Menu Close

Tag: College Protests

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for May 2, 2024

hot takes

President Joe Biden thinks giving Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel billions of dollars in direct military aid is a “good day for peace.” His statement is irrational. U.S. military aid is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the past year, and millions of deaths since the inception of our nation. Many of these deaths were children and civilians.

Colorado coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders is a bully. His treatment of Colorado’s football players shows he has no regard or respect for them as men.

Social Security is not broken, contrary to what Congress tells us. Congress owes the Social Security Administration the 2.7 trillion dollars it “borrowed” from the fund. Repay this first before saying the fund is insolvent.

According to Evangelical megachurch pastor and grizzled culture war general John MacArthur, there’s no such thing as mental illness, especially PTSD. Someone should sue MacArthur for not only being an asshole, but practicing medicine without a license.

President Joe Biden supports “peaceful protest.” Evidently, “peaceful” means doing what you are told or we will send in the police to arrest you. Biden is clueless when it comes to war, peace, civil disobedience, and nonviolent resistance.

Atheists, agnostics, and nones overwhelmingly support Joe Biden. Why, then, does the president and the Democratic Party pretend we don’t exist?

Kristi Noem shot and killed her fourteen-month-old puppy. She also killed a goat that she deemed unworthy of continued life. Noem is a bad person, yet she is being considered for vice president on the Republican ticket. The Republican Party lacks a moral and ethical foundation. Trump is their God, and whatever he says is law.

Evangelicals think Taylor Swift’s latest album is Satanic and anti-Christian. Good job, Taylor! Anyone that pisses off Evangelicals is good by me.

Childhood immunization should be required before students enter school. No religious exemptions, and that includes students in private religious schools.

God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexuality. It’s in the Bible. Look it up.

Bonus: Churches should be required to run annual state and federal background checks on all clerics. staff, and volunteers. Churches that refuse to do so should lose their liability insurance coverage.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Right to Protest Applies to Everyone

pro-palestinian protest

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

— U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

From coast to coast and college to college, students are protesting Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinian people. Politicians on the left and the right seem ignorant of the First Amendment and its protections of free speech and protest. Many of the protesters are anti-Zionists and not anti-Semites. Just because the protesting students oppose the state of Israel doesn’t mean they are anti-Semites. But, even if they are, it doesn’t matter. The First Amendment protects anti-Zionists and anti-Semites alike, just as it protects those supporting Israel’s murderous actions in Gaza. It seems that far too many Americans, including politicians on both sides of the aisle, think anti-Semitic speech is not constitutionally protected; that people should be arrested and prosecuted for saying anti-Israel slogans.

All speech (on public property) is protected (with a few narrow, specific exceptions), including that of Donald Trump, MAGA nutters, KKK members, and other racists. Evangelical Christians are free to say all sorts of things that decent, thoughtful people find repugnant and offensive. Just because someone’s speech offends you doesn’t mean he or she should be silenced. If a group of people want to protest ____________ on public property, whether you like it or not is irrelevant. That something is offensive is not grounds for arrest and prosecution. One of the reasons the United States is so great is that freedom of speech and protest are sacrosanct. All that college students are currently doing is exercising their Constitutional rights to speak their minds in public. Don’t like it? Tough shit. I personally support the pro-Palestinian protesters. I agree with their point of view. That said, if it were pro-MAGA or pro-Christian people protesting, I would also resolutely support their right to do so. Either the First Amendment applies to all of us, or it doesn’t apply to any of us. When it comes to free speech, ALL of us should be on the same page.

I will soon be sixty-seven years old. I vividly remember the protests and riots in Los Angeles and Detroit. I remember civil rights protests and opposition to the draft and the Vietnam War. These protests forced the end of the Vietnam War and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. Protests can and do make a difference.

Local, state, and federal governments seem to have learned nothing from the upheaval of the 1960s. Who can forget armed police and National Guard soldiers using force to quell protests, including murdering four students at Kent State? What do we see today? More police and soldiers armed to the teeth, using tear gas, rubber bullets, and physical violence to put an end to pro-Palestinian protests. The difference between 1968 and today? Our police forces have been militarized, stocked with automatic weapons and other tools of war. What possibly could go wrong?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Are Pro-Palestinan College Protesters Anti-Semetic?

college protests texas

By Howard Winant, Used with Permission from Common Dreams

Like the Black movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement, the movement for a free Palestine is global, not just a U.S. domestic movement. Central to the movement is opposition to the war on the civilian population of Gaza, rightly labeled genocidal. This combines with ongoing opposition to the slower-moving but still brutal Israeli offensive against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Yes, the destruction of Gaza was in reaction to the unprecedented and unjustifiable October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas (rightly labeled terrorist) on Israeli civilians. But there is no equivalence between these two criminal acts, at least not in quantitative terms. To equate them is to engage in ideological posturing, not credible political analysis. Indeed the parallel between the terms “genocide” and “terrorism” is a lot more intelligible.

I have been told by family members I have in Israel that “all Palestinians are terrorists” (full disclosure: I am Jewish and the child of survivors of the Shoah), but I don’t think they really believe that; they are expressing their rage rather than thinking deeply. I’m sure some Palestinians would say that Zionism equals genocide, but I don’t think they really believe that either. They are expressing their rage rather than thinking deeply.

The student-led movement for a free Palestine is not antisemitic. Thousands of Jewish students have joined it. Hundreds of rabbis and cantors too, as well as leaders of Jewish organizations and prominent Jews across U.S. society and beyond. Despite fervent attempts to stigmatize anti-Zionism as anti-Jewish, despite strident efforts on Israel’s part to merge its national identity with Judaism itself, or indeed with Jewish culture and ethnicity, despite the wildly inappropriate calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the U.S. to crack down on student protest, Israel does not represent all Jewish people or types of Jewishness. So the movement for a free Palestine is not a movement to destroy Israel and expel Jews. Everybody knows that the Israeli Jewish population is not going anywhere, any more than the Palestinians are. The phrase “from the river to the sea” is frequently used both by both Palestinians and Israelis. The movement for a free Palestine and the Israeli peace movement (small but important) should demand that that language be rearticulated so that it applies to both peoples.

Efforts to repress the student movement for a free Palestine will never succeed. It is too big and too broad. It is part of a worldwide struggle for justice. It is a working-class and poor people’s movement. It is an anti-racist movement and a feminist movement. It is an anti-colonialist movement, connected to the long struggle against European empires and the U.S. empire. It closely resembles the movements against South African apartheid and the Black Lives Matter movement, among many others.

It is not an accident that attacks on the movement have concentrated on repressing student voices. As they have so many times before, students have shown that they are our leaders in struggles for freedom, equality, and democracy. As has been true so many times before, opposition to the movement is concentrated among the wealthy and the right wing. It is wealthy donors who play the most significant role in opposing freedom for Palestinians, pressuring universities to prohibit pro-Palestinian speech and seeking to curtail nonviolent student protests. It is right-wing politicians who have become the new “snowflakes,” madly canceling students and faculty for the “antisemitism” of criticizing Israel. Not just the students, but the university itself is their frequent target.

Notably, universities were already under sustained attack before October 7, indeed long before that awful day. Universities are one of the most central institutions in society. They have not yet effectively been brought under the control of the wealthy, of anti-democratic governments and political parties, of racist and sexist power structures, and of repressive religiously based groups. This is because universities are institutions where knowledge and culture are produced, where democratic debate happens, where the wisdom of the past is preserved and studied, and where youth are able to develop their ideas and skills. Even though attacking universities is attacking their own children and destroying the futures of their own country, U.S. holders of wealth and power are willing to carry out those attacks, because they feel threatened by their own children’s views of the world. They fear the future they themselves are creating: one of permanent warfare, global heating and ecocide, and planetary apartheid. They hate being reminded, especially by their own kids, of their hypocrisy and violence.

The movement for freedom in Palestine shows us what a different future looks like. The movement demands university divestment from the Israeli warfare state and from Israeli apartheid. It calls out the oligarchs who threaten their own type of divestment, threatening to withdraw their funding from Penn, or Harvard, or the University of California, my own professional home. Let them go! Let them support Bob Jones University or Bari Weiss’ ridiculous University of Austin. Let them subsidize notorious political hacks like Christopher Rufo and political poseurs like Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-N.Y.). By and large rich donors’ funding is based on a hunger for prestige, not on any commitment to education. They seek tax write-offs. They subsidize their businesses through their donations. They hardly care about poor or working-class students, and even less about the humanities, arts, and social sciences, which are the fields where most undergraduate students major, and where the future of civilizational knowledge resides. Higher education is a public trust; it cannot be entrusted to the rich. As elsewhere in the world, it should be financed by the public, not greedy and blind billionaires.

The movement for freedom in Palestine is a new kind of movement, because it is not siloed. Students supporting freedom in Palestine have learned from Palestinians. Many have noted the connections between the Black Lives Matter movement and Palestinian freedom struggles. For example, in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Palestinians who had long experience with the repressive police tactics of the Israelis taught Black protesters how to resist militarized police repression. (Meanwhile the Anti-Defamation League ferried U.S. cops to Israel to learn torture techniques practiced upon Palestinians.)

Movements resisting U.S. ecocide, like the Oceti Sakowin water protectors in the Standing Rock reservation, as well as anti-pipeline protesters and other climate justice activists, have learned from the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank defending their land against settlers who cut down their olive groves and destroy their water wells. U.S. feminists have learned from Palestinian women, like the then 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who in 2018 slapped an Israeli soldier as he tried to enter her family’s house in the occupied West Bank town of Nabi Saleh. U.S. LGBTQ activists have repudiated Israeli “pinkwashing” to express their support for Palestinians. U.S. doctors and nurses are supporting their Palestinian counterparts, reacting in horror as Israel has destroyed every hospital and health facility in Gaza. U.S. educators are supporting Palestinian scholars and teachers as Israel has blown up every university in Gaza, and has razed schools in the West Bank. People in the U.S. who take their religion seriously, rather than using it to score political points, recognize that Israeli policies imposing mass starvation would make Jesus weep. And Rabbi Hillel, and the Prophet Mohammed, and Mohandas K. Gandhi too. What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say about Israeli policy in Gaza?

The movement for the freedom of Palestine, led by students, has emerged at long last as the leading political current in the worldwide struggle for freedom in general. Just as the student-led Black freedom movement led the global freedom struggle in the years after World War II, joined by anti-colonial movements and the student-led anti-Vietnam War movement, the movement for the freedom of Palestine has taken its place in the struggle’s leadership today. Or course the movement has its flaws: There are unsavory allies like Hamas and Iran whose politics hardly coincide with those of the student movement; Jewish students get harassed on campus just as Muslims do; not only Islamophobia but antisemitism lives on in the U.S., notably on the Christian right where the Quran is defiled and Rev. Hagee praises Hitler as an avatar of the Rapture.

But we have to look at the big picture: Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Israel/Palestine can become a safe home for both Jews and Arabs. The student movement for the freedom of Palestine teaches us that the people of the world demand social justice everywhere, including in the Middle East. Mass murder solves nothing.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser