I am writing in response to the guest column by a Central Lakes College student, regarding the student organization I am a member of. People Uniting for Peace is indeed a group that supports alternatives to war and works toward peace and social justice. Our group, like every other student group at CLC, is funded by student senate, as the young man from Breezy Point stated. However, what he failed to point out is that the monies which fund student senate come from the student life funds and the student life funds come from student activity fees, and the student activity fees are a completely separate pool of money from tuition. Also, the money each club receives amounts to less than 1 percent of the total amount of student life monies, hardly enough to get worked up about. Cutting out funding for groups like PUP would not trigger a change in the rising costs of tuition.
Besides that, the author argues that the money we do receive is spent unacceptably on protests. This is untrue. PUP has not spent money on a protest. CLC is not funding them. Secondly, PUP has spent its funds this year only on the hosting of an international speaker. The author's remarks on the community reaping the benefits of what PUP does with its funds are certainly true, and PUP is proud of that. The events we sponsor (which include free video showings, teach-ins, panels, speakers) are open to the public and are fitting with our mission statement. Furthermore, Student Senate criteria (they do have criteria) states that student organizations should play an active role in the community outside of the college. We are benefitting students and the greater community at no great cost to the pocketbook.
Additionally, PUP has, in the past, received Club of the Year awards and its members have received Citizenship and Student of the Year awards. Its alumni have gone on to do great work, staying active in their communities and continuing to work toward peace and justice.
The author also states that what PUP does has nothing to do with academics. This is also untrue. What we do has everything to do with academics. The videos we show and the speakers we host often pertain to subjects covered in sociology, anthropology, Latin American studies, political science, environmental studies, religion, geography, psychology, critical thinking, philosophy, etc. In fact, many times, professors even give extra credit for students to attend our events.
Also fitting with our mission statement (and the community involvement criteria) is our involvement in the anti-war movement. The author expresses concern over a vigil that took place on Oct. 26, marking the death of the 2000th U.S. serviceperson. The vigil included the reading of the names of the deceased. We need to highlight these casualties because the real effects of the war are so heavily censored. For example, typical media outlets do not show the caskets coming home, or the gruesome figures of the women and children burned from the use of white phosphorous (a chemical weapon.)
The author questioned our way of honoring these young men and women. We honor the troops by putting a name to a statistic. We honor them by protecting the living and trying to end the suffering for American families. We definitely do call on Congress to provide full veterans benefits, which are being cut under the current administration, despite their empty motto of "support the troops."
Additionally, his comment about the using of the names provoked a long, intense discussion at our last meeting. We are open to debate/discussion, we listen, and we are taking what he had to say into consideration. However, the Vietnam War Memorial, which contains the names of all who lost their lives in that failed war, is rarely considered "morbid."
The author asks why we were not protesting a variety of other wars and senseless killings that took place in the 1980s/90s. One reason could be that all PUP members were pretty small children. Besides that, of course there were people protesting these happenings. As far as protesting the crimes of Saddam Hussein, let us remember some of those crimes were carried out with the support and technology of the U.S. government.
The column mentions the "Global War on Terrorism," the spreading of democracy, "radical Islamic terrorists," and the protection of U.S. from further attacks. Underneath all of the ethnocentric, pro-military, pro-war jargon, the author conveniently avoids saying anything of substance about the war.
"Global War on Terrorism" is a misleading phrase. It is not global because the U.S. used a go-it-alone, nearly unilateral strategy, disregarding the rest of the world and its international institutions. It has also never been a war on terrorism; terrorism in Iraq was contained before the U.S. went in. Iraq had no connection to Afghanistan and Al-Qaida, and even if an attack on the U.S. was desired Iraq did not have the means to do so. What's more, the U.S. occupation only generates more terrorists. It also generates racism and xenophobia.
This war was based on lies. It is an illegal, immoral foreign occupation.
People Uniting for Peace believes that what anti-war groups have said from the beginning is proving to be true: The U.N. inspectors did their jobs and reported that there were no WMD and Iraq was not a threat. The war is based on lies. Our troops are coming home dead, injured, or with psychological damage. Innocent people are being killed. A fortune has been wasted, and the U.S. has been disgraced before the world, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.
One of the missions of higher education is to broaden the students' experiences and encourage all points of view. There is a need to hear from all sides of any issue, and PUP has been active in providing information that we know to be the truth (a right guaranteed by Freedom of Speech). College is a great place for debate to take place. Isn't it time we got together for a debate/discussion on these important issues?
COURTNEY BUTCHER of Brainerd is a Central Lakes College student and president of People Uniting for Peace.
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