The political right in this country is truly on a rampage. Not content with control of the presidency, the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress, it wants more. It not only wants to dictate U.S. foreign and domestic policy-waging endless wars and constantly driving down the living standards of most Americans, as corporations and their owners get richer and richer-but also to silence any and all dissent that arises as a result of these policies.
The right's favorite political hack on campus, Chris Kulawik , is certainly playing his role in this disgusting drama. His piece on military veterans and the anti-ROTC incident on Activities Day is nothing more than a transparent piece of politically-motivated garbage aimed at sparking a witch-hunt against antiwar students on campus. Laura Brunts' recent "news" article also fits nicely with this new witch-hunt.
Since I am one of the people being targeted, I feel obliged not only to express my outrage that these lies and misinformation have actually been published, but also to attempt to analyze and explain why these people feel the need to slander campus activists.
On Activities Day in September, several other students and I confronted three military recruiters who had set up a table (complete with chin-up bar) in order to sign people up for ROTC. I pointed out the offensive nature of their table and its location (right next to the Queer Alliance table!), and I made clear my opposition to the war in Iraq and to the military's efforts to get new recruits to replace the 2,100 already dead and 15,000 maimed. I never made any of the statements that Matt Sanchez and Ms. Brunts attribute to me. There were several witnesses to this incident who are neither in the ISO nor in the military who can corroborate this fact.
Soon after the incident, I was informed that I was being investigated for harassment-with the now well-known charges that I had disparaged one of the recruiters because he is Latino. I eventually met with several deans and presented my case. I made especially sure to emphasize the fact that, in opposing the war, I have worked closely with numerous Latino veterans, such as Camilo Mejía and Pablo Paredes, who both publicly refused to be deployed to the Gulf. I was ultimately informed that the investigation found that I had not violated any part of the disciplinary policy.
To keep their pro-war campaign going, the recruiters and Kulawik (with the help of the right's favorite "fair and balanced" news outlet, Fox) are initiating an effort to publicly slander the antiwar students. They are relying on the ludicrous charge of "racially motivated comments." Unfortunately, these people have already shredded any anti-racist credentials that they might have had. Kulawik recently wrote a column disparaging Malcolm X and the Black Students Organization. Both he and Mark Xue are leading members of the Conservative Club that held an anti-affirmative action bake sale in the recent past. Members of the ISO were part of the large group of students who shouted down these bigots at their disgusting and offensive bake sale.
Why is all of this happening? Why does it matter? The political winds in this country are shifting. Cindy Sheehan proved that ordinary Americans are not going to take Bush's lies about Iraq. Hurricane Katrina ripped the lid off the idea that the people in power in this country actually care about African-Americans and the poor. Amid all-time low approval ratings for Bush and the scandals that are currently rocking the Republican Party, people from San Francisco to Texas to New York are starting to stand up against what they see as a country headed in the wrong direction. Activism-against the war, against poverty and racism, for women's and workers' rights-is on the rise. And the right wants to do everything it can to stop it.
Kulawik laments the "spirit of '68" that still remains at Columbia. Would that this were true. If only a strong anti-racist and antiwar movement existed on this campus, then perhaps nobody would feel emboldened enough to perpetrate crimes like the Ruggles incident. Kulawik and others would like to see this spirit stamped out once and for all. But we will not be intimidated.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in history.