Writing a weekly column for a campus newspaper recently has felt like replacing the little slip of cardstock displaying the unit price in the supermarket. Instead of updating the cost for that brand of bread featuring the mustachioed dude playing a guitar, I’m overwriting the toll of last week’s atrocities with this week’s. The process of watching the numbers tick up by the thousands before hyperlinking it to a Google doc has pretty much become routine, and every time it feels even more eerie and strange that people around me are just living their lives, business as usual.
As of writing this, the amount of Palestinians killed by the U.S-backed Israeli bombardment of Gaza has exceeded 11,000, per the Gaza Health Ministry. Missiles are closing in around hospitals such as the Al-Quds and Al-Shifa medical centers, on which tens of thousands of people are dependent for urgent and intensive medical care or shelter from the storm of the occupation’s bombings.
Those same hospitals cannot operate their neonatal intensive care units due to the military siege depriving healthcare facilities of fuel, putting dozens of premature babies at risk. Some do not survive long enough for a birth certificate to be issued in their name. Infants who do survive aren’t guaranteed the warmth and familiarity of their ancestral home, the boundlessly loving embrace of their parents, siblings and extended family members or a future full of clear skies and hot meals. If there was a word to describe the resilience needed to live with the omnipresent risk of death, it would be “Gaza.”
Connecticut is some 5,600 miles from the Gaza Strip. Despite our geographic distance, we are not separate from the ongoing carnage waged by a wicked alliance between Zionist settler-colonialism and American imperialism. As I’ve argued in previous columns, UConn students and Connecticut residents are in close proximity to the production of weapons used to devastate Gaza. We have every reason to feel the weight of this tragedy on our shoulders like an iron anchor. In a compassionate world, every day would be marked by another vigil and heart-wrenching cries of solidarity with the parents who lost children under the rubble of the Jabalia refugee camp or children who lost parents in Khan Yunis. There would be displays of mourning for Palestinians over the age of 75 who survived one Nakba only to face another today. And most importantly, the elected officials who continue to tacitly endorse the bombardment of Gaza wouldn’t know a moment of peace.
And yet business as usual persists. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that seeing videos of parties, concerts and ostentatious celebrity gatherings leaves a horrible taste in my mouth and that the everyday demands of completing assignments and updating my resume have all but lost their significance. Ruminating on my not-quite-teenager, not-quite-grown-up problems — not having enough free time, navigating relationships, getting FOMO from events that I can’t go to — genuinely provokes tinges of guilt despite knowing how irrational that is. I find it genuinely disturbing that the incredibly taxing work of rallying for Palestine has fallen almost entirely on the backs of Palestinian American youth, who deserve as much leisure and joy for its own sake as anyone else. Personal fulfillment has come to feel like gardening in an active volcano, playing Tetris in an avalanche, picking flowers in a meadow that was set on fire. If you share this utterly human sensation with me, lean into it.
Our failure to speak out against the funneling of arms to a genocide — let alone take concerted political action against this blood-stained project — is a form of complicity. Whether we like it or not — and I hope most of you lean toward the latter — we’re participating in the oppression of Palestinians by virtue of supporting UConn through our tuition dollars and paying taxes to the state. The tension caused by this relationship is necessary precisely because global capitalism has adapted itself to make us feel at ease with the more horrific forms of global oppression. Those who are perturbed by videos of deceased children and the devastation of infrastructure in Gaza aren’t the victims here. We have an obligation to sit with the sadness, anger and rage brewing inside all of us and redirect it into action — action such as protesting weapons manufacturers sending shipments to Israel. The most effective antidote to discomfort over the “state of the world” is being one of the people to do something about it.