Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Last thoughts

by Brendan Fitzgibbons, DI columnist

I just finished my last college assignment. Fittingly, it was a critique. What is college but a lesson in critiquing? The very first textbook I bought here was for Rhetoric I; the title, "Re-reading America," sounds all right to me.

College has taught me many things, but the first and most important lesson is always to read between the lines. There are so many shades of gray, an ugly color - but a necessary one.

If ignorance is bliss, than sign me up for agony. Not because I'm a genius, far from it. Picture infinity, boundless, free for eternity; now picture a quarantined zit on the complexion of a 13-year-old pubeless young dude. I'm the zit, and infinity is the all the knowledge in the world.

So, in a roundabout way, what I'm saying is that pubes are bad. No, what I really mean is that I want to accept the responsibility behind knowledge, even if it means acquiring the pain that comes with it.

I'm reading Barack Obama's book right now, Dreams From My Father. It's a heartbreaker. The memoir is about the senator's experience as a mulatto-skinned lost youth, struggling to come to terms with his race and his past. It's fantastic so far but really painful at the same time.

I thought I at least had a faint notion of the struggles minorities go through because of their arbitrary differences in skin color, but after reading this book, I realize that I don't know shit. And I'll never know what it's like to be a minority, but at least this book is giving me a hint of their sufferings.

There are times when some things are left best unsaid and unknown. I have faith in a God that I know exists, but, at the same time, I can't show you the keys to his apartment. Faith requires a certain suspension of doctorial fact, but that's the challenge of faith, a challenge that is, well... a challenge.

So "give me your tired, your sick, your poor huddled masses yearning to be free." In the realm of knowledge acquisition, beggars can't be choosers, and sometimes requiring information hurts.

Thanks, college, for teaching me the most important lesson of them all, that there are so many more lessons to be learned.

On a significant side note, it's old news by now, but if you haven't seen Stephen Colbert take Bush to the house at the White House Correspondents Dinner, stop everything you're doing, and watch it now!

In the last six years of this dishonest and destructive administration, I have never seen such sweet justice, even if it came in the form of a satirical comedian and only last for 15 minutes.

You're a brave man Mr. Colbert. America desperately needs you.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Indefensible defense

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

The DI reported the Hillel Foundation met Wednesday night to "raise money for the Israeli Defense Forces." The lede appears innocuous enough, but it presents a potentially disturbing idea.

Since 1967, the Defense Force has occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (which it withdrew from last year.) This occupation is in complete violation of international law; if not for numerous U.S. vetoes at the United Nations Security Council, Israel would have been seriously reprimanded by the international community numerous times.

Granted, the money raised would be used for a "dinner party or weekend vacation away from the tedium of military service." Military service in the West Bank may truly be tedious - manning dozens of checkpoints and protecting extremist Zionist settlers is surely outrageously boring.

Violence is not, and will never be, the answer to this conflict, and donations to either side for military purposes is wrong. The Hillel Foundation should send its fundraising toward groups working to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Darfur - again

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

Thousands joined Save Darfur rallies on Sunday in Washington and other cities across the country. Today, the news is more sober. Major Darfur rebel groups, including the Sudanese Liberation Movement, have rejected a proposed African Union backed peace plan, with good reason. Questions remain over the Sudanese government's willingness to disband the janjaweed, Arab militias largely responsible for the genocide in the western Sudanese region, as well as the integration of rebel forces into the national army. The AU has agreed to a 48-hour extension of negotiations.

Upwards of 200,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in ethnic cleansings, with thousands more displaced. With or without a peace deal, the situation will not be resolved, barring several important changes.

The African Union has a 7,000 strong force in Darfur. Darfur's size is comparable to France, and 7,000 peacekeepers, lacking strong orders to protect civilians, are simply not enough. A proposed United Nations' peacekeeping force of approximately 15,000 is unlikely to be on the ground for at least another year, if ever. Unsurprisingly, the willingness of member states to supply troops has not been forthcoming, and Sudan's government opposes such a force.

"Never again" has been the rallying cry of international activists aiming to stop genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sadly, first world governments have time and time again neglected these calls, leading to catastrophic amounts of civilian deaths. Politicians, trying to wipe their hands of responsibility, argue that projects such as saving Darfur may not be in their countries "national interests." I heartily disagree. Protecting civilians from slaughter and rape may not generate exciting headlines, but it is the moral course of action. In a world so often full of tragedy, opportunity exists to do good. It is high time the rest of the world take action.