Love and rage for Umpqua Community College.

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(Photo from Niagara, New York  summer, 2011, anti-violence campaign.)

I forgot to turn in my key after class this afternoon so I  came back in the evening to the Metropolitan State University Minneapolis building where I taught an afternoon class.  I arrived just as students were getting out of class, streaming down the stairs, continuing class debates and notes about assignments, dressed in faded jeans and business wear. Metro State students are all ages — most in their 20s-40s –most finishing a double shift as workers and students, some rushing home to complete a third shift as parents.  Despite these stresses, I could feel the energy of possibility and change, of connection and new ideas rippling through the building.

In the morning I had gotten on the bus with poster-paper rolled in a rubber band and an idea that I wanted students to map out a reparations plans to heal our nation from the scourge of racist policies past and present. In class I divided the board in five parts:

  1. Apologies, monuments, museums, textbooks, and curricula.
  2. Truth and reconciliation
  3. Cash outlays
  4.  Government and institutional reparations in the form of outlays for education, housing etc.
  5. Commit the crime, do the time – retribution.

We talked about different real-life scenarios in which these forms of reparations have been implemented and then students picked one of the five and came up with plans — utopian in that they were in charge — but still in the real world, in a backlash-prone nation.   The atmosphere was jovial and thoughtful as students acted out parts to illustrate their ideas. We talked about breaking through information  silos and overcoming divide and conquer strategies.

One student stopped before leaving to thank me for the class. Another  — after talk of an upcoming paper, another joked  “This was my favorite class, but now you’re wrecking it with deadlines..”

I left class feeling inspired, walking across Loring Park, watching ducks on this gorgeous early fall evening. A dog in the narrow dog park stood like statue on a stump, making me and other passersby laugh. I crossed Hennepin avenue on the pedestrian bridge stepping over young lovebirds being photographed. I wandered around the sculpture garden. Another couple dressed for a glorious occasion were photographed next to the iron swing and the glass fish. I met my partner and we had a glorious evening listening to the magnificent poet  Douglas Kearney  and the soaring notes of a bass clarinet — Walker Art Museum’s free Thursday. 

It wasn’t until I returned home that I heard about the Oregon Community college massacre.  I immediately thought of my students, of the energy I felt in the school building when I returned my keys.

I know such hope and possibility existed  at the Umpqua Community College in  Oregon.

Now.

Ten people who made hard spaces in their lives for school, to build a better life,  are gone.

Ten families, ten groups of friends are left to mourn.

Tens of tens of Umpqua students just had the plug pulled from their hopes and dreams.

Another stat to add to the tens of tens of school shootings since Sandy Hook.

I’m glad to see the President angry. We need to stop the NRA. But we also must stop state-sponsored violence of our police and armies. Otherwise we have no leg to stand on when we demand an end to civilian gun violence.

Even the most disturbed can see when the emperor has no clothes.

 

Day of Atonement

Eid  Adha,  Yom Kippur, and the Pope’s visit to the United States all happening at the same time.  The Pope has reminded us we have a much work to do to bring about a world where we treat our neighbor as we would be treated ourselves. He also talked about atoning for past sins, against Native Americans, against immigrants, against mother earth. (His canonization of Junipero Serra  puzzles me as it is so incongruous with everything else he is saying. The only good he is doing with this decision is  thrusting the limelight on those Native Americans who oppose his decision.

I spent the day of atonement – Yom Kippur – not fasting but – due to a dizzy spell — contemplating, thinking about accepting and changing. Angela Davis said she wants to change what she can not accept. I agree. But first I have to accept myself where I am, my students where they are, the world the way if is before I can change anything.

Maybe  accept is the wrong word. I have to be willing to start the process of change from where I am and where we are and not from where I wish we were.

I’m not for atoning, but I am for repairing. Personal wounds and those facing a nation and a world.  Reparations — for slavery for example — don’t require personal responsibility for the sin, just a realization somethings been torn and needs repair. that makes sense to me.

Without repair  we face reckoning, no matter what god we do or don’t pray to.

Pope Francis referred with reverence to Dorothy Day, who – Code Pink tells us once said:

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty rotten system. “