Greetings from Camp Democracy!
By Christian Melendez
First, let me introduce myself: I’m a 20 year old student at the University of Maryland (UMD). My co-conspirator, and friend, Randy Wilson of SPAN invited me to contribute to the blog. Its much appreciated and I look forward to this new world of blogging (never done it before…).
So it is Saturday in September and I’m laying on the National Mall. Between the Washington Monument and White House stands the infant Camp Democracy. Five big white tents cover the permitted territory.
Wondering what camp I’m even talking about?? Camp Democracy is the extension of ideas brought by Cindy Sheehan’s “Camp Casey” in Crawford, Texas (Google that too if you’re unaware). Think of the title while you’re at it: “Camp”…”Democracy”. From the 5th through the 21st, tents, tables, a stage, speakers, workshops, films, and more will be abound in the nation’s capital. And those participating are of various backgrounds and issues. Activists essentially are organizing for over 2 weeks of community-building.
And today, student activists from UMD will cycle in and out of the camp to provide security while it is still being set-up. Steve Jackson, member of the Campus Antiwar Network’s national coordinating committe, and I are here first this afternoon. Later in the evening, others will switch with him and stay the night with me. We are all from the campus’ antiwar group, Peace Forum.
We’ve been reminded of the simple grassroots (literally) actions any of us can take to help the movement for peace and justice. A veteran who had been here when we arrived asked about the lack of student involvement these days. He wondered if their absence from activism resulted from severe manipulation.
Personally, I feel manipulation is definitely a factor, but more importantly to recognize is the overall atmosphere of apathy we all breathe in. Many of my friends seem to know “what’s up”, yet don’t know or feel confident in their ability to effect change. Perhaps a draft would be most effective, but why resort to that??
We need to address the lack of resources, strategy, inspiration, and ultimately community that leads to the divided and reactionary “movement” I sometimes feel immersed in.
Civic engagement is an age-old concept, and technology today eases the effort of mass communication (as seen with Facebook, e-mail, YouTube, Google, MySpace, groups, etc). If effective and lasting change is to thrive, we must create an environment that is sustainable.
No, I’m not advocating a particular “ism”. I’m advocating more serious long-term planning with feasible short-term goals. What does that mean exactly?? That is what we all have to determine. Personally, I’m devoted to media activism, which is a different story. Friends at school focus on topics such as the homeless, AIDS, Darfur, war, tuition, energy, and transportation to name a few. When more and more students become “activated”, more and more issues and actions can be feasible.
So I’ll close by making a plug for Camp Democracy, as well as the Declaration of Peace (a week of action following Camp Democracy that you should definitely look into). It is a fantastic and rare opportunity for becoming involved. Randy and others have been very committed and supportive of turning out students to the month of action. I encourage everyone to check out the “Student Action Kit” online for ways to participate.
Words are an interesting lot, to say the least, so I’ll conclude each entry with a collection of words for inspiration…see you on the Mall!!!
” Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul;
If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas…”~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
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