A Time for Trouble-Making

The time for quiet is over.

By Chris Lo Records
Campus Coordinator, Books Not Bombs

“The time for quiet is over. The time for trouble-making has begun.”

Over the past few months, I, along with the entire Books Not Bombs team, have had the privilege to work with campus organizers across the United States to campaign for scholarships for Syrian students. BNB student organizers have demonstrated, written Op-Eds, met with their administration, signed petitions and passed resolutions. Through it all, organizers have called on their campus communities to live up to the inclusive promise of America.

The results have been remarkable: scholarships secured at the University of Southern California, Michigan State University and Columbia University and an increasing awareness of the cause of refugee education at campuses from the University of California- Irvine to the University of Arkansas. In doing this, they stood in the shoes of past organizers who did similar work in the 1930s, 1960s, and 1980s, for other groups of refugee students, hailing from other countries devastated by other wars.

This week, the White House will issue an executive order that runs counter to all of this work, by placing a ban on issuing student visas to students from Syria and other countries. It will do this without an adequate justification, given the strong record of safety and security of the refugee and student visa programs and the innumerable academic, voluntary, economic, and cultural contributions that international students, including Syrians, make to the universities where they study. And it will do this, let us not forget, without the support of the majority of Americans, whom polls suggest are opposed to Muslim bans and border walls.

But, even so, history teaches us the moral arc of the universe sometimes zags toward injustice. Today, we commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering the six million Jews and five million others who were murdered by the Nazi regime. And we also remember the countless thousands of Jewish refugees who were turned away from the United States and other countries in the run up to the Final Solution.

Yesterday evening, I attended a demonstration here in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. More than a thousand people showed up, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to demonstrate their commitment to an inclusive, tolerant and moral America. The speakers ranged in age and race and background. They included students from universities, religious figures, people affiliated with various non-profits.

But perhaps the most striking to me was an 80 year old man whose voice was faint, even over the microphone. He shared his story of growing up in Southern California to a Japanese-American family, back when Los Angeles was a small shadow of what it is today. And then he recounted his experience of being deported to the U.S. internment camp at Manzanar and of growing up there, behind closed gates and barbed wire. It was one of the reasons why, he explained, he felt so strongly about this week’s actions and why, as a result, “the time for trouble-making on behalf of others has begun.”

It’s an obligation for us all to keep in mind.

Editor’s note: Chris wrote this blog post before the EO banning refugees was signed. You can read more about the EO here. Here is how we are taking action.