peace-and-justice teach-in at ASU. He didn't watch a street theater
kickball contest between "Democracy" and "Corporate Greed." And he didn't
hear Arizona Civil Liberties Union Director Eleanor Eisenberg, the event's
keynote speaker, try to inspire 80 true believers with nostalgic memories
from the Age of Aquarius.
"I personally had a very happy hippie-hood," she said. "We thought then
that we had changed the world. We thought we had ended war. . . . We have
got to get back to that."
Rekindling the spirit of yore may be impossible, given the huge
distinctions between anti-war efforts then and now.
Howlett and other historians point out that Vietnam was a prolonged
military campaign against an enemy that never attacked the United States.
Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers, many of them drafted, were killed or
injured. Americans watched outtakes on nightly news, with children dying
of napalm burns.
In Afghanistan, by contrast, we have a six-month engagement after the
nation's worst terrorist attack. The fighting, mostly with bombs and
missiles, has been conducted by volunteer troops, few of whom have lost
their lives. Media coverage often has been controlled by the Pentagon.
"We really don't see the sense of urgency today," Howlett says. "There are
not a lot of military people being killed. There's no draft. And it's a
much more sanitized version of what's going on over there."
By all accounts, the draft made a major difference. During Vietnam,
millions of young males were motivated by conscription as well as
conscience. The "revolution" became a contagious mix of self-interest,
idealism and drug-laced surrealism.
Howlett says war became the central issue in an earthquake of causes -
racism, corporate greed, environmental destruction, government corruption,
The peace symbol emerged as a unifying emblem of contempt for the so-called
Students marched, sang and boycotted classes.
They got stoned and threw rocks. They blockaded administration buildings,
burned banks and got killed by National Guard soldiers at Kent State.
Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin',
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming:
Four dead in Ohio.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Courtney Welschmeyer, a 21-year-old family studies major at ASU, said her
dad was a Vietnam vet and her mom tasted tear gas during protests at the
University of New Mexico.
Welschmeyer has never taken part in campus activism, but says the anti-war
groups are "kind of neat," adding, "I would totally wear a ribbon in
support of the troops if they handed them out."
In fact, a substantial number of students support the military effort in
Afghanistan, where even residents seem grateful to be rid of Taliban
rulers. Few rage about the loss of civil rights to America's anti-terror
campaign. Most seem bewildered by the conflict in the Middle East.
Amid that confusion, even the peace movement's biggest modern advantage -
Internet communications - appears to have backfired.
There are so many competing Web sites, some with nasty differences, that
the casual browser is overwhelmed. Groups touting peace include
grandmothers, moms, artists, Blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims, lesbians,
socialists, Catholics, anarchists and countless student organizations.
It may seem like a happy coalition, but be ready for conflict if you check
them out: Americans for Peace Now, features a flashing Internet sign that
declares, "To be pro-Israel is to be pro-peace." The War Resisters League
condemns Israel's "long and brutal repression" of Palestinians. And so on.
Even Saturday's event in Washington, D.C., was factionalized, with two
marches and four separate rallies planned by dozens of groups, from the
Black Radical Action Caucus to the U.S. Students Against Sweat Shops.
"There's not a cohesive peace movement in the country," concedes Felicia
Gustin, a former Vietnam protester who sets up campus speeches and helps
run War Times, a new publication in Oakland.
If one theme unifies today's activists, and binds them with the past, it is
Anti-war efforts on college campuses seem to be a merge point for
organizations involved with civil rights, economic justice and
environmentalism. But these coalitions lean so far left that some students
cannot identify with them.
Despite the death of Soviet socialism, old-line rhetoric is alive and well.
A meeting of anti-war students from the Northwest, organized by socialists
in Seattle, claimed success because "unlike at other regional conferences,
there were no mass walkouts by dissatisfied and disenfranchised delegates."
Their big accomplishment: a resolution condemning the global economy.
Indeed, movement leaders view 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade
Organization as a recent highlight. And they invariably shift peace
discussions into polemics on big oil, the military-industrial complex and
the International Monetary Fund. It is not a matter of changing the
subject, they say, but of helping youth see war as a tool of capitalist
interests that oppress the poor.
If that message sounds abstract - "The left ideology doesn't seem to
connect with kids today," Howlett said - those spreading it make a more
personal appeal to struggling students: College could be free, they say, if
the government didn't waste so much money on military excursions.
"It's a stretch to link rising tuition to the war in Afghanistan," admitted
Andy Burns, a student organizer with the 180 Movement for Democracy and
Education. "But we would argue that the same corporate interests are
With that in mind, organizers nationwide were counting on Saturday's events
to get the peace train rolling.
Organizers and police estimated that about 75,000 were at the rallies.
"We see this as a first step," says Sara Flounders, co-director of the
Internet Action Center.
"This is a new generation that takes President Bush very serious when he
promises 'an endless war.'
"No movement ever appears the same way again. History moves on, and it
Eisenberg, the ACLU leader, says it will be a challenge to win converts in
an era of American flag-waving, then offered an argument straight from the
"Patriotism does not mean supporting your country, right or wrong," she
told ASU students. "The highest calling of a patriot is to want your
country to be the best it can be . . .
"The right wing may have the money. But we have the heart. And we have
always had better songs."
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind.
- Bob Dylan
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8874.
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