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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SDS, or: How we learned to stop worrying about the war and organize

Published: April 20, 2007
Section: Opinions

We are quite the topic of conversation.

A buzz these days among liberal America has been about the students. The question that gets asked a lot in the liberal discourse is: Why arent the students protesting the Iraq War? Yes, activist student groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) have sprung up in the face of this unjust war, but there doesnt seem to be a movement yet. It seems that the sense of injustice in students that the Vietnam War touched on is not the same today. Id wager that the Bush Administration is crossing its fingers as it continues to test students tolerance for injustice. The war has long since proven to be an incredible disaster and an enormous atrocity, yet still our threshold has not yet been crossed.

But its not like students arent opposed to the war. Most of us think it's fucked up. Its just that doing something about it has been like starting a party at Brandeis. We tend to sit around and complain that no one is doing anything, yet we ourselves are not usually willing to initiate those first steps.

Taking those first steps is really scary because no one wants to speak out only to find him/herself alone. Against the war we feel individually powerless, even as we write letters to our congresspersons, or to a certain college newspaper. Our voices are little, and we hate to speak up alone because it makes us more aware of our littleness. Our voices do not have the power of authorities. Their big voices have the power to change the law as they speak or convince millions of people, against any capacity for criticism they have, to go to an unjust war.

We might as well face the facts. I, Daniel Duffy, will admit it first: I am powerless in the U.S. political system. There is no reason for me to climb a tree right now and refuse to come down until the war stops. A pacifist candy strike against the war would be futile, andlike it or notnot much less effective than casting a ballot in the next election.

But here comes the awesome partalthough we are individually powerless, the continuation of the war relies on our collective complicity. The war effort depends on us to pay taxes, to maintain business as usual and to accept our individual lack of power. What those in charge fear most is that collectively we will decide to stop going along with our routines. They fear that one day we will really challenge them by not volunteering for enlistment and not going to work until we see a solution. They fear that the war will one day be impossible to wage because we organized ourselves rather than fought impossibly uphill individual battles.

We need to make this nightmare a reality. It has already started with a growing movement that led to actions on nearly 100 college campuses on the anniversary of the war last month. It will take a long time, but by starting out small we can suffocate the Bush Administration until a war becomes completely unmanageable. Real change requires concrete goals. For example, the Brandeis chapter of SDS has set some for itself. First, we petition for a Union Senate resolution demanding an end to the war. Then we raise more awareness and mobilize student support. Then we use all of this leverage to work with and influence the University administration to ensure that Brandeis policies are consistent with its social justice commitment student power at work.

Still, someone casually following the actions of activist groups on campus might feel like we are deluding ourselves. Trying to single-handedly stop a war seems like a dead end. But in reality, we are not primarily concerned with stopping the war. We are much more concerned with making Brandeis live up to its social justice reputation and become more responsive to student demands. For this to happen, we need to gain control. We want our school to be a democracy. We want a real say and franchise in all matters of campus life. We want our little voices to be big voices and we want to matter.

And were going to win (and have fun too).

And although Brandeis itself will not determine the Bush agenda, a carefully strategized and coordinated movement with people around the country will end the war.

But this will only happen when we organize ourselves and demand stock in whats ours. Because of this I encourage you to come to SDS meetings at 2:00PM every Sunday. Place tentative. Email or sign up on You will find open arms and one big voice.