Reflecting on the past year

By Gus Bode

Looking back over a year’s worth of columns, I find strikingly distressing themes:violence, war, corporate corruption, disenfranchised workers and voters, repression of civil liberties, hypocrisy and a world moving ever further from a truly democratic existence. I see a nation replaying the errors of its past; I see the centralization of US government at unprecedented rates; I see a world where profit means more then people or the planet. I see all of these things, and yet, I must admit that I still profess to be an optimist. With all of the events of this past school year, with all of the poverty, the hate, the senseless slaughter of human beings, I still find reason to maintain a smile at the world (or at least a smirk, judging from the photo above and to the right).

I assure you, I am not deluded in anyway. You see, as a historian, I know that the most recent chapter in our history books is not yet written, and that what is said about this past year will be dependent on the future.

This year may one day be looked at as the advent of a worldwide descent into Pax Americana, but I have hope that this will not come to be. Despite the awful force of US militaristic and economic imperialism, and the seeming inevitability of its dominance, there is reason to hope.

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That hope lies in the love that the people of this world have for peace and liberty. We witnessed many historic events this year, but in my mind, none have been so historic as those of this past winter, when over 15 million people came together on one day in cities across the globe to express their hope for another way, for a different existence. It is easy to focus on the negative numbers – almost 10,000 Iraqi dead, over 100 American dead – yet we must realize the magnitude of the progress that has been made in opposing violence and destruction. Rather then seeing the failure of the people of the world in stopping the war on Iraqi Freedom (whoops, Freudian slip!), I see a beginning for stopping the next war, with which ever country Bush discovers to be harboring terrorists or WMD next.

Even the announcement that the US will be occupying Iraq indefinitely, to safeguard the transfer of Iraqi oil into American automobiles, should not dishearten us (Pentagon euphemism for the occupation:”a long-term military relationship”). Over the past weeks, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets, providing visible evidence that the human love for democracy and self-determination cannot be broken even by decades of oppression. These Iraqis are demanding, through the barrage of US bullets directed at them:Saddam is gone; thanks, now get out.

The bravery of these people, in the face of overwhelming military might, should provide us with another lesson. With the whole world seemingly in the clutches of multi-national corporations who are robbing the workforce and stripping our planet of its resources, we must remember that we are many, and they are few. As a sign at a recent protest demanded of the corporate behemoths, “Drop your profits, you are surrounded by billions of people.” And that is where the hope for a better society lies:in the people. Not in the politicians we vote for. Not in the reformers we support or condemn.

The US political system promotes apathy. On one day every four years, our leaders allow us the privilege of so-called democracy; the freedom to choose – American style. That November, we get to choose between two candidates, a “freedom” that is equivalent to the freedom to choose between Pepsi and Coke. Yet there are a growing number of Americans who are realizing that Pepsi and Coke may be sweet, but they are empty of all substance, and they leave a mouth full of cavities. Some are even deciding that they might like a different flavor – while others are forsaking soft-drink politics in favor of something that doesn’t leave such a bad taste in their mouths. And so thousands of people have taken to the streets in the past months to put their bodies in the way of the immoral actions of the US government.

From Europeans who took hammers to fighter jets and chained themselves to railroad tracks to block military transports, to the Americans who shut down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Chevron-Texaco outside of Oakland, and Times Square in New York, people are taking the tools of war out of the hands of the militarists. And if anything can bring hope, it is this. We see that the people of this world can unite to combat violence and economic injustice, and that they will not wait for their cowardly leaders to finally be swayed.

This year may have been the beginning of something, but what that something is, precisely, is up to the people.

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