Where are the Students in This Time of War?

by Guest Editorialist, Kevin Gosztola

(Kevin is an active writer for OpEd News and an Associate Producer on the Polidoc documentary: “Seriously Green”)

Many older Americans against the Iraq war often ask, “Where are the students?” Compared to the Sixties and the student movements to end the Vietnam War, they just don’t understand why students aren’t doing more to end this illegal war.

I agree that not enough students are participating in activism to end the atrocities being committed in our name in the Middle East, but I also think that the students are now more than ever at the forefront of the struggle to bring our troops home.

Students are now organizing against military recruitment and engaging in acts of resistance regularly so that the issues surrounding the Iraq war and the need to organize and end it stay at the forefront of the minds of members of the community they go to school in.

Macalester Students for a Democratic Society were able to close recruiting stations non-violently, avoiding arrest while publicizing their demands. They did this on March 27th , which was the Twin Cities Day of Student Action Against the War.

At the University of Florida, a group of student have begun a hunger strike, which they plan to engage in until UF President Bernie Machen agrees to meet with them and discuss investing UF’s $1.2 billion endowment in socially responsible entities. The group, Students for a Democratic Society, has been pushing for disclosure of UF’s investments for nearly a year.

Six members of the anti-war group “Catholic Schoolgirls Against The War” staged a dramatic die-in during the 11AM Easter mass at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago’s most prominent Catholic parish – and the home of one of the nation’s most conservative church leaders, Cardinal George. The group’s action was designed to call attention and denounce a meeting held on January 7 this year with U.S. president George W. Bush – the principle public figure responsible for initiating the carnage in Iraq – and the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley. In fifty seconds, the group had a huge impact on public opinion in regards to the Iraq war.

Since the action, a petition has been circulating. Many Catholics have joined in solidarity with the protesters who are facing bogus felony charges. They and others who are not Catholic are calling on Cardinal George to drop the charges.

The Portland Students for a Democratic Society took city hall on March 20th, which was a day of resistance to the illegal occupation of Iraq for many activist groups. Members climbed the walls of city hall demanding that the mayor come out and confront the military recruitment of students for this war.

Most students involved in the action walked out of high schools in the area in the morning. College students and even students younger than high school students were there. In total, approximately 400 confronted city hall demanding an end to this war.

When Spring Break came around this year, many students all over America and especially from the east coast chose to go to Washington, D.C. to participate in actions led by a youth group called Our Spring Break.

The group started their actions in D.C. by delivering “stop-loss” notices to Congress and demanding them to stay in session until this war ends. Following that, small protests were coordinated with youth peace movement groups like the Campus Anti-War Network and Students for a Democratic Society. Other big protests like the blocking of the exit to the parking garage of the Hart Senate office building and cutting off traffic on Independence Avenue for an hour occurred.

Some students ended their spring break having been arrested twice. Many of those were still willing to continue engaging in acts of resistance that might result in arrest because, as some said, “It’s not like ‘well, I did my part, now I can go home…This has to continue until something changes.”

In November of last year, students were involved in protests in Olympia that were aimed at blocking military shipments from coming into the U.S. The action’s intent was to end their community’s participation in the illegal occupation of Iraq by stopping the military use of the Port of Olympia.”

That same month, students from Morton West High School in Chicago held a peaceful sit-in that resulted in the school’s superintendent suspending many of the participants who were not Honors students and even led to threats of expulsion that were later ended by the support of the Chicago community and the attention this protest against the Iraq war received nationally and internationally.

Since then, the Morton West High School students have succeeded, with the help of parents in the high school’s district, in getting the military recruiters from staying off their high school campus.

For the past six months, I have been drawing inspiration from actions of this magnitude that occur at least every other week in this country. The actions cited are just some of the student actions that have received press coverage. No doubt, there are probably hundreds of other actions that have taken place in the past six months that are as inspirational as the ones I listed.

In drawing from this inspiration, I have come to believe that in addition to vigorously pursuing the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, the leaders of the most recidivist criminal regime in the history of America, we, the students of America and future leaders of America, must oppose U.S. government-funded military recruitment centers, which target people who cannot afford the increasing costs of living and/or the costs of higher education.

I and other students I have been organizing with believe that taking action against military recruitment throws a wrench into the gears of a system that fails to support its young people (students, workers and such) that are in need of financial assistance.

In addition to the illegalities of this war and the mere reality that this war has looted our economy, led to the deaths and displacement of millions of Iraqis, and supremely violated Iraq’s sovereignty, our friends, relatives and classmates are unnecessarily in Iraq along with thousands of other young people. If it is not us who demand that they come home, than how will we be able to morally continue our lives in America?

How will we be able to look parents of soldiers who have died in the face if we have not done our part to challenge the Bush Regime?

Therefore, I ask you for your help in these times of need. As the recession caused by this war becomes more and more severe, the ability for activist groups to collect donations and even for this site that I have been granted permission to ask for donations on will run into problems staying afloat. The recession is yet another reason in a laundry list of reasons (that could probably go for miles if we wanted to stretch it out) why organization, participation, or support for resistance and opposition to the ongoing wars in the Middle East must happen.

For the past few months, I have put together a campaign with the help of others on my college campus that was designed to call attention to a military recruitment center that was not there in our campus’ super-dormitory which houses students from three colleges until September 2007. The campaign calls for the military recruitment center to cease operations on campus because the center is recruiting for an illegal war, which they should not have the right to continue.

In May, I will be going to meet with students in Berkeley to hear about what they have been doing about military recruiters in their schools since they have been at the forefront of the battle since the city council resolution labeling the recruitment center in the city was labeled an “unwelcome entity” in February (which was later repealed due to national pressure from Republican groups).

I will be going to the Building a New World conference in Radford, Virginia (May 22-25).

Both meetings will be covered extensively for OpEdNews. They will also be used to form connections between the west and east coast so that the movement to end the Iraq war can go to the next level.

In participating in many antiwar protests, I have seen how the makeup of the people in these actions is often people who were part of the antiwar movement to end the Vietnam War. I have seen how many are from the 1980s and were participants in actions calling for nuclear disarmament. I have seen how students are not present at actions that they must be at because the people from the antiwar movement to end the Vietnam War and other older activists who are primarily taking action for the future generations of America have pointed out the absence of student involvement quite often.

I am a member of the group people commonly refer to as the “future generations of America.” I think it would be better to say though that I am a member of the group that should be called the “future leaders of America” because I do not intend to sit back and not have a hand in how America leads in the world in the 21st Century.

I ask that anyone who is still reading help keep the student movement alive by donating money to support my trips to the two national meetings/conferences/convergences planned.

An educated individual is not the product of just the classroom but rather is the sum of his experiences and activities at all levels of society.

Please help send me on an educational sabbatical for student activism. (Any leftover donations will go to Rob Kall for continuing OpEdNews.)

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