Fighting Fear

My roommate came home tonight and said, in walking the few blocks home after having dinner with a friend she was a little apprehensive, not wanting to get mugged. There have maybe been a few extra reports of some purse snatching and a holdup at a nearby Subway, but nothing that I would consider a “crime wave.” In reality the neighborhood is probably just as safe/unsafe as it was a few weeks ago, but for her, the perceived possibility of an attack, even though minor, was still a cause for an added level of vigilance.

It’s no secret that fear is used to get people to do a lot of things they might not do otherwise. Most people would agree that fear was the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and likely the reason the USA PATRIOT Act (does that name still gross anyone else out?) was able to get the support it needed to pass through Congress. Fear is a powerful tool often used to convince, and it continues to be used by those in power to keep control and avoid rebellion and retaliation by those being oppressed.

This past Friday night, a group of 30 students occupied an upper level floor in the DePaul Student Center in the late evening, calling for a discussion with trustees about a vote the next day about possible tuition hikes. As I followed the story via twitter and time approached the 1am closing time of the Student Center, news came across that students were being threatened the possibility of losing their financial aid if they did not leave. Fear. The 30 students discussed with one another their desire to stay the night or leave together in solidarity, knowing that they might be putting their education on the line should they stay. In the end, while students voted 16-14 to all stay, because many feared losing, only 14 stayed behind to continue the occupation.

The next morning I woke up, thinking about the situation. What would happen (there may be forthcoming repercussions, we don’t know) if the administration cuts grants and financial aid? It would probably be a shit of a PR fiasco, I would imagine. Many local news stations covered the occupation, so likely the financial aid controversy would be an interesting story, too. Or what if the students had been arrested? The university obviously knew this wouldn’t be good for business (it is a private school, so technically an educational business), so students were actually allowed to stay, though were moved to the ground floor.

Then today, Monday, my twitter feed told me about the passing of the bill H.R. 347, the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.” It basically ups the ante on the penalty — now a felony — for protests or actions in certain conditions and locations in restricted area. This informative article on a socialist website tells the (frightening) details. If I want to protest, now I have to be worried about the possibility I might be committing a felony — something that in many states would even restrict my right to vote! Fear.

When I think of “restricted” areas, I’m hearkened back to my time in the West Bank. Areas in the West Bank are often called restricted to keep Palestinians out, either temporarily or long term. Are these oppressive practices what the US is now turning too?

It continues to worry me the way this country is moving, continuing to support the rich and powerful while oppressing others, using the government and courts to provide legitimacy for the oppression while still seeming to be acting in the good of all. In Syria, we see the results of an oppressive regime taken to the extreme: death to those who resist. I hope we may possibly turn things around in this country before that happens, but the more days go by, the more I wonder what this country will look like in 50 years.

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7 Responses to Fighting Fear

  1. All of my blathering subsequent to this paragraph aside, I agree with your concerns. H.R. 347 is a steaming pile of crap that reminds me of President Clinton’s “Free Speech Zones” ( that President Bush and President Obama have continue to use).

    “…news came across that students were being threatened the possibility of losing their financial aid if they did not leave. Fear…”

    Not necessarily how you depicted it. The link you posted is to YOUR OWN twitter account who’s veracity and provenance can’t be easily verified. Lets call a spade a spade: this is the logical fallacy “begging the question”.

    You: “I say that ‘A’ is true!”
    Me: “Well, how do we know it’s true?”
    You: “Because I said so!”
    Me: o_O

    This makes me doubt your statements even more because it sounds like you are committing intellectual high treason.

    Regardless, as far as I can tell, there were no active recording devices present at the discussion between officials and protesting students so we’ll never know for sure.

    Here’s what we do know:
    – If they violated the Code of Student Responsibility as outlined in the Undergraduate Student Handbook (which they agreed to when they started attending) that they COULD face DePaul’s internal Judicial Review Process.

    -One of the POSSIBLE outcomes of the Judicial Review Process is University Censure.

    -University Censure MAY result in “…and/or ineligibility to receive financial assistance from a University source.” (Sounds like grants, and such but I doubt it would affect FAFSA-sourced aid)

    http://sr.depaul.edu/catalog/catalogfiles/current/undergraduate%20student%20handbook/pg57.html

    http://sr.depaul.edu/catalog/catalogfiles/current/undergraduate%20student%20handbook/pg104.html

    Since you were so blithe in your promotion of your own tweets as facts, please allow me to indulge in some vaguely reasonable speculation.

    When emotions are running high (and lets face it, it was a protest so they DEFINITELY were), it’s easy to take a warning from an authority figure as a threat. I don’t blame them if they students perceived a benign attempt at a genuine warning as threatening. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the DePaul official was more forceful than necessary in his explanation (lets face it, even 40-something and up can be affected by stress) which could also lead to the intent of the message getting garbled.

    However, what seems more likely to me is that the students were reminded of the responsibilities that they agreed to when becoming students and informed of the possible repercussions of not fulfilling those responsibilities. IMHO, NOT warning the students of the potential consequences of their actions and still sanctioning them is far worse than spelling out the possible consequences and letting them make a more informed decision.

    Jason

    • Hmm, no option to edit comments for typo’s and clarification. Probably a good thing.

      The section:
      “…The link you posted is to YOUR OWN twitter account who’s veracity and provenance can’t be easily verified…”

      Should read:
      “…The link you posted is to YOUR OWN twitter account. The veracity and provenance of the information can’t be easily verified for the purposes of the context that you are using it in…”

  2. eric bjorlin says:

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that we can never know what happened for sure in DePaul’s student center that night. I wasn’t trying to quote my own twitter account, but point to the post by @GallagJG that I took the account of events from. (I couldn’t figure out how to link to each directly other than favoriting them to my account and linking there — If you have a better way, please let me know).

    Part of my point, that was maybe lost in my writing, was that there are always these systems in place to control us–a law, a student code of conduct–that people in power ultimately use to silence the voice of the people. How, then, are the people’s voices able to be heard then becomes the question when all these options are being taken off the table?

    • Ahh, I see. Sorry, late night conflations between twitter accounts. My apologies.

      While this does clear up some of the doubt regarding the good-faith nature of your assertions, it doesn’t really help us determine the quality of information portrayed by the user.

      I understand what you are saying re: control of the populace. I agree that it is becoming a problem but I don’t believe that the DePaul situation is a good example. We are all subject to the whims of our government and this makes us vulnerable. The students of DePaul are not required to attend that private university. They are welcome to attend any other university that may better match their needs and beliefs.

  3. gallagjg says:

    I’m just going to go out and state that I (@Gallagjg) agree with the statement that “The students of DePaul are not required to attend that private university. They are welcome to attend any other university that may better match their needs and beliefs.” (Kositarut).

    As for the bit that “…it doesn’t really help us determine the quality of information portrayed by the user.”(Kositarut). I would like to say that I try to report as unbiasedly as possible in my actual reporting, however my personal twitter is a different story.

    As for what happened in that night, I have a good amount of the actual dialog on video. Contact me on twitter if you are interested.

    DePaul is a private University, and although I am disappointed by the actions of the Trusties, I do recognize that as a private University it is entitled to do as it pleases.

    John Gallagher, @Gallagjg
    Student of the Communication of Genocide.

  4. hungrydai says:

    It’s truly awful when a woman can’t feel safe walking home at night. Kathmandu used to be 100% safe day and night but times have changed and even in Kathmandu’s ‘safe’ tourist area Thamel there have been attacks and robberies late at night.

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