Follow the Soapbox
(God Bless The Student Protesters)
Stephen Da Sung Wallace

It is a beautiful day in the Land of the Terrapins -- November 24th, 2014. The long arms of winter have receded momentarily, and permitted one day of blue skies, and sunshine. On this day, the splendid activists of the University of Maryland choose to speak. This letter is intended to inform our lovely associates of the present state of affairs, and it is, more importantly, a voice offered from the outside, in support of those courageous youths, the social justice junkies, the ones who did shout for justice, and peace.

Firstly, the matter at hand. Universities have a history of strange bedfellows. The Pentagon’s funding of MIT’s young engineers comes to mind - this, during a time of protest against the Invasion of South Vietnam fifty years ago. The relationship between military programs and development of the appropriate materials for aggression -- biochemical weapons, nuclear technology, weaponry crafted for the destruction of agriculture -- has been thoroughly documented by the policy designers themselves. The whistleblower of the last generation, Daniel Ellsberg revealed this in his leaking of the Pentagon Papers. It has been written about in detail by the learned authors -- Historians Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, journalists I.F. Stone and Glenn Greenwald. This tradition, to Maryland’s great shame and discredit, has reached Terrapin territory.

The Social Justice Coalition Against UMD Militarization reports a few items on the shopping list of the Administration: 49 M-16 assault rifles, 16 12-gauge shotguns, 1 $65,000 armored truck. All in the name, of course, of protection of the students. Though, each truism that goes without saying -- must be repeated in each public address. That is to say, that the claim of protection, security, comfort and so on, is -- dubious, to put it politely. Appropriate contextualization is required for the sake of the conscious of the general informed public -- we turn, for a moment, to the city of Ferguson, Mississippi.

The claim, of acts of police brutality in that now-famous city are at last under investigation by our hesitant Federal Bureau. This, in the midst of disturbing reports -- discontentedness that ranges from accusations of the regular violence of State institutions, to the declaration of the arrival of the Orwellian nightmare -- the Police State. This sentiment of uneasiness sometimes blossoms, the alarm is sounded by the apostles of freedom -- the familiar cry -- No Justice, No Peace.

The University, like every other institution that burdens our dying planet, has its administration, its bureaucrats, its tyrants, its corrupt political entities. University of Maryland, in this way, follows the standard formulation -- the Humanities field explores relationships between women, men, and the social construction of gender, but, largely, the professors’ lectures will be void of calls for the necessary rebellion, the honed quality of dissent.  This is the 21st century, and yet the Authoritarian Idea that has hogged the ideological spotlight for centuries survives -- sometimes appearing in disguise, in the form of a Corporate, Private institution, sometimes overtly, as illustrated by the horrendous acts of the National Security Agency. Our institutions are merely the descendents, the offspring, of the more brutal and shamelessly oppressive configurations -- the model of the King and Queen and Serfs in Feudalism, the Chattel Slavery and plantation owners of our Antebellum past, the indentured servitude that survives in the form of student debt today -- the current modifications of authority-centered social structures results in what honest fellows call wage slavery. That is the task for our fellows in the 21st Century.

It survives, as any rule does, by dividing the population against itself -- in this particular instance, the racial hatred of the State is passed down to the complacent members of suburbia. The shaky foundations of concentrated power hold their false authority steady through a series of myths, as well -- that is, that the population is too stupid for true democracy to function, that the students ought not to be passionate, but disinterested, objective scholars, that the hydra of sexism, racism, classism no longer stalks the halls of the 21st Century Institutions.

But a Police State, we must remember, does as it pleases. It expresses itself when the cry of the people is too noisy, too loud. Its motto is familiar to any person who is not trapped by that signature timidity and youthful naiveté: Do not speak, do not shout, do not dream, do not express, do not deviate from the norm, bow your head in silence, stay quiet, stay safe. The academic variant of this sentiment is familiar to the anxious freethinker that participates in our educational life --the condescension of administration, and incessant assessment of one’s soul in the form of more tests, more grades, more assignments, more essays, more presentations, more textbooks. The new addition to this is, of course, the intimidation by our men in uniform, which no person can resist (of course). Either the spirit is crushed, or one pays the price -- no one wants to be the first one pushed up against the wall. But that is the world we have created.

Allow this dissident to introduce himself. The writer of this letter is an anarchistic, autodidactic advocate of autonomy and freedom. On the peripheral of the acceptable ideas within the radical community, that is, a bohemian variant of political dissidence - an anarchist who believes that honesty is more important than tact, or courtesy, and who would prefer wisdom appear in the form of poetry or music, rather than the polished works of annotated, footnoted, sociological study. In short, a self-taught dropout, who spends most of his days sipping cups of coffee at Plato’s Diner, and a young man who is ashamed of what has happened to our country. I have written for political papers in the activist circles of this lovely state, I have run with the most admired anti-war voice of our century, Cindy Sheehan.   It is a pleasure to meet you.

Let me finish by directly addressing those marvelous protesters. Fellows, congratulations, and I am happy to see the revolutionary tradition survives today. It is a great beginning to a long battle -- of ideas, of patriots, of statesmen. I am only disappointed that our voices did not turn more heads, that there were not more of us. But it is a beginning. I am someone who does not enjoy staying in one place for too long, and for this reason I may vanish from College Park soon. But I would like to say this -- my heart is yours in totality. After you are finished raising more hell, after you are finished breaking the chains and have mastered the conjuring of the spirit of solidarity, after you have made this land free, and have flipped all of the tables -- spread the love we so desperately need, and do not hold back.

I hope to see you soon, dear friends.



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