Letter from the Editor: Issue #9

Baltimore is burning. The images on the news look like eerie American versions of the kind of street battles we see in other parts of the world. When I saw video yesterday of Baltimore residents throwing rocks at police officers it reminded me of Palestinians throwing stones against Israeli forces in the West Bank, or Kashmiris facing Indian troops.

The last 24 hours are a stark reminder that the United States is not immune to the kind of popular anger and social conflict inherent in any society where communities are ghettoized and feel cast aside. The specter of violence should come as challenge to us; a challenge to start thinking of adequate responses to the social ills causing this kind of unrest. We can criticize and shake our heads at the rioting and looting, but the real question is why a community would feel so frustrated, so ignored and so restless that this kind of social outburst becomes a reality.

While the current unrest is the product of police brutality and questions of race in America, the roots run deeper and are connected to issues of poverty, lack of resources and a society that prides materialism over individuals. In a society where wealth and objects define who we are, those who don't have the luxuries of the few will respond through anger. In a sense, Baltimore isn't just about race, it is about how a society that claims to be classless is just the opposite. Pretty soon it won't be just about black lives, it will be about the working class versus the oligarchs, the citizen versus the state. These are questions of global import because people everywhere fight to cast off yokes, as our cover story demonstrates.

In this week's issue we present the story of Lemma Barazi, an SMC student of Syrian origin who's family is being deeply affected by the Syrian civil war which has turned into an international battleground of factions and superpowers. Hers is both a family saga and a universal story about the power of knowing your family tree. Talking with Lemma was like hearing an oral history of Syria as her family has deep roots in the country that go back to the era of the Crusades. Lemma represents the generation of young Arab diaspora who wish to see democratic change in their countries but are instead torn by heartbreaking realities.

In the last few months we have brought you the stories of other students from countries like Iran and Egypt. We are an international campus and we make friends from many parts of the world. What we forget sometimes is how the events happening their countries affect us as well. Remember that in September 2013 the Obama White House came close to launching a military assault on Syria, an action that would have had serious global consequences since both Iran and Russia are also heavily involved in the civil war. Lemma's a story that shows the microcosm of history and how history isn't just a set of headlines or chapters in a book, it involves real people.

Also in this week's issue we run a report on the recent events surrounding Consent Month on campus. It was a necessary set of activities that reminded students that the issue of consent remains important, especially in a college setting. Sadly, some individuals still don't realize the value of self-control and respect of others, even in matters of sexual relations. There is never an excuse for forcing oneself upon someone, or harassing them and violating their space.

As always we invite you to share your thoughts and commentary with us and to visit us online. As the news and our cover story show, the freedom to have your voice heard is a powerful gift.