Medea Benjamin – renowned activist, writer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee – discussed peace, foreign policy, the invasion of Afghanistan and her organization CODEPINK on Tuesday, March 28, in the Leo A. Guthart Cultural Center Theater. The event was part of Hofstra’s International Scene, and although the focus was said to be “Citizen’s Responses to President Trump’s Policies,” Benjamin discussed the importance of acknowledging militarism in the United States and the effects it has had worldwide since the George W. Bush administration’s decision to invade Afghanistan as a response to the attacks on 9/11.
Benjamin expressed that although she does not support the Muslim ban, it is important to wonder whether or not the absence of Saudi Arabia on the list of countries affected by the ban is merely political.
“She talked about the Muslim ban. The current administration is focusing on banning people from six countries [from] enter[ing] the U.S., but Saudi Arabia is not part of the list. Medea talked about how we sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, and how it is hard to think that those two facts are unrelated,” said Natasha Rappazzo, a senior history and political science major.
Benjamin focused on policies that are not reflective of American ideals. “Right now our policies are supporting repressive regimes, dictatorships, getting involved militarily in internal conflicts in other countries and it’s actually draining our resources, making us hated around the world, making us less safe,” Benjamin said. “If we want a policy that makes us loved in the world, we have to stop bombing countries and instead, be feeding hungry people and saving a lot of the money spent on the military to use on people’s needs here at home.”
Lola Solis, the vice president of Peace Action Matters and secretary of the Campus Feminist Collective, asked Benjamin how students could mobilize and be more active in the community. Benjamin suggested looking at policies on campus and finding out where endowment funds are being invested.
“I love to see that there’s more activism at Hofstra than there has been in the past since Trump was elected … I think the movements that have been resisting President Trump are being led by young people, and especially women, and it is very exciting to see that here on campus it’s the same thing,” Benjamin said.
After Benjamin concluded her presentation, some students and faculty members attended a round table discussion where the conversation focused on peace and the importance of intersectionality in activism. Both faculty members and students concurred on the importance of civic engagement. “Being an American is part of my identity, and being civically engaged is part of what makes me an American,” said Sarah Puckett, the public relations chair for the Campus Feminist Collective.
Members of the roundtable also discussed the current global protests. “The peace movement kind of died in the last eight years [during] the Obama Administration, but now you write anything on Facebook and people just show up,” Benjamin said. “Before, people would only show up to protests regarding the Israel and Palestine conflict.”
Faculty members were eager to discuss with Benjamin the current political climate as well as the constant protests that have ensued, including the internationally practiced Women’s March and the protests held outside airports in response to the Muslim ban. Benjamin said, “I think that the silver lining of the current presidency is that it is forcing people to get involved, to learn about other issues, to be in solidarity and to get active.”