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Activism marches on

Published: March 21, 2008
Section: Opinions


Perhaps the word spray-painted across a dilapidated couch on the Rabb steps this Wednesday described us best: Apathy. One of many symbolic expressions of protest organized by activist clubs on campus in recognition of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, the couch stood for our generation’s apathetic response to pressing world issues.

Brandeis, as it has been tirelessly stated, is not the thriving center of activism that it was in the 1960s, just as the anti-war movement of today is not the anti-war movement of yesteryear. Given Brandeis’ liberal leanings, it is safe to say that many students oppose the war. Some may argue that this week’s campus-wide protest was ineffectual; “preaching to the choir” so to speak. Yet public displays of protest still have value, even in liberal havens like Brandeis. After five years of headlines and news broadcasts about the war, we have become desensitized to body counts and budget costs, and are less active in trying to effect change.

This week’s multi-faceted demonstration against the war challenged this apathy, utilizing a combination of old-fashioned and innovative protest strategies to reach as many people. Students wielding bullhorns reached out to people who need to be grabbed by the shoulders, the protest march attracted people looking for time-honored traditional 1960s activism, and the fact-filled fliers around campus informed casual observers.

Moreover, the hectic pace of college life may hinder students from making their feelings about the war known. Not only did the coalition of groups (Democracy For America, Student for a Democratic Society, Brandeis Democrats, and Amnesty International) spread awareness about the war, but they also provided students inspired by this knowledge with a path to action. Throughout the afternoon, students passing through Shapiro Campus Center were invited to sign letters addressed to Senators John Kerry and Ed Kennedy, donate to various foundations, and participate in other forms of protest.

The anti-war protest showed that while the student body is more apathetic than our alumni who graduated in the 1960s, we have not completely lost touch with our activist roots. Brandeis’ observation of the war in Iraq highlights a barrier to activism for our generation. The problem may not be making people care, but rather providing them with a way to incorporate protest and activism into their fast-paced twenty-first century lives. Wednesday’s multi-pronged protest was a admirable effort to ensure that, when it comes to activism, no student is left behind.