Monthly Archives: April 2011

Deafening Silence

Tonight, thousands of activists are going silent. I’m (kind of) one of them. Why? Here’s a little background:

In 1986, a civil war started in Uganda. Over the next twenty-five years, the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army would resort to kidnapping and conscripting children to fight against the government. The crisis caused by the LRA would eventually be called the “most neglected humanitarian crisis” in the world and the “second most dangerous place” (to Iraq) to live. Fast forward to January of 2007, when I first got involved with a growing non-profit called Invisible Children.

In the past five years, I’ve gotten more and more involved not just with IC but with human rights in general. I’ve been to a handful of national events and conferences, a dozen lobby meetings, and scores of film screenings. Invisible Children has become something of a PR machine for ending the war. And starting at 7:00 tonight supporters went silent in solidarity with those victims who go unheard. Tomorrow night we’ll be breaking that silence, and hopefully moving towards ending the war.

I’ll post a recap of tomorrow evening’s events later. All I know is I’ll be a part of a team that will be ushering activists, hosting a concert, and organizing a letter-writing campaign – in silence.

The Right to Walk

In case you haven’t heard, protests rocked Uganda this week, leading to lots of arrests, police violence, and several deaths. The Daily Monitor has a decent live feed, but I’ll summarize bits. It all began with the opposition protesting the Museveni government’s economic policies. With fuel prices rising, opposition leader Kizza Besigye explained that “we are just asking people to walk to work two times a week and we want to do so to show solidarity with the already tens of thousands of people who are walking to work every day because they can no longer afford the cost of public transport.”

Apparently, walking to work is illegal.

Specifically, the Assistant Inspector General of Police stated that by announcing a campaign to walk to work in solidarity with others, opposition leaders were in effect leading a procession, which requires a permit and all sorts of other limitations. The police went out in force to oppose such illegal processions.

Riot police kept Besigye from leaving his home town, a Kampala suburb, because they believed his walk would incite violence. Amid the scuffle, Besigye was shot with a rubber bullet and suffered a wound to the hand. In Masaka some 300 youth, presumably boda drivers, fought with police when their march was interrupted. News outlets were ordered not to provide live feed updates about the campaigns and protests, under penalty of losing licenses. In addition, the Daily Monitor’s internet connection was cut. Several opposition MPs were arrested, and a reporter in Masaka was attacked by police.

Masaka’s actions seem to have been started by young boda drivers walking their motorcycles across town in protest, but the protest grew in size and resulted in the army taking over the town. These young kids are bearing the brunt of Museveni’s economic policies, and it’s interesting to see just how the security forces responded to their protests.

Meanwhile, when police arrested opposition figure Norbert Mao, they incited violence. After Mao was arrested, Gulu erupted. Eventually the police called in the army, who showed up in armored cars with guns firing. With the town suffering a blackout, citizens burned tires and threw stones at the army. Three people were killed and Mao has called for a prayer and fast in protest.

Some have been saying that the army was able to restore calm and stability. I’d have to say, restricting the rights of the press and of protesters, even the rights of people to work peacefully to work, is hardly a status quo worth staying in.

Is it political?

Everyone has opinions. One of the most important things studying history can teach you, I think, is the ability to see other perspectives. Learning about the actions and decisions of others allows you to see things their way. I’ve been able to employ that in the classroom a number of times, especially when discussing current events in Government.

I drew a line. Some teachers do, some don’t, but I decided from the get-go that my opinion would, for the most part, be masked by my teaching. Despite having talked about hyper-controversial issues such as women’s rights to abortion, intervention in Libya, and levying higher taxes on the rich, I’ve maintained a position in the middle – even for the shorter conversations about reducing foreign aid or tuition protests.

But I’m not completely closed off. I’m very open about talking with my students. We’ve also discussed anything and everything. And in these conversations I’ve found a few spots where the line I drew wavers, and I’m not sure if it’s political or not. I have said that Barack Obama is a United States citizen more than once, and I have reprimanded students for using the word “gay” as an insult.

Both of these stances have a hint of liberal in them, but I don’t feel like they are political at all. I believe there is ample proof that our President is qualified for his position, and I think the birther movement’s existence does no good for the country. I think using the word “gay” as an insult is inappropriate since it perpetuates that there is something negative about being homosexual. Those are apolitical opinions to me, they’re about the recognition of facts and a nation’s understanding, better use of semantics and less bullying.

Today was the Day of Silence, a campaign to remain silent in solidarity with and support of GLBTQ youth being harassed and bullied. I participated three times, and I chaired the planning of it in my high school (in actuality, it was a minor job, but one I’m still proud of). I told each and every one of those students today “thank you” and “I’m proud of you.” It wasn’t meant to be political. I don’t think they will, but if anyone tries to say I shouldn’t have done that, I don’t care. Bullying is bullying and it shouldn’t happen.

Moving Forwards

With recent days being really tough, I’m getting sick of all of the stress. I’m going on almost 20 days of alternating insomnia and exhaustion with lots of stress, so I’m trying to somehow resolve to get rid of it. This weekend my mounting to-do list is, well, continuing to mount. That said, I’m try to nix a couple important things, like lessons for the next couple of days and presentations for this week’s class. I’m going to try to get rid of distractions, be more methodical, whatever gets the job done.

On Friday, the day of my observation, I balked a really crappy activity into my classroom. One of my colleagues was able to help me shape it better, and it turned out passable. I have a lot of work to do between my two preps and class/club at ASU, but I’m trying to blaze a trail here. I’m going to keep a log, of lots of stuff, and we’ll see how the week looks when I’m done.

Today, I resolve to get more done while being less stressed. Let’s see how I fare with resolutions.