I’m just going to talk about a few things regarding this whole Oren debacle that have been bothering me.
I am sick of being treated like (and assumed to be with no real basis) an uninformed, protest-happy, activist. Instead of dismissively demeaning my intelligence because of the position I hold in opposition to this decision, I wish we could have a conversation more focused on addressing the reality of the divides that have been underlined in our class community. (I say that to you especially, Jehuda)
I am also sick of being blamed for creating the divisiveness that I am speaking out in protest of. My statement of opposition to Oren being chosen as our commencement speaker* is not what created this divide. The reality is, even if everyone who felt offended/upset/ostracized by the choice didn’t speak out, didn’t say anything, didn’t protest– the divide would still be real. Real and invisible to those who are supportive or apathetic about him speaking. The divide is real and an obvious result of this choice.
For me, the imposition of the Middle East conflict in my commencement makes me feel even more separated from the identity of a “Brandeis student” (see Jeremy Sherer’s article in the Justice*). As a non-Jew at Brandeis, it is often assumed that I couldn’t possibly understand the conflict no matter how much research I do. It’s true, I have no personal connection to the conflict, but if this were just an issue about politics, why would that matter? We all fully understand that this is a very divisive issue particularly at Brandeis, primarily because it isn’t just an issue about politics–it’s an issue that reaches down to our personal identities and the communities we belong to. This conflict viscerally affects people of varying identities within the Brandeis community in wildly different manifestations, which is why the choice of Oren is so particularly divisive.
I also want to vocalize to those who are concerned about their commencement day being ruined by disrespectful protesters, that I understand. Considering what happened at UC Irvine, it’s a logical fear. So please just know that I do not in any way shape or form intend to ruin our day and I have yet to hear from anyone planning any form of disruptive protest*.
So let’s stop criticizing and intentionally provoking each other. Let’s stop making the divide greater. Let’s not make assumptions about each other, but engage in truly constructive dialogue. But let’s not ignore the real issues present. Many people don’t want their commencement ruined by disrespectful protesters. Understandable. Many people don’t want a speaker who politicizes their commencement (regardless of their political leanings). Also, understandable. Let’s talk like adults who respect each other, ok?
I welcome civil conversation with anyone about this, especially if you have creative ideas about how we can express ourselves in an intelligent and respectful way.
Class of 2010
*Note that there is a big difference between a commencement speaker and a speaker just visiting campus. We can discuss this if you’d like.
*Again, these feelings are not incited by Jeremy, they were present beforehand. I promise you.
*If I do, I will actively be taking part in preventing that from happening