Author Glenn D. Eisenberg

JACKSONADER

 

Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson Photo by David Chapman

 

On a campus that has long had a reputation for students who cared little about the world around them, calls for collective action against the powerful were met with excitement, respect, and admiration.

“The people who are not organized become serfs of those who are organized,” said Ralph Nader, author, activist, and former Green Party Presidential candidate, to great applause during a talk in Kendall Hall.

Cease All Settlements

RESPONSE TO — Partners in Peace?

David Michelson pointedly inquires why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should extend the freeze on settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

There are three good reasons for doing so:

  1. The settlements are illegal under international law.

Recent First Amendment Controversies

Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished rights in the United States. However, it seems that many do not understand what it truly means, and why it is important.

It is not surprising that members of the campus community throw out the term “free speech” so liberally, when we see a person such as radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger claim violation of her freedom of speech when she felt public pressure after aggressively repeating racial epithets on the air.

College Republicans / Ann Coulter, December 2008 & February 2009

In the fall semester of 2008, the College Republicans decided to bring controversial political pundit, Ann Coulter, to speak in Kendall Hall. As expected, many on campus were disturbed by the College Republicans’ invitation of such a divisive and deeply offensive figure, as well as the event’s $22,800 price tag.

Angered students formed a movement against Coulter, and organized a walk-out protest during her February 18th lecture. They then proceeded to Brower Student Center to hold a rally, where students spoke openly about their opinions of current events, and Coulter herself.

The lecture quickly became a large campus controversy, and predictably, the topic of “free speech” and what constitutes a “free speech” issue arose. Many defenders of Coulter’s visit invoked the First Amendment when arguing against the movement.

TCNJ alumnus S. Lee Whitesell made a statement in opposition to the student movement: “I am not exactly sure what hate speech means or why it would not be protected by the First Amendment,” [The Signal – Opinion piece, March 4th]. Many College Republicans and other Coulter supporters echoed this sentiment, deriding the campus left for only supporting freedom of speech when it suits liberal interests.

However, many believed that this argument was irrational and reflected a lack of knowledge regarding the first amendment, as the campus left did defend Coulter’s right to express herself — and had no plans to prevent the lecture from taking place. Instead, they countered what they viewed as hate speech with a more productive and tolerant discussion.

SELF HATING WHO?!

In last month’s edition of The Perspective, I published a blurb which praised the Obama administration’s recent firm stance on Israeli settlement expansion. I did not explicitly criticize the State of Israel – but merely suggested the Obama administration’s relatively nuanced stance on Israel could have positive ramifications in the pursuit of Middle East peace.

After reading the quarter-page blurb, a key figure in the Jewish campus community believed he had adequate evidence to state, “There’s nothing worse than a self-hating Jew.”

In response to those who would label Jewish supporters of Obama’s Israel policy as “self-hating,” I would like to call your attention to a recent Haaretz poll. The poll, released on April 13, found that 73% of American Jews agree with Obama’s policy towards Israel – characterizing relations between Israel and the U.S. as “positive” or “very positive.” Do three out of four American Jews hate themselves?

I will not delve into the multitude of reasons why this individuals’ snarky comment about me is absurd, but will instead use it as an opportunity to elaborate on the message of last month’s blurb. Pejoratives like “self-hating Jew” or “anti-Semite” are representative of the exact issue I wished to address in the article.

Until it is acknowledged that an individual can oppose an Israeli government policy—which happens to be illegal under international law—and not be anti-Semitic, no substantive progress can be made in peace processes in the Middle East.

The dialogue surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is so crippled by taboo, it is impossible to hold any sort of meaningful discussion on the matter without being accused of either ignorance or hatred.

The blurb was intended to give credit to President Obama for not caving into the fear of being labeled an “anti-Semite” by some fringe hard-lined Zionists. I encourage others to follow suit, and not be afraid to stand openly against unjust Israeli policy.

Editor’s Note: Glenn Eisenberg is also known as Glenn Eisenblurb

TCNJ FOR FREE SPEECH: Support, Oppose, or Feel Apathetic Towards Tucker Max

By GLENN EISENBERG

Members of our campus community have been flinging around the terms “freedom of speech” and “censorship” without much thought to what they truly entail—rendering them nothing more than buzzwords and diminishing their actual meaning.

TCNJ ACTIVISM RECAP: FALL ’09

BY GLENN EISENBERG

Last semester was an undeniably exciting one for activists at the College of New Jersey. We organized a panel on healthcare reform, took sixty students to Washington DC for a 200,000 person march for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) equality, hosted discussions on the War in Afghanistan, counter-demonstrated homophobic street preachers, and organized many other events.

However, some activists on campus have begun to feel cast aside by some of their more radical classmates—who have, intentionally or not, belittled the efforts of their peers.

TCNJ Repents ’09

At about 11:45am on September 23rd, I was walking out of the Student Center only to be greeted by a booming voice shouting, “Homosexuals must repent!” I then noticed a man fashioning a “Jesus Saves From Hell” shirt and army fatigue pants. He was toting a large sign reading “WARNING: GOD HATERS, FORNICATORS, DRUNKS, MOCKERS, ADULTERERS, GREEDY, THIEVES, LIARS, HOMOSEXUALS, JUDGEMENT” in one hand and a Bible in the other. He was accompanied by a stocky man who greatly resembled Michael Moore.

Shocked, I immediately stumbled through my cell phone contact list to call every TCNJ activist I could think of and tell them what was going on. Before I knew it, a small hoard of students gathered at the scene, proudly standing in front of the Student Center with pro-gay rights signs.

As the group began to grow, we were approached by Sgt. Joseph Skrajewski. He informed us that the two men had not obtained permission to be there and that they would be moved. The sergeant also said that in order to continue our counter-demonstration, we would have to speak with Tim Asher, Director of Student Activities, to get his approval, a process that ordinarily takes about a month. This would have meant a counter-protest was not permitted, period. Beyond violating unabridged free speech, this would have been outright censorship and sets an intolerable precedent for the future. Carol Bresnahan, the openly gay Executive Vice President of TCNJ, who had joined the counter-demonstration, stepped in and requested that Skrajewski let us continue to protest. From that point forward, Sgt. Skrajewski dropped the issue and only idly watched. We were lucky that Vice President Bresnahan was present and supportive, as the empowering demonstration was almost destroyed by banal bureaucratic technicalities.

As time rolled on, the “born-again” demonstrators became increasingly outnumbered as more and more students noticed what was going on and joined the counter-protesters. The protest group grew to over 100 students, professors, and faculty.

The two men preached their hatred, claiming that homosexuals are better off killing themselves than living as themselves, women belong at home cooking and cleaning, our professors were brainwashing us by teaching “evil-ution,” and that it is morally acceptable to sell one’s daughter into slavery as condoned in the Bible. One of the men also made the claim that President Obama was going to put us all in concentration camps by the end of his term. “This is good, free country, you’re saying what you want…no martial law yet…no camps yet…” one muttered. This begs the question: what kind of delusional racist hysteria would lead someone to believe Obama will have us all in Gulags?

The preachers’ voices were drowned out by the demonstrators, who chanted, “Gay, straight, black, white, same struggle, same fight!” and “Homophobic and anti-gay! Right-wing nutjobs, go away!”

A highlight of the demonstration was when several female students held a “kiss-in” while a tour passed by. The students walked up right next to one of the homophobic Bible-thumpers, paired off, and started making out. This was followed by a male couple walking by holding hands. Both displays were met with loud applause and cheering from the sea of demonstrators.

The two men were eventually surrounded by chanting students and rainbow flags. Evangelical junior biology major Paul Soon, armed with his Bible, stood in front of the men explaining the context of their Biblical references, correcting some of their alleged misinterpretations. Matt Hoke, Perspective Editor, told the story of the Stonewall riots of 1969 and their role in the LGBT movement. One student mocked the men, preaching about his fictional bout with homosexuality. Adam Engel, senior English major, brought further levity by playing “Amazing Grace” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his trumpet. David “Border Patrol” Michelson, junior political science major and an active member of the College Republicans who wore a “Friends don’t let friends vote Democrat” shirt, gave a short speech on the importance of gay rights; he said the issue is “something we should all agree on.”

Many of the students who no longer saw anything productive coming from engaging the Bible-thumpers led a march to the alumni grove, leaving the men with little audience.

Some believe that the demonstration last Wednesday, and by extension the tactic of protesting in general, has little impact on public opinion. However, the LGBT community at TCNJ certainly felt the effect of the demonstration. Perspective contributor Dena Lagomarsino, a junior secondary ed. and English major, said, “In flyering for the [National Equality March] in the weeks leading up to the impromptu protest, I was discouraged at times when students told me they didn’t believe in same-sex marriage—but the protest really turned that around.” When discussing the number of heterosexuals at the demonstration,

Lagomarsino said, “it became clear that there were a lot more straight allies from all walks of campus life, which was really elating.”

Besides the obvious success of uniting students and getting others interested in the issues raised at the demonstration, the protest also succeeded in affirming to the LGBT community at TCNJ that their classmates stand with them.

The born-again protesters managed to act as a galvanizing force, bringing together many students of all political persuasions in solidarity.

To those who say that it is better to ignore those who spew hateful rhetoric, I can assure you that the feeling and tangible progress achieved from acting in unity far surpasses anything that can be gained from turning the other cheek. Because of the protest, over 30 students signed up on the spot to get involved in LGBT activism.

A rainbow wave crashed over TCNJ last Wednesday and washed away with it any doubt that this campus will stand up against homophobia, sexism, and right-wing extremism.

HOLT TOWN HALL MEETING

Early Saturday, September 12th, several TCNJ students attended a town hall meeting in Somerset, NJ to stress the importance of healthcare reform. The meeting was hosted by Rush Holt, U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, home to TCNJ and much of central New Jersey.