Last February, thousands of UCSB students, staff and faculty marched against the Iraq war. Many of them came with signs and slogans supporting countless other causes like environmental sustainability, women’s rights and funding for higher education. They’re all connected, explained students and community members sporting “Environmentalists against war” T-shirts, or holding signs that exclaimed “Drop tuition, not bombs!”
UCSB’s “Strike Against War” inspired at least 27 other major anti-war protests at colleges across the nation including Columbia, UC Santa Cruz, Georgia State and Rutgers, and even rallies at high schools in L.A. and the Bay Area. It was a hugely successful effort to show policy makers where the majority of students stand on the issues. It was educational and empowering.
Apparently some students have picked up the cause and are planning a sequel on Feb. 12 – less than two weeks away. Although they’re not calling on students to strike like last year – to avoid classes, work and to buy nothing – they are calling for a major rally to send a clear message far and wide regarding the continuing occupation of Iraq and the prospect of a war against Iran.
This year’s protest is even more important than the last. The presidential campaign means that Democratic candidates are scurrying across states stumping for votes. Now, more than anytime in a politician’s career – especially a future president – is a time when they will listen to the American people and take risks to stand with us on the issues we are most passionate about. They must if they want their Party’s nomination and our votes. Hillary Clinton appeared at UCSB just weeks ago. Obama will come to California and already has a major presence on campus. Even the Republicans are listening to what the public has to say about the war. More candidates will appear in the next few months in our community. What messages will they hear from us?
This year is also important because it’s the five-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. By March, the U.S. will have been bogged down in this unjust war for a half-decade. Will American soldiers remain in the quicksand of an un-winnable war based on lies for the next ten years? Will our politicians keep pissing away hundreds of billions on a war that has killed a scandalously huge number of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers? Or will we keep building the anti-war movement necessary to bring troops home and win a real peace?
Many students call UCSB a “bubble.” It’s generally assumed this place is insulated from the troubles of the world and unconnected to the problems plaguing us all. The war especially is seen as a distant thing, something over which we have little control. Fair enough, but UCSB isn’t as disconnected from the channels of power as many think. UCSB is thoroughly connected to the military through the weapons research its scientists do for the Defense Dept. and corporations like Raytheon. Our campus has a “military sciences” department and an ROTC program. Military and CIA recruiters sign up our fellow students for terms of service. Seen in this light, the war is right here on campus. Protest matters here because of these connections.
Finally, this year is important because of several mounting crises. The U.S. economy is likely headed into recession. A financial crisis has wounded the market for homes and in the U.S. unemployment rate is growing. Education continues to receive decreasing amounts of federal and state spending and student debt is rising. The Regents are set to increase our fees – again. The environmental crisis, global warming especially, is worsening and our leaders, locally and beyond, are not doing enough to respond.
In the coming months there will be several opportunities for students to participate in protest actions. This is the simplest way to start getting involved in the “change” for America that so many politicians are speaking about these days. It’s important for all of us to see these next nine months for what they really are: A time for uprising, a time to get in the streets and make real change happen. It’s time to walk the walk. Talk is over.