Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bus Stop

Well, it's not every day you come to work and see the burnt-out shell of a bus parked near your office.

Bus 19 is a program of Christians for Israel. They have purchased the remains of a bus that was struck by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem early this year, with 11 people being killed. They travel the country displaying the bus (it's on a flatbed trailer) and raising awareness of the horrors of Palestinian terrorism.

Duke, in the face of protests, is hosting a Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference this coming weekend. Allowing Bus 19 to come was an 11th-hour conciliatory gesture to the anti-Palestinian people. That's also how come hardline anti-Islamist writer Daniel Pipes is speaking on campus tomorrow.

What can you say about this bus? On one hand, it IS affecting. Almost all the sheet metal is gone from the sides and roof. The glass is all gone. Seats are ripped out of the floor and scattered here and there. You can see where the bomber was positioned. The thick plywood floor is blown out in that spot, and one seat has all the fabric and foam rubber burned away.

On the other hand, it's like a fetus in a plastic bag that an anti-abortion activist thrusts in your face. The campus paper calls it academic expression, which it is most definitely not--it's an appeal to raw emotion. Are we guilty of intellectualizing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict here? Being as we're a university, I think we're in the business of intellectualizing things.

The bus arrived here yesterday. A quiet counter-demonstration began today. And as I was typing this, an e-memo came over warning about a bogus e-mail that appears to attribute pro-Hamas statements to Duke students connected with the PSM. So although none of this interferes directly with my work, it's not just another day at the office.

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