A world away: Sac State students stricken with apathy

Greg Kane

Last week, a small group of students gathered outside Santa Clara Hall to protest Israel’s recent military actions against Palestine. The students waved signs and chanted slogans condemning Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for his country’s recent offensive on West Bank and other Palestinian lands, which began March 29 in response to a string of terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

The content of the protest was intriguing. A pro-Palestine stance seems uncommon in today’s post-Sept. 11 America, where words like “Muslim” and “terrorist” still evoke fear and anger among the average flag-waving citizen. The students, mostly Muslim Student Association members, went out that day to educate others by presenting the less-popular side of the conflict.

Of course, nobody noticed. Students walked by in hordes without so much as a sniff in the direction of the protesters. The chants against Sharon drew the occasional curious glance, but otherwise students treated the protest as if it were just another free Bible pitch in the quad ? just ignore them and they’ll go away.

This is the state of international awareness on the Sac State campus. Many students are well versed in such groundbreaking topics as what caused Britney and Justin to break up or whether the Kings can finally de-throne the Lakers. Ask about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, and you’ll likely draw a blank stare.

Sac State Government Professor Buzz Fozouni has noticed the lack of knowledge American students have when it comes to conflicts in the Middle East and other foreign lands. He said there are two factors contributing to the problem: a lack of interest and unbalanced coverage from the American media.”Man is not a political animal,” Fozouni said. “There are some who are very deeply interested (in international politics), but the majority have other interests.”

The lack of political interest is understandable. People often have trouble keeping straight what’s going on in their own backyards, let alone the Middle East and everything else ? out there. But in an age of growing globalization, the outside world is closer than some might think.

Take Sept. 11, for instance. When the attacks were first perpetrated, many Americans were stunned to see video of Pakistani children dancing in celebration. What they didn’t realize was that hatred towards the U.S. had been growing for years within Muslim sects of the world, due to America’s global military presence and continued support of Israel. It took a tragedy for Americans to see this. Becoming more informed now could help prevent future terrorist incidents, or at least lessen their impact.Sac State does its part to try to keep students informed. Over the past year, a variety of forums dealing with Middle Eastern and other conflicts around the world have been held. But Fozouni said all the forums in the world aren’t going to get people to pay attention if they just don’t care.

“We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking we are going to get everyone interested,” Fozouni said.

Yes, it’s complicated. And really, really far away. But having no interest in conflicts like the one between Israel and Palestine is like saying the Crusades weren’t all that important. These are events that are shaping history, and their effects could and likely will be felt everywhere. Is it too much to ask of students to pay attention as these effects unfold?

Disagree? Contact Greg Kane at [email protected].

There’s only one way to find out.