When the World Turns a Blind Eye

Written by Aidan Poole in his junior year of high school.

He says: “It may be a bit rusty, but the subject matter remains poignant and relevant”.

Email: aidanmpoole@gmail.com

Instagram: @aidanpoole18

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September 1945 marked the end of World War II, in which the Axis powers officially surrendered to the Allies. Although the Axis forces had to pay the economic and political prices of military defeat, the pain ridden experiences of the Jewish population in Europe are too great to compare. The world may have been haunted by war, but European Jews were plagued by something far worse: genocide. Genocide is defined by the United Nations as acts carried out with intent to destroy a racial, ethnic, religious, or national group in whole or in part. During the genocide known as the Holocaust, millions of Jews were systematically dehumanized and slaughtered by the Nazi regime because of their religious alignment. After the war, countries around the world stood together and sang the phrase “Never Again” as a way to honor the nearly 6,000,000 Jews who perished and raise awareness in order to protect the future from potential genocides. In the years immediately following the Holocaust, the world seemed determined never to let another genocide occur. As time began to pass, it became evident that more genocides were going to take place. However, the international community did little or nothing to prevent these massacres from happening. The most notable post-Holocaust genocide took place in Rwanda, in which the Hutu majority slaughtered close to 800,000 members of the Tutsi minority in the span of just three months. Equipped with ample information and the ability to intervene, countries around the world refused to stop the killings. Despite the good intentions of the phrase “Never Again,” those words ought to ring facuous and hollow in the ears of all who hear them, as the world has demonstrated it will never act on this empty promise. Although government officials have the ability to intervene and prevent genocides from taking place, they instead sit in their opulent offices and fabricate excuses for their lack of involvement while pretending to care. These excuses are merely covering up the unnerving truth. Although the international community has the ability to intervene and stop genocide, people constantly choose not to due to selfish and xenophobic tendencies, as demonstrated by the Holocaust, and lack of general interest and humanity, as demonstrated by the Rwandan massacres.

Adolf Hitler was appointed as chancellor of Germany during the year 1933. As soon as his Nazi party held enough influence over the government, they began to eliminate political opposition and perpetuate anti-semitic propaganda in German society. Documentaries such as The Eternal Jew and literary works including Mein Kampf made the Nazi’s sinister plan of Jewish extermination explicitly clear. Nazis fostered a sense of hate among the German people by claiming Jews were biologically impure and blaming them for Germany’s poor economic state following World War I. The national socialist party began to implement laws that deprived the German Jews of civic rights, their homes, and eventually their lives. Any outside observer could peer into Germany and agree that the plan to exterminate the Jewish population was clear as day. Journalists within Germany reported on the events, urgent to make the rest of the world aware.  An article from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum states that the US government publicly “confirmed that Nazi Germany planned to murder all the Jews of Europe” (“United States”). This sinister news was “reported widely in the American press.” The people of the United States had access to various reports detailing the German plot to eliminate Jews from Europe. Despite this truth, no action was taken to stop the killings or save those who were being persecuted. Instead, the US government ignored the desperate cries for help as hundreds of Jews were gassed and burned alive every day. The heartless United States claims that it was too busy fighting the war in Europe to intervene. However, digging deeper will reveal that there are a number of darker and more disturbing reasons to explain the failure of the US to get involved and try to save dying European Jews.

One of the reasons that the United States abstained from providing support to European Jews during the Holocaust was simply because members of the government were anti-Jewish as well. One source details that the State Department made certain decisions because it was “characteristically insensitive and influenced by anti-Semitism” (“American Response”). These individuals subscribed to their hateful ideology because they believed in rumors that an organization of Jewish communists would soon try to overthrow the American government and its democratic ideals. In the form of posters and radio shows, propaganda existed in the United States that promoted the idea that Jews were a threat to democracy, striking fear into the hearts of Americans. Other people were anti-Semitic because they believed that a Jewish plot to manipulate financial institutions posed a threat to American economic integrity. The existence of anti-Semitism in the United States government provides a more shocking reason as to why America did not try to stop the killings of Jews. Their reluctance to help can be attributed to racist and backwards motives that the government as a whole would be too embarrassed to admit to.

Another reason that explains the refusal of the United States to aid dying European Jews was the American attitude towards immigrants during this time period. The economy of the United States was already suffering much strain from the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce and the fear existed that increasing the immigration quota would give homeless and desperate Jews the chance to steal American jobs. It is for this reason that in the year 1939, “83% of Americans were opposed to the admission of refugees” (“America”). The working class of the US prioritized the safety of their careers over the lives of European Jews, proving the selfish nature of the country as a whole; they were willing to throw ideals of acceptance and equality out the window for better chances at work. People believed that their economic well-being came before the lives of fellow humans, a practice that proves to be egotistical at heart. Economic factors aside, a general fear and mistrust of those who were different also shaped American attitudes towards immigrants during this period. Harmful xenophobia, or fear of foreigners, permeated every part of society, weaving its way into even governmental politics. One source states that “immigration policies were shaped by fears of communist infiltrators and Nazi spies” (“America”). This illustrates the negative light in which society viewed immigrants. Fear of Nazi infiltration and a communist takeover threatened the United States with destruction. This demonstrates how America’s bigoted worldview prevented them from helping suffering European Jews. Although the United States claimed it abstained from intervention due to preoccupation with war, the real reason it refused to get involved was because it disliked and feared minorities and the negative impact it thought they would have on the country.

Much like in the case of the Holocaust, the failure of the international community to intervene during the Rwandan genocide also has disturbing origins. Racism was always an issue in Rwanda, creating high tensions between the Hutu majority and the frequently targeted Tutsi minority. In 1990, a group of persecuted Tutsis, exiled by abusive Hutus, invaded Rwanda to secure a right to their homeland and protect the rights of Tutsis against vicious hate crimes. The Hutu majority used this event as an excuse to enact a policy of genocide upon the Tutsis, killing up to 800,000 of them over 100 days. Plans for the genocide were explicitly transparent in Rwanda, as the public radio was used to dehumanize Tutsis and promote their merciless slaughter. The radio created a culture of hatred, allowing the genocide to take place. The United Nations peacekeeping correspondent in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, witnessed the events that led up to the genocide personally. He anticipated the start of a slaughter and “gave the UN information of the atrocities that were going to happen” (Merkel). This leaves no doubt as to whether or not the UN was aware of the events going on in Rwanda. Still, despite clear and concise information and knowledge of the killings, the United Nations continually debated whether humanitarian intervention was appropriate to cover up the true reason they did not get involved. The international community abstained from intervening during the Rwandan genocide simply because governments did not care enough to spend time and resources to save lives, suggesting a bankruptcy of humanity in the world.

Those who argued that the United Nations should stay out of Rwanda pointed primarily at the problem with sovereignty. Intervention, “whether humanitarian or not, has always been a problem for states” (Merkel). Many believe that foreign governments should not involve themselves with the affairs of sovereign states in order to preserve the “autonomy and freedom” of the state. Each country has a responsibility to protect its own people. However, the truth is that many times humanitarian intervention is the only way to protect the freedom of states that cannot handle the responsibility of protecting their own people. During the Rwandan genocide, the arguments and regulations defending the sovereignty of foreign states were abused and used as excuses to avoid involvement. Although these arguments have some rationality to them, the truth is that they were a transparent cover to the truth; the UN did not involve itself in Rwanda because it suffered from a severe lack of interest in the matter. By ignoring the glaring evidence of the genocide and refusing to protect the persecuted Tutsis, the United Nations proves itself guilty of this charge. One source details that the international community suffered from “a lack of will to take on the commitment necessary to prevent the genocide” (Winfield). This statement is very true, as it demonstrates that the UN was not willing to pay the financial price of military intervention or spend the time needed to remedy the situation. Instead, they turned a blind eye, proving the organization incapable of carrying out one of its main functions; to preserve international peace.

Another example that demonstrates the baffling degree to which the world refused to care about the Rwandan genocide is the infamous speech delivered by Bill Clinton to the devastated Tutsis after the massacres ended. The weary crowd that gathered to hear him speak expected an official apology, aid for the damage, and a promise for the future. Instead, the US president refused to apologize and merely acknowledged that “we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred” (Power). This statement suggests that America took at least some amount of action to prevent the slaughter of Tutsis, but this is a lie. In fact, it was the United States that took selfish efforts to “remove most of the UN peacekeepers already in Rwanda” when the killings began and it was the United States that refused to use its superior technology to shut down the radio in Rwanda, the main tool for organizing killings. He then formulated the excuse that those in America did not “fully appreciate the depth and the speed by with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror” (Power). This claim of not knowing about the depth and scale of the Rwandan genocide is a blatant lie, as it was the first genocide to be broadcast on television, with news reporters covering it extensively throughout the country. Clinton’s refusal to apologize to the Rwandan people is grossly immature, and his excuse of ignorance regarding the issue is disgustingly sadistic. He tried to work his way around the issue with broken excuses, but the truth is that his failure to intervene stems from a failure to care about the lives of fellow human beings. The “out of sight, out of mind” approach that Clinton and other world leaders took regarding the issue is harrowing.A failure to empathize with others around the globe makes for a dangerous future, one where the interests of the self are promoted above the collective and, with it, humanity.

It is true that the United States makes efforts to help a select few suffering peoples and tries to provide humanitarian aid to broken countries every so often. After all, one of the expressed reasons that the US invaded Iraq in 2003 was the effort of “liberating Iraq from this vicious tyrannical regime” to “bring democratic political process” (“A Necessary War”) to the country. This demonstrates that America is willing to get involved in international conflict to protect the wellbeing and freedom of helpless people. However, a closer examination will reveal more selfish motives for the invasion. The Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had long been an enemy of the US, meaning the invasion was in part a mission to overthrow his regime to push the American political agenda. In addition to this, Iraq is one of the most oil-rich countries in the world. This is an essential product in the United States, needed for the country to run efficiently. It is likely that the greed for oil helped to promote the invasion rather than a benevolent desire to spread democracy. This demonstrates that the US is willing to impose a policy of intervention, but only when it directly benefits them. The implication of these actions is that the country is inherently self-centered and driven by avarice. There was nothing to gain from helping in the Holocaust or Rwanda, so America simply looked the other way and pretended it did not know the scale of the issue.

The international community refuses to stop genocide because of the self-interested and xenophobic tendencies of people who do not care enough to save dying minorities all over the world. To live in a world where governments willingly allow the systematic dehumanization and murder of thousands to take place every year is not only unnerving, but extremely dangerous as well. Genocide is a historical problem as well as a contemporary one. If political leaders and world populations continue to ignore it, the past will repeat itself again and again. If the world community refuses to show human empathy for those in less fortunate situations, an attitude promoting selfishness and greed will rule society, slaying the American ideals of equal opportunity and justice with the mighty sword of inhumanity. Countries around the globe must fulfill their promise of “Never Again” and stop genocides to save the lives of millions and protect the world from a dark future. If this does not happen soon, the world may never see an end to the hopeless vortex of hate and selfishness it has been sliding into.

Works Cited:

“A Necessary War?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh//pages/frontline/shows/truth/why/necessary.html

“America and the Holocaust.” Facing History and Ourselves, http://www.facinghistory.org/defying-nazis/america-and-holocaust.

“American Response to the Holocaust.” History.com, A&E Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/american-response-to-the-holocaust.

Merkel, Bernard-Alexandre. “The Rwandan Genocide: The Guilty Bystanders.” E-International Relations, 14 Jan. 2010, http://www.e-ir.info/2010/01/14/the-rwandan-genocide-the-guilty-bystanders/.

Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Mar. 2017, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571/.

“The United States and the Holocaust, 1942–45.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007094.

Winfield, Nicole. “UN Failed Rwanda.” Global Policy Forum, Associated Press, http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/201-rwanda/39240.html.

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Editor’s Note:

Great work Aidan- people have a right to be informed.

 

Hypocrisy Makes Me Laugh

Disclaimer: this is a long piece but I truly think you will get something out of reading it.

This has been one of the most interesting, infuriating, and intellectually stimulating weeks I’ve had in a long time.

Well gee Pat- how did that happen?!

I was sitting in one of my classes last week and I heard about an upcoming event taking place on campus. I honestly didn’t even know what the panel was going to be talking about but I recognized some of the names coming to speak so I figured I’d check it out.

Little did I know I was stepping into a swirling ball of controversy.

Let’s lay out the evidence and then we can assess what to make of it.

Statement from UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy on the BDS Event:

UMASS, Amherst – An event scheduled for Nov. 12 on the UMass Amherst campus focusing on the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” movement (BDS) is being presented by a private foundation – not by the university.  This private foundation has, as many non-UMass organizations regularly do, rented space on campus to host the upcoming event, which is being billed as a panel discussion on “The Attack on BDS and American Democracy.” Despite our concerns regarding this particular gathering, based on its title and past statements by its panelists, as a public institution UMass is bound by the First Amendment to the Constitution to apply a content-neutral standard when making facilities available to outside organizations. For this reason, and in adherence to the principles of academic freedom, the university will take no steps to inhibit this event.

However, while UMass Amherst is firmly committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom, the University remains firmly opposed to BDS and to academic boycotts of any kind. Academic boycotts are antithetical to academic freedom and it is ironic that individuals, who rely upon that very freedom to make their case, should advocate for a movement, in BDS, that seeks to suppress it.

It is troubling that such a one-dimensional, polarizing event should take place on our campus. A panel discussion where only one perspective is shared does little to increase the understanding of such a complex topic like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Furthermore, because the BDS position in general fails to acknowledge the humanity on the Israeli side of the conflict and is considered by many as anti-Semitic, the upcoming event could very well alienate many of our Jewish students and other members of our campus community.

Clearly, the divisions among Palestinians and Israelis represent one of the intractable problems of our times, and we acknowledge the suffering that exists on all sides. But if we are going to truly build a community of dignity and respect, we must step outside our own echo-chambers and encourage the free exchange of ideas. And while I wholeheartedly support freedom of speech for all, I also maintain that, as chancellor, I have a duty to be a voice for our campus’s values. And one of those values, which I think is critically important in ensuring a safe and welcoming living-learning community, is inclusion. We remain committed to ensuring an inclusive campus that will continue to prioritize the safety and security of all students. When outside organizations come onto our campus and give a high-profile platform for one-sided and divisive political positions that some view as deeply offensive, they are saying to valued members of our community that they don’t belong.  This is the antithesis of our commitment to inclusion, and we will not hesitate to speak out against efforts to divide our campus community.

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I could easily write this whole piece bashing our Chancellor for making a statement that didn’t need to be made but as someone who has been outspoken against “cancel culture” I don’t think that’d be the right thing to do.

We are all human.

We all make mistakes.

But with that being said, in the spirit of free speech, these are the questions I had after reading what he had to say:

  1. How can a university say they are “firmly committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom” when they smear and demonize viewpoints just because they aren’t their own?

2. Who considers the rhetoric of BDS to be anti-Semitic? (apparently it is “considered by many”)

3. “A panel discussion where only one perspective is shared does little to increase the understanding of such a complex topic like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

This was my understanding of the conflict before the event:

Do you think a person like me would benefit from hearing another perspective on the issue?

4) “the upcoming event could very well alienate many of our Jewish students and other members of our campus community”

Should we value the feelings of students over the lives at stake in the conflict?

5) “we must step outside our own echo-chambers and encourage the free exchange of ideas.”

Do you see the hypocrisy in telling us to step outside our echo chambers and encourage the free exchange of ideas when our university puts out a statement that literally discourages the free exchange of ideas?

6)  Have you ever heard the quote “never solidarity before criticism”? If so, what does that quote mean to you?

So that’s that; hopefully we’ll get some answers soon enough.

But Pat what about the event itself? Was it anti-Semitic? Was it polarizing and divisive? Did it call for violence? 

Honestly, I feel like Vince Lombardi at this point.

Because I got a lot out of the event.

For starters, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd recorded a video message for the event. It got me thinking about how the celebrities in our culture wield their social power. You don’t see too many artists taking a stand on big societal issues nowadays because they know it’ll hurt their bottom line. It made me so happy to see people like Waters who (for lack of a better word) give a shit.

-I found out that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has pledged $20 million dollars to fight BDS

-I found out that 3 million Palestinians are being occupied by the Israeli Military

-I found out that the United States gives 3 billion dollars to Israel every year (more than all other countries combined)

-I found out that when Duke faced backlash they responded quite differently than UMass 

-I heard about Dan Clawson for the first time. He was a professor who worked in the UMass sociology department for 40 years who unfortunately died last spring. I’m looking forward to reading his work in the near future.

-I thought about the quote “Wanna know who controls you? Look at who you can’t criticize.” then I looked it up and found out it stems from a neo-nazi. Sheesh. Strange how things said by terrible people can still be of use in the fight for good.

-I listened to Linda Sarsour (A.K.A- every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare) bring up the point that the fight against anti-Semitism should be the same as the one for Palestinian freedom.

-I listened to Omar Barghouti who has been banned from the United States by the current administration (he Skyped in- gotta love technology). He said “they try to silence my voice” and brought up a shoot to kill and maim initiative currently happening. I learned that the United Nations found Israeli Defense Forces guilty of crimes against humanity. Omar said “Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to Israel/Palestine”.

-I listened to anti-racism activist Tim Wise say he was a Jew who was incredibly tired of being told what anti-Semitism is. I can’t do his whole talk justice but believe me when I say it was powerful and from the heart. He proposed that we learn to “argue the point instead of shutting it down” (what a concept!)

-I listened to journalist Shaun King who spoke about his background in activism. He referenced incidents of police brutality that cost the lives of:

Philando Castile

Eric Garner

Alton Sterling

He spoke on how harrowing it is to see a man die at the hands of officers and how he has been forced to change his strategy when talking to the families of the victims. He used to assure them that justice would be served but time and time again it was proving not to be true.

He also said that there were four necessary elements for change:

  1. Highly energized people
  2. Deeply organized
  3. Utilizing the skills of the people in the room
  4. Well-funded sophisticated plan

-I listened to founder and director of Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Dima Khalidi mention how the Chancellor’s email following an act of hate was considerably shorter than the statement written condemning BDS. Dima also mentioned how frustrating it is to have to worry more about oppressors than the real issues that are happening. Khalidi also spoke about a bill that legislators in Massachusetts tried to pass last year (that is resurfacing this year) that would criminalize opposing Israel.

-I listened to Harvard Professor and philosopher Dr. Cornel West give one of the most electric speaking performances I have ever witnessed in person. He touched on the importance of reading great African American writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and W.E.B Du Bois. He quoted Socrates saying “the unexamined life is not worth living” before adding the historical context that Socrates was hated by many when he was alive for his frank and unintimidated speech. He spoke on how Israel is losing sight of their history of being underdogs and are in some ways turning into oppressors themselves. He posed questions such as “How should integrity face oppression?” and “How do we come to terms with it all?”. He preached on the importance of solidarity amongst human beings and the need for a commitment to others. He made remarks about the moral hypocrisies and spiritual emptiness plaguing us.

Much like our Chancellor- he spoke vehemently against echo chambers.

I highly recommend listening to him more:

Some other miscellaneous quotes and ideas expressed that are worth mentioning:

-The idea of courage stemming from love

-The idea that there’s enough to go around

-The quote “Earn your death” by James Baldwin

-Staying honest when people are dishonest

-Maintaining integrity in the face of oppression

-The quote “You don’t do things so others will join; you do it because they are right” by Tim Wise

-The idea of leaving the world a better place than you found it

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Hopefully you got something out of reading this piece today. I’m not fully educated on all these issues by any stretch. But with that being said, I know enough where I can no longer sit idly by while atrocities take place left and right while nobody even seems to care.

I will wrap up by mentioning one last thing that happened at the event; a triggering.

Some kid sitting directly in front of me dawning a bright “Keep America Great” hat decided to cause a little disturbance about three hours into the event. He was playing music from his phone while members of the panel were trying to speak. It was objectively disrespectful but I’m no snowflake- I just ignored him.

After his little outburst I couldn’t help but laugh at thinking why any rational human being would do something like that.

Then it hit me- a rational human being wouldn’t do something like that.

The crowd began to chant things to drown out his thoughts which I understand but I really would’ve liked to have heard what this political savant had to say.

Because despite the disrespectful nature of this kid’s actions- he briefly broke up the echo chamber (albeit an echo chamber of highly intellectual, well spoken, and well-read individuals).

Going forward I hope to write, talk, and make videos about topics that might be seen as controversial by some. But I’ll never be opposed to hearing the other side and when I say anybody can submit to the site- I mean that.

I think Charles sums up my feelings best:

Image result for we're going to start a dialogue

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P.S- “Be Revolutionary”

UMass

 

 

 

 

Yale University Offers Full Video Courses For Free Online

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#BringBackBadLuckBrian2019

It’s no secret that I find the price of college nowadays to be completely absurd (hot take- I know) but up to this point I have only been able to criticize, complain, and condemn the system. As fun as it is to do so- it doesn’t help anybody.

So I started doing some digging about opportunities available online and I stumbled upon one university that is absolutely doing it right; Yale (sorry Harvard nerds).

https://oyc.yale.edu

Yale has started a program that offers (as far as I can tell) 40 university classes for free. I  think there is something special about learning in a classroom face to face but as far as the internet goes; this is as good as it gets.

I talked about dropping Geology the other day but I didn’t mention I’ve picked up PSYC 110:

For free.

I know I’m a nerd (who takes a class in their free time?) but if you’re ever bored and want to check out a course that interests you without the pressure of grades or classmate ridicule- I’d recommend checking it out.

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