“The Resistance”

 

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“Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret five times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.”

(Rest in peace and rise in power, Kayla Jean Mueller)

 

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“This has to stop.”

As I prepare to leave for Turkey, and as I continue to absorb the onslaught of the news and reflect on this harrowing summer, the words of Rachel Corrie echo,* written in an e-mail to her mother from Rafah, Gaza three days before her death:

I’m having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach from being doted on very sweetly by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States it all sounds like hyperbole. A lot of the time the kindness of the people here, coupled with the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry. It hurts me again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be….

….It is my own selfishness and will to optimism that wants to believe that even people with a great deal of privilege don’t just sit idly by and watch. What we are paying for here is truly evil… Just want to tell my mom that I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us to all drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comic books for my co-workers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of the world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not what they are asking for now. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I was two and looked at Captiol Lake and said, “This is the wide world and I’m coming into it.”

My ears ring and my heart implodes with Pochter’s letter as well:

I hope you will never stop your curiosity for the beautiful things in life. Go on hikes in canyons, forests and mountains, go fishing, research wildlife, and get out of the city if you can. Surround yourself with good friends who care about your future. Fall in love with someone. Get your heart broken. Then move on and fall in love again. Breathe life every day like it’s your first. Find something that you love to do and never stop doing that thing unless you find something you love more.

Don’t blame others for their mistakes. It makes you weak…. Speak with conviction and believe in yourself because your personal confidence is just as important as your education….

Try not to forget me.

You told me how proud you were, and so I’m not going to let you down. I’m going to learn a language and connect with real people. I’m going to eat regional foods and learn how to make them myself, with friends, in a kitchen.  I’m going to find the most beautiful mountain in Turkey and hike it and plant a tree for you there. I’m going to read, and ask questions, and write poetry, and I will never, ever forget you.

Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Israel, Lebanon, Iraq… my heart breaks and my resolve deepens. This has to stop.

*This quote is excerpted from My Name is Rachel Corrie, adapted by Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner.

Lessons From Steubenville

This piece was originally published on the Kenyon Observer blog, describing the importance of comprehensive sexual assault education and bystander intervention. 

Trigger Warning: The following includes descriptions and links to content that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.

For four consecutive years I’ve attended the training session necessary to host parties on this campus. Most often, when I’ve worked campus parties I have been assigned to serve as a door worker, or as a“floater.” A floater is technically someone assigned to keep their eyes and ears on the party and ensure a safe environment which complies with the regulations outlined in the Student Handbook, the College’s party policy, and the set of expectations outlined on the Event Registration forms one fills out before a party can be held.

What I can’t get over, in the wake of the recent conviction of two students in Steubenville, OH, is that sexual assault was never mentioned; neither in any of those training sessions I attended, to my memory, nor is it explicitly mentioned in the protocols governing party hosting.

Why is that a problem? The campus has a clearly written, (if at times controversial) sexual misconduct policy. Shouldn’t that be sufficient? Here’s why I beg to differ:

Every 21 hours someone is raped on an American college campus. Furthermore, 90% of all campus rapes occur under the influence of alcohol. If you’re in college or you’ve been in college, chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped. The chances that they knew their perpetrator prior to the attack are at least as likely.

How many Jane Doe’s have you laughed at as they stumbled away from a party instead of seeing if they needed help? Has anyone you’ve known wondered, had regrets about if they should’ve followed through on a hook-up because of their partner’s level of intoxication? Have you? How many people, if assaulted, don’t tell anyone (let alone press charges), because they’re embarrassed or ashamed, because they think it’s their fault? Ever seen a couple dancing and wondered if they’re both actually “into it?”

If you’re shocked by the images that went viral across the internet, if you’re horrified and stunned that anyone could treat a peer that way, if you’re offended, outraged that the media would place more emphasis on the consequences for the accused than the trauma endured by their victim, you’re not paying attention.

But isn’t the DFMO and the drunken hookup just how college is these days? Here’s the issue: When we hear stories like those of the young woman in Steubenville, it’s easy to mark the case and the role alcohol played in it as exceptional. She was clearly passed out, so the morality of such an act can’t possibly be questioned, right? But what happens when s/he’s not passed out, when s/he’s black-out, when s/he’s brown-out, when s/he’s tipsy? The law is very clear; any decent code of conduct is clear: intoxication means non-consent. I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of people in our community agree that rape is a bad thing. But how many people truly recognize that jokes, comments, and song lyrics about sex, alcohol and partying necessarily contribute to a culture that tacitly or explicitly obfuscates the definition of rape?

The message to college students should be clear and be supported by educational programming and dialogue-fostering events made possible both through student activism and initiatives undertaken by the administration. This year’s performance of Real World Gambier during First Year Orientation was an excellent example of that sort of messaging. Of course, much simpler steps can be taken as well. The freshman hall cliche of the buddy system is neither as obsolete nor as childish as its reputation.

For Kenyon students, a major takeaway from the media-saturated rape trial in Steubenville may be this: our understanding of participating and engaging in a community must include stepping in if the safety of a peer is in question. To put it in the language of party training here, everyone can and should be a floater. See something? Say something. I’d much rather be a “cock-block” than stay silent, and I reserve my right, and recognize my duty to do so as long as Kenyon students don’t feel safe. If nothing else, hopefully Steubenville can serve as a wake-up call. Every single member of this community can contribute to a shift in the way sexuality, alcohol, and safe behavior interact on this campus. There are lots of questions to be raised surrounding this issue, but here are a simple few with which we may begin:

“Hey, want me to grab you some water?”

“Can I call SafeRides for you?”

“Are you ok?”

ثورة

A Prayer by Naguib Mahfouz

from Echoes of an Autobiography, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies

I was less than seven years old when I said a prayer for the revolution. One morning I went to my primary school escorted by the maid. I walked like someone being led off to prison. In my hand was a copybook, in my eyes a look of dejection, in my heart a longing for anarchy. The cold air stung my half-naked legs below my shorts. We found the school closed, with the janitor saying in a stentorian voice, “Because of the revolution, there will be no school today.”

A wave of joy flowed over me and swept me to the shores of happiness.

From the depths of my heart I prayed to God that the revolution might last forever.

 

Eighteen months after uprisings began across the Arab world, hope and heartbreak coexist in struggles that indeed seem as though they may last forever. As bombs detonate in Damascus and Baghdad, as Libya churns in uncertainty, Bahrain trembles in brutally imposed silence, and Egypt debates its future, I pray for the realization of dreams of self-determination and for the safety and preservation of the dignity of the citizens of the region.

On “Tolerance”

“The connotations of ‘tolerance’ are deeply problematic. Allow me to elaborate on this point: the root of the term ‘tolerance’ comes from medieval toxicology and pharmacology , marking how much poison a body could ‘tolerate’ before it would succumb to death. Is this the best we can do? Is it our task to figure out how many ‘others’… we can tolerate before it really kills us?….I don’t want to ‘tolerate’ my fellow human beings, but rather to engage them at the deepest level of what makes us human, through both our phenomenal commonality and our dazzling cultural differences. If we are to have any hope of achieving anything resembling a just peace in the future, that examination needs to include both the greatest accomplishments of all civilizations, and also a painful scrutiny of the ways in which the place of privilege has come at a great cost to others.”

Omid Safi, in the introduction to the fantastic Progressive Muslims: On Jusice, Gender, and Pluralism

In his 1997 commencement speech at DePaul University, Elie Wiesel made a complementary remark:

I believe… that intolerance is the enemy of learning, and it is the enemy of progress, the enemy of humanity. Now what is the opposite of intolerance. Not tolerance. Tolerance is a word that has a condescending tone. “I tolerate you.” The opposite of intolerance is respect. We must respect one another, not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences.

Engage. Examine. Respect. Peace.

“Arbitrary Moments of Nearly Painful Happiness”

“There are random moments —tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms— when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead. Think of the way you sometimes see a tiny shaft of sunlight burst through a gap between rocks, the way it then expands to illuminate a much larger space —it’s like that. And it’s like quilting, a thread surfacing and then disappearing into the fabric of ordinary days. It’s not always visible, but it’s what holds everything together.”

“The Art of Mending” by Elizabeth Berg

For The Foxes

For The Foxes

By Charles Bukowski

don’t feel sorry for me.
I am a competent,
satisfied human being.

be sorry for the others
who
fidget
complain

who
constantly
rearrange their
lives
like
furniture.

juggling mates
and
attitudes

their
confusion is
constant

and it will
touch
whoever they
deal with.

beware of them:
one of their
key words is
“love.”

and beware those who
only take
instructions from their
God

for they have
failed completely to live their own
lives.

don’t feel sorry for me
because I am alone

for even
at the most terrible
moments
humor
is my
companion.

I am a dog walking
backwards

I am a broken
banjo

I am a telephone wire
strung up in
Toledo, Ohio

I am a man
eating a meal
this night
in the month of
September.

put your sympathy
aside.
they say
water held up
Christ:
to come
through
you better be
nearly as
lucky.

 

 

Remembering Katrina

“If there is any real, fundamental danger to America (as opposed to all of Fox’s made-up stuff, that is), this is it: That the country will fail because its government does not provide even minimally competent services to its citizens.” -Mark Coatney

This is belated but still worth posting.

I went for a week of reconstruction 11 months after the storm, and learned how to build and demolish walls. I also learned how to listen, re-build trust, and work in a community of strangers. I discovered the power of hope, I delighted in the altruism of my peers, and I didn’t realize, until then, what real gratitude looks like.

we didn’t start the fire

“… we are seeing forces that cannot ultimately be stopped by anyone – until they have wrought the hideous consequences so many zealots on all sides desire.”

Andrew Sullivan discussing the current political and emotional climate.

My heart aches… I seriously pray he is wrong.

As I have grown and sought my education and broadened my global awareness I have watched fundamentalism, literalism, dogmatism, and xenophobia grow globally.

How do we move beyond difference, toward peace?

<3

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Rainer Maria Rilke