Thursday, March 4, 2010

This Is Protesting?

I found out last night from both a CNN report and an email from my editor at the Kingsman that there were to be mass protests at colleges all across the country today.

This immediately planted seeds in my mind of picketing, chants of "Hell, no, we won't go!", tear gas, and maybe even a storming of the vice provost's office. The notion of the power being forcefully clutched from the oppressive fingers of the plutocrats currently running our country's educational system and returned to the people, the students isn't some bullshit romantic ideal. It needs to be reality, especially since Obama's proposal of freezing spending in almost all departments (including education) to fund our nation-crippling wars.

We should be pissed.

Instead, lectures were hosted (on campus, no less) for students who were essentially skipping class. What was solved? Nothing. What impact will this have? A mention in the school papers, maybe a soundbite for the local news, and that will be it. This was publicized on CNN the night before it happened. If the cops had wanted to bust some heads, they would have known where it was going to happen.

Last night I attended a lecture about a group of Native Americans who visited Palestine. They talked about the mediocre healthcare in their own communities in the United States, sometimes having to sacrifice a whole day waiting without seeing a doctor. I leaned over to Shelley and said, "And yet that fucking healthcare bill is dead in the water!"

Maybe the bad guys really have won. Harry Reid doesn't care about whether or not I have access to decent healthcare. He cares about getting this bill passed so his name will go down in the history books, while ensuring his re-election bid this November. The people running the universities don't give, to use one of my favorite phrases from Steve Albini, "two splats of an old Negro junkie's vomit" about your education. They want your money. They want you to buy football tickets. They want you to spend $40 on a textbook you can buy at an independent store for $25, which is still too much for what is little more than pulp, ink, and ideas.

They want it to cost so much that you're swallowed in debt payments for the next twenty years, just in time for you to send your own offspring to school so the process can start again.

At Brooklyn College, I see students from East Asia, the Caribbean, and East Europe who are either first-generation immigrants or immigrants themselves; in them, in the stories I've heard, I'm constantly reminded that there still is an American Dream, and it sure as Hell isn't one of picket fences and 2.3 children. It's about upward social mobility, it's about not living and dying as a busboy or mindless menial work.

If there really is going to be a tuition hike as a direct result of spending freezes in our national education budget, some portion of this contingency of people - in many cases, the first in their families to pursue higher education - will suddenly find themselves unable to afford college. Learning really does come with a price tag. This should not be the case. This is criminal.

Americans balk at the notion of the caste system in India, yet we turn a blind eye to a capitalistic parallel on our own soil. If you're born poor in this country, unless you put your nose to the grindstone (and amass some student loan debt along the way), you're going to die poor.

Meanwhile, if you're born rich, you're going to die rich, even if you fuck up and blow your daddy's inheritance money on feeding your drug and alcohol addiction and shady business deals. Hell, you can even become the most powerful man in the world and make things even worse for those groveling ants you have cutting your grass.

This has to change. Where is the Barack Obama we fell in love with on the campaign trail? Where is the Barack Obama who promised an end to Reaganist plutocracy? Where is the Barack Obama that Dr. Cornel West proclaimed in February 2009 when he visited IU was ushering in a new era, "an age where you don't measure success by the money you earn, but rather by your own greatness!"?

Guantanamo Bay is still very much open. Our war in Afghanistan is escalating, not coming to an end. Iraq - still happening, still a daily hell for its citizens, not that we'd be hearing about it in the press. The USA Patriot Act? Oh, yeah, that thing...yep, still in effect. Health Care is turning into a series of compromises and surprisingly slimy behavior from the Democrats in the Congress that we thought would turn the tide after the midterm elections in 2006.

And now this. Education, something that should be as fundamental as healthcare, a chance for breaking the barriers of one's class and making something of yourself, is about to be taken away from a good chunk of this nation's students.

Students, don't just assemble and exchange ideas. Get angry. Get vocal. We voted this guy in based on what was supposed to be more than same-old, same-old campaign rhetoric. It's in our hands.


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