Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst sends the wrong message with vote

By Justin Thompson

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On Wednesday night, the eve of Veterans’ Day, Amherst Town Meeting Members voted 76- 32 to pass the “Bring Our War Dollars Home, Stop the Killing” resolution. This act would resolve to make the town of Amherst one officially opposed to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Did these people consult the Veterans of Amherst or the University of Massachusetts? No they did not. Did these people think of the message it sends to the many servicemen and veterans living at UMass and Amherst? No they did not. Do those 76 individuals who voted for such an irrational measure ever think of the students their actions affect (especially those who are currently serving)? No they did not. 

What the passage of this resolution reflects is a very dangerous trend we are seeing in America: self-righteous and arrogance disguised as altruism to voice opposition to the previous administration. President Bush, by the way, has gone to great lengths recently to state that mistakes were in fact made during his presidency and that he regrets them.

The members of the town meeting are so wrapped up in their anti-Bush fanaticism that during a debate over zoning that lasted three hours one member accused another of “fear tactics akin to the previous president.” When this was said, a number of people in the audience fervently nodded their heads in agreement like parishioners at a Baptist church. I would not have been surprised if meeting members had stood up, thrown their hands in the air and yelled “Hallelujah!”  These are the people who pass laws that directly affect over 15,000 students living in Amherst. It is also worth mentioning that the town gets to count all these students as residents and therefore receives a huge sum more of state funding than it would otherwise. Yet they nonetheless neglect and insult us.

Student Government Association Senator Nathan Lamb proposed a resolution in the Senate that would make the SGA opposed to the town’s actions and that would require the speaker to voice such opposition at the town meeting. The resolution passed 13-11 with four abstentions, but only after President Brandon Tower had his say on the matter- suggesting to the Senators that Sen. Lamb’s motion was not the SGA’s business. What then is our business? If the SGA is not to have a say in this matter of the town of Amherst, then we should not have a say in any other matter. I suppose the SGA has no say in the keg ban or the raising of the by-law violation fines all up to $300 – a direct and purposeful assault against students. The SGA, as the representative body of the students of UMass have an obligation to voice its opposition to such egregious measures including the “Bring the War Dollars Home, Stop the Killing” resolution passed Wednesday night.

 The town of Amherst ought to be ashamed. The students of UMass ought to feel outraged. The veterans who live in Amherst and UMass, I know, feel betrayed. Why must the town move to pass such political motions? Is it their place to attack and alienate so many people? To do so on Veteran’s Day is especially sickening. I think the time for students to start taking a stand against the town has come.

I wish this column could have been a more celebratory and thankful message of good-will for our troops and Veterans on this day, but the day has been tainted for me by the town’s actions Wednesday night.

 God bless our Veterans, I am eternally grateful for all your service and sacrifices. 

Justin Thompson is a Collegian guest columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Amherst sends the wrong message with vote”

  1. Anonymouse on November 16th, 2010 1:03 am

    Ending unjust wars is favorable for veterans. You fail to see the true meaning of patriotism and “supporting troops” if you don’t understand this. Go ahead and fight your war yourself Justin…

  2. Ben Grosscup on November 18th, 2010 12:39 am

    I am writing in response to a column “Amherst sends the wrong message with vote,” written by Justin Thompson, published on November 15.
    My name is Ben Grosscup and I am a member of Amherst town meeting, a position in which I served since 2006. Contrary to claims in Thompson’s column, the Bring the War Dollars Home resolution was not aimed as an attack on a former president. Rather, it was a rebuke of a long-standing policy of the U.S. government – across multiple presidential administrations – to fund immoral and insane wars while stripping funding that supports our communities’ needs for education, health care, basic infrastructure, and other things that perpetuate the common good.
    In the debate over war, there is no group of people – veterans, students, health care workers, or professional politicians – whose opinions count more than another group by virtue of their position in society. Moreover, Veterans and active duty soldiers – like the rest of the population – have wide-ranging views on the wars. Many brave veterans have formed organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans against the War. These organizations have helped the peace movement to expose the plainly immoral things – extra judicial murders, random shootings, torture, and use of depleted uranium – that the military as an organization is doing to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan – and now Pakistan and Yemen as well. These individuals have realized that they have been part of carrying out the evil enterprise of U.S. Imperialism, and they are making amends for these deeds by building a movement to stop the wars and to help themselves and their comrades heal from the horrors that they have both been subjected to and involved in perpetrating.
    But let’s zoom out from what each group of people might have to say now and look at where American policy is going in the big picture. The Obama administration and Congress, just like the previous administration was doing, are steadily working to make these occupations and their attendant carnage a permanent fixture of the national policy.

    Although we’ve been told in the media that the Iraq war has ended, the fact is that is has merely been re-branded by the Obama administration. The U.S. occupation has merely shifted towards ever greater reliance on corporate mercenary forces like Blackwater, which kill without accountability to American or Iraqi law. And when these mercenaries themselves die, their deaths are not counted in the official casualty rates, even though they now rival that of regular soldiers.

    Rather than just quietly enduring the local budgetary crisis that the town of Amherst is suffering as a direct result of the government’s vast expenditures on such folly, I’m proud that Amherst Town Meeting took a stand to call for an end to this madness. The amount of money used for the military from Amherst tax payers would solve every aspect of the budgetary crisis the town is in now and have plenty left over for providing sick people, including returning veterans, with health care.

    But it is not enough to talk about our suffering in Amherst as it is related to these wars. We must also acknowledge the suffering our government is causing abroad to the primary victims of these wars: the civilian populations of the countries the U.S. Military is occupying and bombing.

    Regular Afghans and Iraqis suffer from desperate poverty on an every day basis, but the U.S. presence in their homelands simply makes their lives more unstable. I think it is time that students at UMass who see the immorality of these wars challenge the Student Government Association to join with the town of Amherst in condemning them. There’s no hiding anymore behind the hollow rhetoric of “support the troops,” when it is so plain that the primary thing hurting the troops is the military itself. Let’s connect the dots and recognize that the same war machine that destroys lives abroad, destroys them here as well. It’s time that we stand up loudly, and to be more daring in our resistance to militarism and war.

  3. kingelf on November 18th, 2010 7:11 am

    amherst doesn’t neglect its students – it just wishes more
    were doing their homework and less were out partying
    on thursday, friday, saturday and sunday nights

    it must have been upsetting not get to speak at town meeting
    in your nice jacket and tie, but that’s no reason to lash out at
    the town in which you attend school

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