Neutrality: demanding better from our leaders

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

Is time warping? Those older than us can attest to the notion that we are living in strange times. One can scarcely ask someone older than them their thoughts and feelings on current events without hearing the adage “things weren’t always this complicated.” One begins to feel as though we are bracing for impact. For what, one might ask? What are we gearing up for?

This sense of foreboding is not just among the existential; it haunts the unconcerned. Maybe the state of the world has always been to “act normal” in the face of great challenges. Just ask your parents about the Cold War — they are somehow abstractly surprised that they lived through it without incident and nonchalant that it happened at all. Lately, even our generation notices how time itself feels like it’s moving faster, that existing seems deliberately complicated in this day and age. More frequently, I have been thinking about how to be human in the midst of a crisis: entrenched in the mundane day-to-day, while Palestine is under siege.

Palestinian or not, my vicarious experience of the occupation in Palestine has felt heavy and angry at times, cold and grief-laden at others. Like watching a particularly gruesome car wreck, some- thing hurting inside me unfolds. Watching a massacre can feel paralyzing, voyeuristic and perverse at times. I want to pay attention to a devastating moment in history while not sacrificing someone’s dignity in their final moments.

However, I am deliberately tabling my own anguish for a moment, not to diminish it or pretend it does not exist, but to center the needs of the movement. I feel that revolutionary spirit lives inside all of us, and it is important to take care of ourselves to fuel long-term resistance. I also know a chilling truth as an American: my tax dollars will go on to fund this genocide, that I will likely never experience such violence in my lifetime and that there is not much I can do. I could study for midterms, I guess? It is this combination of the banal and the catastrophic that leads me to ruminate on the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict as a college student. As a Muslim student at Tech, I found many of my peers utterly despondent at the response, or lack thereof, provided by the administration. Other than a brief comment on the number of lives lost, administrative responses from the president and the Daily Digest focused on state actions, framing events as a response to terrorism, neglecting to mention the reality of occupation. No one is humanizing the Gazans, even though they are people like us.

They led meaningful, devastatingly human lives, even under occupation. Students our age won’t matriculate out of their universities in Gaza, as they have been reduced to rubble. This realization reminded me of how lucky I am to wear my cap and gown at the end of this year. A variety of student communities relate to the plight in Palestine, many of them not linked to the struggle through nationality or ancestry, but rather through empathy. I find the majority of the administration does not share this humanity.

I understood why Muslim students felt dismissed given that the administration refused to attend our events. Additionally, I cannot reasonably say that I expected critical analysis from the broader Tech community. While there are some who are rightfully concerned, many have proven the necessity of the humanities course requirement by adopting milque toast, facetiously neutral stances.

As it turns out, school difficulty being elevated to a pedagogical virtue has not produced critical thinkers who ask four basic questions regarding authorship: “Who wrote what? Why? For what audience?” and most importantly “What’s missing?” I implore students at the Institute to ask the last question, as school culture takes on an increasingly apolitical stance in the face of increasingly authoritarian movements. I want

Tech students to take note of military activity in particular. Israel itself is a state that is armed to the teeth, specifically with American weapons and tax dollars. Biden is currently drafting an aid bill worth 100 billion dollars, 14.3 billion of which is going to Israel, among other conflicts the U.S. has taken an interest in. In 2022, Biden sent $3.18 billion, and in 2021, $3.31 billion. 2021 was the year that the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah underwent evictions, removing Palestinians from generational homes in Jerusalem. It is important to note that these developments internationally are not isolated from what goes on at home. Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) is a program in which law enforcement participates in peer-to- peer training with international police forces, notably Israel. You might think that this is vague, and that is intentional. An open records request revealed that Georgia police learned community and urban policing from Israeli police forces. The program has come under scrutiny in recent years, both for its affiliation with oppressive international governments and for promoting an increase in police militarization. Therefore, those interested in stopping Cop City are also becoming involved and outspoken about the apartheid regime in Israel. Despite the insistence of many students that they

are smart and therefore neutral, it is important to investigate this reality. Tech boasts a commitment to diversity represented most clearly through the student body. Somehow, every incoming class is the largest and the most diverse.

The Institute benefits from this branding of inclusivity, despite not structurally deviating from its origin as a school that taught only white men at its inception. Tech itself is a defense university-affiliated research center, where millions of defense dollars are invested in hypersonic technology.

Tech offers military fellowships, and outside of formal collaborations, it is a well-known joke among mechanical and aerospace engineers that they will be working for defense contractors once they graduate. It is important to connect the local and the international, as it allows for a greater understanding of censorship and local nonchalance.

Though the bulk of this article has been critical, I implore the local Tech community, at least those reached through Technique readership, to learn more about the crisis afflicting Palestine. I understand that my delivery has been direct — it is not to be read as fundamentally chastising writing. Ultimately, my goal is to engage a readership in good faith by being critical of systems — I hope you can see me for the human I am underneath.