FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Elegy for Two Giraffes and a Zebra

This morning’s New York Times had a front page photograph and article about the zoo in Qalqilya on the West Bank. The photograph showed an adult male giraffe, a baby giraffe and, near them, a zebra, on its side. They were all dead, stuffed by a taxidermist. The adult male zebra had died of terror at the sound of gunfire, the baby had been born dead shortly thereafter, the zebra had been killed by teargas. I sat there at my desk and looked at that photograph and I started crying. I thought of all those dead animals, all those destroyed homes and schools and villages and farms, all those dead children and all those dead men and all those dead women and I couldn’t stop crying.

It’s because of them that we are here today. [The students at the University at Buffalo asked Oren Lyons and BRUCE JACKSON] to be the opening speakers for their strike and teach-in yesterday as part of the National One-Day Student Strike for Books Not Bombs.

Because we want no more of that destruction and death and because we know we must raise our voices and say we want no more of that destruction and death.

This isn’t the first time students at this university have risen up to protest a war they thought unjust. There were demonstrations here during the Vietnam War that resulted in the campus being occupied for weeks by hundreds of Buffalo police.

One night, just after Nixon invaded Cambodia, the police fired teargas canisters into a women’s dormitory on Main Street and what was then the Norton Student Union. I have a photograph of a window in that building with nine holes from a policeman’s shotgun, and I used to have one of the teargas canisters from Norton but someone stole it from my office. It was one that had been fired into a Norton stairwell in an attempt to shut down WBFO, the campus radio station, the only station in the city of Buffalo that was broadcasting what was really going on.

Americans got angrier more slowly last time. We know more now. We have the internet so we’re not dependent on the newsreaders at the three networks and biased or limited newspaper coverage for our information.

And this time we have a president who lost the general election who was put into power by a Supreme Court voting on strict ideological lines driving us into a war against the advice and council of every industrialized nation except England.

The Bush administration has dissipated an astonishing amount of goodwill abroad. They’re like the lottery winner who wins the big one and who, a very short time later, doesn’t have enough cash left to pay the insurance on the two SUVs in the driveway. I would have thought it impossible to destroy that goodwill. But they have. In Europe in the winter and spring after 9/11 the Europeans kept picking up the check. Now they talk to us with reserve, in embarrassment, as if some member of our immediate family had just been the subject of a televised prostitution arrest.

Donald Rumsfeld says, “Well, they never liked us anyway.” That’s the depth of insight in our foreign policy: someone disagrees with us and it’s “They never liked us anyway.” I stopped using that excuse for failure in the third grade. When did you stop using it?

The initial phase of this, the Defense Department says, will cost $100 billion-that is twice as much as the federal government budgeted for education last year.

That comes to $800 per American for the first attack. How many people are in your families? How much do your $800 shares in this war come to? How large is the tuition increase just imposed on you? George W. Bush is spending your tuition increase on the first phase of his Iraq war, a war just about nobody else in the world wants. There’s no money for health care, education, housing, infrastructure-but there’s $800 for every living American for the first attack.

That’s not the only attack we have to worry about.

More and more of our foreign students live in fear. They are now being tracked. If they get sick and have to lighten their course load, they can be deported. They fear they could, at any moment, be scooped up by John Ashcroft’s mind police. Many foreign students who are with us in spirit are not here today for that reason.

There are ever increasing assaults on the Bill of Rights. While the Orange Alert was up two weeks ago and they sent you out buying perfectly useless duct tape and plastic sheeting, they were giving more of formerly protected lands to private developers and working harder to bring PATRIOT II to reality. And all the while Bush has been fighting tooth and nail for tax cuts, nearly all of them going to the rich, nearly all of them increasing interest that you will have to pay. One of my students said to me, “What does it matter what we do? They don’t care.”

It may be true that Bush and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld don’t care what you think. But what you do does matter.

I remember hundreds of thousands of people on the Washington mall and then marching to the Pentagon in October 1967. Lyndon Johnson said he was paying no attention. A year later he decided not to run for reelection because he knew he could not win.

I remember hundreds of thousands of people marching through Washington streets in November 1969. Richard Nixon circled the White House with bumper-to-bumper school busses and issued a press release saying he was watching a football game. He wasn’t. He was getting reports on what we were doing in the streets. He too was eventually brought down by his arrogance toward the American people. It took a long time, but he left Washington in disgrace.

Our voices mattered then. Our voices matter now. Our votes mattered then. Our votes matter now.

Do you know that 41% of Americans believe Saddam was directly involved in the September 11, 2001, attack? Do you know that yesterday the Buffalo Common Council defeated an antiwar resolution, mainly because eight of them thought it was unpatriotic ever to oppose a president or because they were among that 41% that doesn’t know the difference between Saddam and bin Laden? They’re in those offices now-the ignorant, the ideologues, the arrogant. But they needn’t be there tomorrow. You vote. You have friends and families who vote. You have a vital self interest in destroying Bush’s isolationism and having the US once again be a responsible member of the world community.

The Internet is your friend. The person standing next to you is your friend (assuming he’s not one of John Ashcroft’s spies). There are more of us than you know and there are more of us every day. Don’t get tired. Don’t get bored. Don’t think you don’t matter-because you do matter. Don’t think we won’t win because we will win. We will win.

BRUCE JACKSON, an ex-marine, is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at University of Buffalo. He edits Buffalo Report.

His email address is bjackson@buffalo.edu.

 

More articles by:

Bruce Jackson’s most recent books are Inside the Wire: Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prison (University of Texas Press, 2013) and In This Timeless Time Living and Dying on Death Row in America (with Diane Christian, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail