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Contagion

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Commonwealth Hall at Eastern Kentucky University By Ktr101 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17813854

A different kind of protest in a different kind of place:

Eastern Kentucky University was the site of a quiet and peaceful protest late Tuesday afternoon against the Israeli war effort. The rally started in Powell Plaza. One of the participants was Blaze, an EKU freshman.

“I would like for the genocide just to end. It’s pretty awful what’s happening over there. There’s children, refugees that are having to go to different countries with and without parents that are just, it’s not something you should ever have to worry about as a child.”

There were no speeches. Many of the attendees made signs and held them. One of the organizers was Cora Weer, an EKU student from Richmond.

“From my perspective, nothing justifies this kind of death and destruction. from either side, it’s just not acceptable in our today’s world, I would say.”

A few minutes later, an EKU employee told Weer and the others that equipment was being moved in for an evening of entertainment and politely asked if they could move by 5:30. He suggested the Daniel Boone monument up the hill – and that’s where they went, without complaint.

I spend an inordinate amount of time at EKU; my department has a relationship with a department there and we’re working collaboratively on a grant project, and one of my daughters studies cello under an EKU faculty member. Richmond is about 30 minutes due south of Lexington (it’s “Eastern Kentucky” in name only). EKU and the other regional campuses in Kentucky have been brutalized by state funding cuts, and one of the unmentioned but quite obvious strategies that UK administration has pursued with respect to increasing enrollment has been the degradation and eventual destruction of liberal arts colleges and second tier public universities across the Commonwealth. Still, it’s a lovely campus, and has graduated such luminaries as Earle Combs, Silas House, and Lee Majors.

There’s another rally scheduled today at UK at 5pm, and there’s no reason to suspect it will be anything but peaceful. Nonetheless, my worry is that contending groups of students at places like UK and EKU are going to start understanding the events at Columbia and UCLA not as cautionary tales but rather as models for emulation; that no one can be serious about protesting the war (or countering protests of the war) unless windows are broken and billy clubs bared. I have a visceral distaste of student activism and youth politics (Loomis, who has known me since I was 18, can attest that this is not a trait that has developed with age but is rather a core part of my character) regardless of the content of the activism, so I am not really able to engage with these protests, but I do very much hope that things remain peaceful in Richmond, in Lexington, and on campuses across the country.

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