Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crisis In Zimbabwe

Imagine standing for hours in a queue ,that stretches for blocks, in the hope to buy a loaf of bread which is only rumored to be arriving and costs 50 times the amount it did last year. What about waiting five hours for transport to get to work or having to walk the many miles there. For the people of Zimbabwe this is not a dream but rather a day to day reality. The repercussions of the 1999 land grab are still being felt by everyone and increasingly so. All merit can go to President Mugabe, whose plan to give the black Zimbabweans a presumably just share of the country’s economic pie, by stealing farms from the whites, successfully backfired. Today Zimbabwe has the highest inflation rate in the world so as the dollar value increases the price of goods skyrockets. Basically what this means is that the country is falling to pieces as food and fuel become scarce or unavailable, clean running water is a faint distant memory and electricity is an absurd luxury. Once renowned in Africa for its superb medical care, Zimbabwe’s hospitals are in shambles and people especially babies are dying. The future looks grim for Zimbabwe for many of its citizens are fleeing to the safety of South Africa. The irony of this ongoing crisis is that President Mugabe violated the rights of the white Zimbabweans in hopes to gain more for the black ones only to succeed in taking away from them many of life’s necessities. How could a country like Zimbabwe, which has struggled for equal rights for all, expect to achieve that by granting rights to some and denying it to others?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction

Yesterday, Pakistani President, General Musharraf made a statement that if he managed to be reelected in the coming presidential election he would be sworn into office as a civilian, not as army chief. In Pakistan, it is a law that no “state servant” may run for political office within two years of retiring from their state position. This law was amended last week by the Election Comission to allow candidates in presidential elections to run within this two year period (as in the case of General Musharraf). This issue is complicated because Musharraf is a retired general; however, he remains largely in control of the armed forces as “army chief”. The Supreme Court has yet to make a ruling on whether or not he will be allowed to run, but even so this subject raises questions of legitimacy within the political system of Pakistan. Should Musharraf be allowed to run for President a second time? Should Presidents anywhere be the head of both the military and the government?

Why are we so afraid?!

An American citizen is held without trial and possibly tortured for several years. Surveillance cameras with flashing blue lights are being posted on the street corners of "dangerous" neighborhoods in cities across the country. And now a University of Florida student has been tasered for barging to the front of a line and questioning John Kerry. TASERED.

When did such infringement on our civil liberties become acceptable? Much of the conversation surrounding the University of Floriday incident is revolving around the student, Andrew Meyer. People say Meyer is sensationalist, always looking for attention. He acts out. He sounds a lot like my cousin, but my parents never tasered him. And if they did they probably would have faced some hefty consequences.

Others say the incident happened because he was resisting arrest. The picture in the article shows Meyers surrounded by 5 police officers. If five of our nations finest couldn't handle a mouthy, lanky college student without the use of excessive force, then I don't have much faith in their ability to handle real criminals.

What is really disturbing about this is that people are pointing the finger at Meyers. What are we so afraid of that use of such excessive force and in a bigger context the stripping of our civil liberties is acceptable? I want this country to be a safer place too, but we better be careful how much we sacrifice. Because once you begin eroding rights, its a slippery slope. And it's not so easy to win them back.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are we shining light on Darfur or merely passing the torch to others?

September 16th marked the fourth global Day for Darfur since September 2006. The message of thousands around the world urged "the international community to honour their responsibility to protect the people of Darfur". More simply put, "Don't look away now". On October 6th, there will be a rally in Philadelphia, one of many "Dream for Darfur: Olymic Torch Run's". It's designed to bring the Olympic dream of peace to Darfur by pressuring China (who will host the 2008 Olympics) to take action. China has a great amount of influence in the Sudan, yet they have no yet helped to end the genocide.

It's wonderful that people are willing to tirelessly fight for the rights and lives of the poor people in Darfur. But, is it helping? Are staged rally's such as carrying a torch too idealistic to work in today's world?

Even with major movements such as SaveDarfur and Globe for Darfur, there are many people that have no idea that genocide is occuring, that over 2.5 million have been killed so far, and thousands are attempting to escape each month. Last year, F&M's chapter of Amnesty International held a rally on campus to gain awareness about Darfur. Some people had never even heard of Darfur. Furthermore, some would not sign letters to the UN asking for action. Some even said, "it's not my problem". Hate is the worst evil, but apathy is not far behind. Not choosing a side, not choosing at all, is still making a choice. Why would someone not want to do what they can to help out others? Why do people shy away from doing good?

In our readings, we learn what can drive people to do evil things. We lament over the evil and terror in the world. But, what can drive people to do good things? Is it harder, does it take more effort? Is the average person willing to make this effort, even if the tragedies are not personal to him or her? And by holding events like rallies to promote awareness, are they working? Or is it an easy way out, a way to say, I tried. People just didn't listen hard enough.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jena 6

Jena 6 is a group of 6 black students who have been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for beating up a white student. The racial tension that led to this incident started early September when a black student asked for permission to sit under what was commonly known as a "whites only" tree. The next morning three nooses were seen to be hanging on the branches of the tree in the school colors. Racial tension heightened when a white student's father pulled out his gun at two black teens in a store. The teens snatched the gun and ran away to protect themselves but were charged with theft. In soon became common for black kids to be beaten up at parties and mocked at school. These incidents reached a peak when in December, a group of six African - American kids beat up a white kid. He was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital with several bruises. Three hours later he was discharged and went to attend a social event. The 6 kids however were imprisoned and the first of the 6, Mychal Bell, age 17, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The rest still await trial. Mychal was tried near a white judge and full white jury in a town that is known for its racial tension. The DA says the fate of these kids lie in a swish of his pen and he has full authority to make their punishment more severe. This is clearly a case of racial discrimination. Would the punishment have been as severe had the 6 students been white? If so, why were the white students who routinely beat up the black students not met with similar punishments? How come the school decided to suspend the students who hung the nooses instead of expelling them as was planned earlier? What can be done to stop such injustice?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is Poverty Alleviation the answer to the War on Terror?

Desmond Tutu thinks so.

The Nobel laureate told CNN, "You can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate -- poverty, disease, ignorance, et cetera."

As we've recently discussed in class, evil may be situational. What better breading ground for hate and stereotypes than in an environment of absolute deprivation and disparity? Would anti-American sentiment be so strong in some parts of the world if they were given equal opportunity in the world economy, had comparable financial resources, or even a better standard of living?

It seems that war is doing a poor job of squelching hatred towards Americans, making it seem less likely that it will continue to make us safe in the future. Should we alternatively try to curb hate by trying to make conditions better in other countries? Is this a realistic goal?