International events affect us all. It shouldn’t take a disaster to raise awareness
By Dave Robertson
November certainly began on a high note in the World: Pakistan continues to endure a raging political conflict; the European Union reaffirmed a two-track approach to curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions; Venezuela has cracked down on press freedom; prices on barrels of oil continue to rise; and on a national level, 2007 has yielded low voter turnout for important local elections.
However, a few slightly more positive things have transpired: Somalian Government officials are attempting to bring its communities together; international graduate enrollment in the United States has increased; and we apparently continue to disrupt Al Qaeda Networks in Iraq.
The citizens of Burma still suffer from human trafficking and literal enslavement in their home country as well as exploitation by neighboring countries. And most news and recent updates have fallen by the wayside as far as the United States seems to be concerned.
As a school, McDaniel College has done its part (to an extent) to keep students informed of international situations, but no current events classes have run this semester to perpetuate more awareness. Students enthusiastically rallied outside Hoover Library in support of aid for Burma, specifically for one international student, Lin Sun Oo, whose family was directly affected by the people’s effort toward democracy.
But what does this say about the McDaniel College community and even the United States in general? Must it take another instance like the violence inflicted on peaceful protesters in Burma, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami from which thousands still suffer its aftermath, for anyone to take action? And how long does that support last?
And when many complain about elected officials, they most likely have not voted themselves, and therefore should have no right to say anything about it.
It seems that our patriotism has all but disappeared again considering more than six years have passed since the terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center towers. Every once in a while, some organization will raise funds to aid victims there and from hurricane, tsunami, or other disasters (natural or man-made).
Recently, any news of the Pakistan government crackdown reflects what might be construed as the United States’ support for its repressive regime. Dr. Mohammed Esa of the foreign language department stated that Musharraf does not care for “democracy, human rights, or freedom. This is where the U.S. needs to step in.”
With a smile, he added, “Bush should have the decency to tell Musharraf, ‘You can bribe judges and win [presidency] the way I did.’”
Sophomore Christina Baumert said that “on a fundamental level, we are funding Musharraf and what is essentially the general military rule in Pakistan (which violates human rights), just as China is funding the Junta in Burma. It’s an interesting parallel.”
In Pakistan, the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto returned to Rawalpindi, welcomed by an assassination attempt and an accusing army general. She is not a religious radical, like most other political party members, but is a woman. In theory, this is a sign of change and ultimately improvement, says Esa, but men have a power complex and make every attempt to thwart a woman with political power.
Though democracy has come under significant scrutiny in Pakistan, this year’s United States presidential race reflects some of the same issues: Hillary Clinton struggles to maintain support as everyone focuses on her faults as a female politician rather than listening to her ideas for national and international improvement.
Such international affairs will likely impact international student attendance at our college as well as the nation in general. On a more personal level, senior Brendan Hodge said he makes it a point of meeting and befriending the international students on our campus because “they have opinions and think differently than your average American college student.”
Students and faculty members alike, as well as the rest of this community, should feel as strongly for all of these issues and others until they have come to a close. Likewise, it directly affects friends of students at McDaniel, or even could impact those strong ties. It is not enough to rally or write letters to government officials once; continuing conflicts call for persistent efforts and interest until such matters are resolved.