I mentioned this in our meeting the other night, but since we got back, in a sort of pseudo prayer practice, I’ve been re-speaking Mike Wilson’s words to myself in moments of reflection and quiet:
“Speak to me, O ancient and wise elder grandmother, speak to me in your native tongue. I may not understand your words but I can feel your aching stomach, the suffering in your heart, for I am sown from your body, your struggle, your strength, and I give thanks to you.”
In a reading from my US History class, it discusses immigration in the 1840s and 50s of Irish and German Catholics: “They blamed cheap immigrant labor for driving down the wages of American workers, while social reformers pointed to immigration as ‘the principal source of crime and pauperism in this county’” – So I am thinking about the cyclicality of migration and violence. And knowing this, knowing that change seems more a matter of reproduction and replication than progression, how does one look to resist this pattern of animosity and the mindset of belonging and otherness?
I come back to Mike Wilson’s words over and over – maybe it is a matter of reflection.
I came upon this article about the Mexican Poet Javier Sicilias, whose son was murdered in drug-related violence in 2011. Responding to rising violence and the need for collective grief and vocalization of pain and anger, Sicilias along with many others organized the “Caravan of Solace: Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity”. The bus caravan travelled from Cuernavaca to Ciudad Juárez, stopping in cities affected by drug-related violence, holding rallies and acts of non-violence civil disobedience to speak out again the anger and mourn collectively. I found a video about the caravan - it is about 40 minutes long, and documents the voyage. After watching this, I am thinking about it in relation to the Migrant Vigil, and the sermon at Southside on our first day – the power of grief and lament. I’m thinking about the process of reflection as central to resistance, and how to cry collectively, to express anger collectively, to not let injustice go silent but to make absolutely present the stories and voices of violence and oppression, it becomes possible to demand that patterns be broken. Some voices from the film: ”I don’t want apathy to erase all of our faces,” and ”Let’s propose, in this caravan of Solace, that we should let our feelings go deeply, and respect our pain.” There is a man that speaks at a rally in part of the film. He says: “You ask, where is the government? Where is justice? It’s time we begin to ask ourselves, where are we?”
Where are we?
I want to think more about what this means for us as a class, and us as individuals – How we can bring voices of pain and anger and injustice into the space of Vassar, to allow them to be heard and felt and respected.
Final thought - this is a project that I came across, called the Border film project, where disposable cameras were given out to migrants and minutemen to document their borderlands experience. While I think there are clear problems with the simple division of migrant/minuteman, it’s an interesting visual for the subjectivity of experience – the simultaneous divergences and similarities between what is photographed. The minutemen photos are largely images of leisure, big blue skies, proud smiles, american flags and camouflage shirts, as though their role must become manifest in symbols and objects. In a completely different vein, the photos taken by migrants ranged from the pain of injured feet and expanses of wall to moments of rest and camaraderie, from young children to young couples to elders – images of life as it often is, dynamic and complex.
It brought back to mind the preoccupation with symbolism that we saw in the Border Patrol Station, and ideals of the frontier – the need to reinforce an ideology through symbols because it is otherwise empty. And the other option? The one that is dehumanized and “illegalized” and criminalized – it is humanness, in all its broad spectrum of experience.