Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Circumstantial Education

I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to conclusions.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to the conclusion that this was the best of all possible worlds and I was lucky to have been born at a time so free from the disease and hardship that was a mere generation away.
I was encouraged to explore, to read, to question, and to come to the conclusion that this was the best of all possible worlds and I was lucky to have been born at a time so free from the disease and hardship that was mere generation away and to have the opportunity to be anything I wanted to be regardless of class, race or sex. Bzzzzz.

In the fourth grade John F. Kennedy is killed. In the eighth grade Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy are killed. I sit at my bent plywood and Formica desk unmoved while others sob watching the black & white TV. Even the nun’s are crying. We read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in the seventh grade. What a tragedy! Such a young girl! How poignant! Later I find out about Goodman and Shwerner and Chaney and Medgar Evers and Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Later I find out how hard it is to accomplish something good when powerful people don’t want things to change. Reading alone in my bittersweet orange room with it’s flowered curtains and fishmobiles hanging from the ceiling, I am beginning to not understand how Hitler, charismatic as he may have been, did what he did all by himself. Bzzzzz.

I ask the librarian in my high school for a map of Vietnam and she says, “You girls should be thinking about parties and dances. You should be having fun, not worrying about things like war.” I am angry with her for not understanding: this is my party, this is my dance. In the Museum of Modern Art there is a poster that is a photograph of a pile of dead Vietnamese bodies. The caption asks, “And babies too?” and answers, “And babies, too.” I come to the conclusion that “Never again!” really means never again in exactly the same place in exactly the same way. Bzzzzz.

I pull down the cardboard box in my closet with old issues of my “Catholic Child’s Treasure Box.” Laura Nyro is singing, “Buy and Sell” on my pink and purple record player. I turn to the story of Wupsy the Guardian Angel and Sonny John the African pagan baby that is his first charge. The head angel tells Wupsy not to stop Sonny John from getting too close to the open fire. Sonny falls into the fire and is badly burned, but because his mother Ntaka Ntaka thinks he is going to die, she allows him to be baptized so he will go to heaven. Bzzzzz.

I explore the public library for things that I should read. I find “Treblinka”, “While 6 Million Died”, “Who Financed Hitler”, “The Crime and Punishment of IG Farbin”, “Blowback”, “Wanted, The Search for Nazi’s in America”, “The Deputy”, “They Fought Back”, “The Wall”, “Fascism and Social Revolution”, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” I question the role of German capital in the rise of the National Socialist Movement. I question the role of International capital in the rise of the National Socialist Movement. Standing in the stacks, my arms piled high with evidence. I question the role of Social Democrats in their capitulation to the National Socialist Movement. This is an old argument. Communists know one truth, Social Democrats another. The issue is in the past, but not in the past. Read Bogdan Denitch on Kosovo. Read Michael Parenti on Kosovo. Draw your own conclusions. I question the role of the US government in the aftermath of the National Socialist Movement. In 1995 Serge Stetkievich, an engineer at the company where I work, sees me reading Christopher Simpson’s “Blowback”, points to a picture of a Nazi in the book and says “I worked with him after the war.” My stomach feels odd. I look at him. “ We had no choice,” he says, “It was them or ….” He stops after seeing the look on my face. I come to the conclusion that Hitler did not accomplish the murder of 14 million people all by himself. Bzzzzz.

I question the role of the American Communist Party in encouraging unions to make “no strike deals” during WWII when American capital is making money hand over fist as they have in every war since the Civil War. “After the Soviet Union was invaded we had to support the war to save the Soviet Union! Communists were among the first to fight fascism in Spain. We had to continue the fight!” Yes, the fight against fascism but separate from Capital. What is Fascism but the skeleton of Capital? Underneath the fat of war boom and the fancy clothing of electoral politics the bones are the same. Oops! Here comes Joe Mc Carthy and HUAC. Hello, Film Noir. So long, film rouge. Goodbye, Ethel. Goodbye, Julius. Bzzzzz.

I explore the thoughts of other people.
“Those students don’t know how good they have it.”
“They wouldn’t be able to demonstrate if they lived in Russia!”
“They’re supposed to getting an education, not demonstrating, having sex and taking drugs!”
“Communists are torturers!”
“Hitler was a mad man!”
“Quadaffi is a terrorist!”
“Saddam Hussein is another Hitler!”
“Milosovic is another Hitler!”
What was Truman? What was Johnson? What was Nixon? What is Kissinger? What is Bush? What is Carter? What is Clinton?
“The Viet Cong are Communists. We have to save those people from Communism!”
In James Michener's book, “Kent State,” parents of some of the students on the campus say that if their sons and daughters were throwing rocks and bottles at the National Guard, they SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHOT. How many tons of bombs, naplam, agent orange dropped to save these people from Communism and to save them for what? Bzzzzz.

I return to college. My husband wants me to be a teacher. I explore Paolo Freire and Jonathon Kozol. I read in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” “with the establishment of the relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of the violence…there would be no oppressed had there been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation.” If you teach this way no pair of Nike’s, no designer jeans will satisfy. I can’t take the loyalty oath. I can’t lead the pledge of allegiance. Who will hire me? I decide I can’t be a teacher. Bzzzzz.

I have a class called, “The Philosophy of Peace.” We have to write a peace plan. We have to divide and share the world’s resources. The instructor is a Catholic into liberation theology. He infuriates me. Is that what he thinks is causing the problems of the world? No one has come up with a fair enough PLAN! I do a slide show with my term paper. I show the “plans” that have been trampled in the dirt, buried under the bodies that fell on top of them. He has never seen these things before. I want to scream. Bzzzzz.

Preparing for the Columbus Quincentennary I read about the conquistadors slow cooking a Native American over a fire pit. They tell him not to worry for he will soon be in heaven. “Are their Spaniards in heaven?” he asks. “Yes, of course, many Spaniards,” the soldier answers. “Then I don’t want to go to heaven,” says the Indian. Bzzzzz.

My children are teenagers now. I explore what happened in Italy after 1945 with American tax dollars, covert aid and approval. I read William Blum. I explore what happened in Germany after 1945 with American tax dollars, covert aid and approval. I read William Blum. I explore what happened in Indonesia in 1965 with American tax dollars and direct aid and approval. I read William Blum. My head fills with truths until I can’t hold it up any longer. It grows like a baloon, but it is as heavy as stone. It flops down. I try to pick it up. It flops to the side. It will not stand straight on my neck. I am officially a freak. Bzzzzz.

I march. I rally. I speak. I read. I write. Does it make me happy? Does it make me rich? I search for truth like a blind man reading in stone that’s been worn down by time. Like Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse with no star to guide me and no one beside me, I go on my way and after the day the darkness will hide me. Every bookeverypoemeverymovieeverypicture of the crimes of my country is in my head. The pile is bigger than 14 million. All colors, all races, all sexes, all ages across time. There is one thing in common, the color of our blood. That is a fact. There is no denying it. Bzzzzz.

I don’t want to lose this anger. ‘Reconciliation’ is a word that makes me want to vomit an ocean of blood. “Conflict resolution” is a phrase that makes me want to step on the heads of the snakes that hiss it. I sit in my living room so I can see all the colors that surround me. It is the color of acorn squash. The stairway wall is paprika. The dining room is gazpacho green. Nina Simone is singing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” on the CD player. I explored, I read, I questioned and I came to the conclusion that everything that happens today is directly related to what happened yesterday. I am lucky to have been born at a time when people were turning the world on it’s head and shaking out the dirty secrets for all to share and see so I could run and pick them up, hold them in my hands and let them burn like fire in my pockets until I find their truths.

1 comment:

a.raw said...

as i read your text, it triggered in me carole maso's "rupture, verge, and precipice"... you may find some intriguing parallels...