Facebook activism?

Oct 142007
Authors: Ayesha Awan Indiana Daily Student

(U-WIRE) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Browse through your friends’ Facebook profiles and you’ll see that a good number of them are part of at least one politically-oriented group, such as “Barack Obama: One Million Strong for Barack” or “Abolish Abortion.”

I’m sure these students have the best of intentions when joining these groups, but take a practical look at them. For the most part, “membership” in these groups is little more than a merit badge on your profile page. It’s a convenient way to show off your sense of humor, political affiliations and some cause that you might or might not give a passing thought.

I’m guilty of being the cliche Facebook activist. Unfortunately, it took news coverage of a tragic situation to remind me just how lazy I’ve been in keeping up with issues and causes that are important to me.

Coverage of the genocide in Darfur seems to have been waning recently, perhaps because people believe the situation has been improving.

A headline Monday morning showed this was not the case.

All that remains standing in the town of Haskanita is the school and the mosque. The rest of it has been burned to the ground; its 7,000 residents are now refugees. The town was under Sudanese military control, and though no one has conclusively proven it yet, the Sudanese army has been accused of carrying out the destruction.

Allegations are also surfacing that the army is in the process of attacking Muhajiriya, a city controlled by the only rebel forces that have signed a peace deal with the government.

The timing of these events, right before critical peace initiatives, is disturbing.

The United Nations and the African Union are scheduled to broker peace talks between the Sudanese government and the multiple Darfur rebel factions Oct. 27 in Libya.

Both U.N. peacekeepers and African Union troops are set to deploy later this month while their respective organizations push for peace through negotiations.

Jan Eliasson, the United Nations special envoy for Darfur, is in the region this week meeting with victims of the conflict, rebel leaders and government officials in order to establish a basis for the peace talks.

It’s easy to sit here and shake our heads and join Facebook groups, but what happened to the era when universities were central to political and social activism?

Don’t stop at endorsing Rudy Giuliani or Barack Obama on your Facebook profile. Go attend a College Republicans or College Democrats meeting and do something constructive. Visit their campaign sites and donate.

Feel strongly about gay rights? Visit the Hoosier Rights Campaign Web site at indiana.edu/~iuhrc.

If poverty concerns you, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

And as far as Darfur goes, visit standnow.org for information about how you can help lobby your local representatives to commit to legislation that puts greater pressure on the Sudanese government. Or you can donate.

A few dollars can protect an innocent woman from being raped or killed.

Being an online warrior only is highly overrated.

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