It’s been close to a month now since Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert held the Rallies to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, and as a music major, I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks reveling in the glory of seeing people like Yusuf Islam, Ozzy Osbourne, The OJays, The Roots, John Legend, and Jeff Tweedy share the stage, but I’ve also been trying to grapple with the concepts presented themselves in an attempt to apply them. Stewart repeatedly stressed his belief that as a nation, we work together every day to solve our problems, joining alongside our neighbors regardless of their political affiliations, and, because it’s politics, the news media instantly pounced on him claiming that he was spreading a false equivalency between the way in which both the left and the right present news. Bill Maher, in particular, had this to say about the way in which “political” bipartisanship has failed in this country over the last two years, and why we shouldn’t always try to work with our opponents:
Two opposing sides don’t necessarily have two compelling arguments. Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the Capitol, and he didn’t say ‘Remember folks, those Southern Sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.’ No, he said ‘I have a dream, they have a nightmare’… if that’s too polarizing for you, and you still want to reach across the aisle, and hold hands, and sing with someone on the Right, try church.
When I heard this originally, I found myself agreeing with the sentiment as a frustrated Democrat. And maybe on a political level I still do. But there are multitudes of other contexts in which division is unproductive and detrimental to a society, and Brandeis has seen many of them firsthand. This year alone, we’ve been divided politically and religiously over the selection of Michael Oren as commencement speaker, the vandalism perpetrated against the MSA lounge, and most recently during “Israel Peace Week” and “Israeli Occupation Awareness Week.” Events like Pachanga have divided us socially and have jammed another wedge in between student-police and student-administration relationships. And so far this semester, two of the few things that had many talking together were that we were all unable to provide a better solution to the problems of the F-Board club allocations, and much more importantly, the Financial Aid crisis.
Now, I find myself loving the irony of Maher’s idea to “try church,” because the Westboro Baptist “Church” has provided a remedy to these problems. Think about it: We have one long list of topics that are divisive, the fragment our community. But then ask yourself “Quick, what’s one thing that everyone on this campus can oppose?” If WBC doesn’t come up in name, then I’m sure that its ideals of hatred and bigotry do. We are a diverse campus, and as the petition circulated by the Student Union, Hillel, and The Justice League states, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” I think they’re handing us an opportunity on a silver platter, a chance to stand together and work, as Stewart might say, “every damn day” from now until they show up, and beyond.
Yesterday, 100 students came together on short notice in the Castle Commons to plan the next steps, and the work we accomplished has me amped up on excitement. I encourage all Brandeis students to be go-getters on this one, and to find ways to get involved, because there are already several sub-groups planning for safety, fundraising opportunities (check out the Brandeis Hillel Phelps-A-Thon), media attention, a huge day-long festival in Shapiro Campus Center or another large venue, and other topics. I believe that we can mobilize and cross boundaries to work together and create an amazing cap to this semester that works to counter the WBC and strengthen campus bonds. I guess what I’m ultimately saying is “Thank you WBC for helping me learn from the Rally, and thanks in advance for uniting our campus.”