Human Rights Advocate Urges Students? Involvement in Their World

michael-konigsberg
el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">Michael Konigsberg
El Vaquero Staff Writer

“Let me tell you a joke.” she said, offering a lighthearted example of hypocrisy and irony. It seems that the United States government spends more money each year on military marching bands than in dues to the United Nations, she said. And this is but one punch line of many.

But for Ann Fagan Ginger, none of this is a laughing matter. The executive director of the Berkeley-based Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute came to speak to students at Glendale Community College May 14 at 1 p.m. in AD 209 because, she explained, U.S. government has become too reckless and too insensitive for students to ignore safely.

One of the many volatile unknowns Ginger first attributed to White House administration is a proposal with the Department of Defense Planning to launch four simultaneous wars in the Philippines, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia – all of them illegal. According to Ginger, President Bush would not ask for a passing vote from Congress before proceeding with these campaigns.

Such manifestations of the U.S. war on terrorism echoed when she reported that not only had the government not made public its signing of United Nations treaties against terrorist bombing and terrorist financing Dec. 5, 2001, but that under this collective Terrorist Bombing Act, any persons arrested have legal rights comparable to those in the Miranda Rights.

It became a stinging revelation to the handful of students present, more so once she directed their consideration to the terrorist POW camp at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“And I’ll tell you another joke.”

The U.N. World Conference Against Racism in August and September 2001 in Durban, South Africa, where the U.S. and Israel walked out on proposals for formerly slave-owning countries to make reparations to Africa and on recognitions of the abuse of the Palestinians’ human rights, is one. The U.S.’s vote with Israel against 135 other countries in favor of that Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (Canada and Australia abstaining, citing lack of funds worldwide to support it) is another. And Bush asking Congress to illegally sign off on a break with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia is yet another. Even though the conference was under-publicized in America, the U.S. government is still bound by the Programme, which was passed by a sweeping majority vote.

American citizens, says Ginger, can no longer afford to disregard the United Nations.

“In this particular era in which you’re living, the problem is that the U.S. president, the secretary of Defense, the vice president and the attorney general have no respect for [the preceding issues],” she said to them. “And if they remain in office, there will be problems for the survival of this country as a democracy . of the continuation of debate . in a school like this.”

Hope springs eternal in her philosophy of political action, however. She charged students with their responsibility to apply their energy to activism where it is needed.

The fundamentals for a young person in college, according to Ginger, include getting to know one’s congress person and finding out the authorities in one’s field of interest, whether it is music or motorcycles.
She told them, insisting, “Friends, education includes going to a motorcycle race and going to the city council, going to a concert and going to the board of supervisors, going to school and going to Sacramento.”

Emilie Tarant, co-founder of the GCC student group People Against War, invited Ginger to share her information on campus but was not prepared for the impact she made. “She’s very frank,” Tarant said. “And I appreciated the expectations she had of everyone in the room to read and to act. She had a certain punch.”

Tarant took on some of Ginger’s equal-opportunity activism on a simpler, more personal level. She saw Ginger’s seriousness, her driving quality as one that not only people in positions of authority should have, but that everyone, especially her peers, should possess.

For more information on the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute or on introducing the ABM Treaty as a bill for law status in Congress, contact Ann Fagan Ginger at [email protected], or log on to www.sfsu.edu/~mclicfc.