Well, I came back here, finally, to edit a post I had already put up– to write a little something about my place in all of this oppression and all of these horrible realities. But then I started reading and, here at my little library table, started crying. It made me want to share some things that I had written in my journal. All of you are such outrageously generous and utterly brilliant people, and I am so grateful to have met you, struggled with you, and learned from you. There are questions that were brought up by you all, by the professors, by the speakers, and by the previously created frameworks in my mind that I think about every day, especially as every day takes me closer to the moment when I will jump from this place into many many new and unknown ones. I am thinking about what Stephanie wrote about– empathy, and what it means, and how it can be taught or communicated. I have also been thinking about something Grace said in our last class : that the trip “complicated a lot of things about the world while stripping bare a lot about life.” That has really moved me. Anyway, I could really ramble forever about these huge questions, but here is some bits from my journal that I wanted to share.
This was written, in part, after we saw the wall for the first time:
I am trying to come to terms with a strong, depressing notion that this “war” at the “border” is completely made up. It’s a distraction from the horrifying reality that we don’t know how make meaningful lives anymore. In a society that cheers on jobs at desks, in cubicles, holiday shopping, meat means dinner, Pier 1 imports, how can we possibly self-actualize? Our minds are clouded, constantly saturated with meaningless shit. And meanwhile, while we eat consume eat use waste sleep, our economy is going down the drain and people are murdering one another and men are hitting women and women are throwing up everything. Our sacred institution needs to distract us and what better way then to use the tried and true tropes of history—we loved being cowboys frontiersmen let’s do it again. Let’s make up threats and scare people into purpose.
And this was written after our first meeting back:
It’s Thursday and we’re back and I am totally flipped out . We got back and I felt weird—out of sorts, overwhelmed about how to talk about what we saw and experienced and learned, etc—but only for a day. Because Sunday, I had to try to jump back in. Read for my seminar, be present with my friends. In my head, I focused only on how much fun I had—because I did have a lot of fun—and less how crushingly helpless I felt, how reflective I was, how heartbreaking and soul-motivating the people we met and stories we heard were. I’m alarmed and sort of saddened by how easily I could practically pragmatically coldly put this all on a shelf to be thought about and dealt with AFTER GRADUATION. What a hypocrite, huh? And yet, as Stephanie said in reflection today, Vassar is not a place that lets you feel and take time to think about one thing for an entire day. To be here is to be busy solitary working laughing moving stimulated. My energy completely shifted when I got on campus without me even realizing it. And it is hard to tell my friends about this and to be totally and completely true to my moral convictions because we have two months left and it’s hard to imagine changing shifting breaking balances and comfort when I just as much as they want to bask in the ease of our historical and fun and lovely friendships. And how do I take time now to process and be slow when I have my THESIS to do now now now now now and it feels so fucking irrelevant. And I just want to leave and be done and be on to something fresh and productive.
Today when we sat in the circle outside no one was saying anything or taking charge so I forcefully said “OK Liz, what’s the point of this meeting? Are we here to talk about on campus activism?” I sat there in the circle, the only one that had put my backpack and cell phone in front of me, in the circle. I am so disgusted by that.
Where am I right now? Betwixt and between. I am here in Poughkeepsie, NY a New York girl senior at Vassar College and people are dying in the desert. We’re killing people and I’m stressed about writing a paper. I don’t know how to reconcile my life and realities with those two weeks in Arizona. And I don’t know how to justify settling into a, as Tyrone called it, DisneyWorld that I’m in so many ways OVER, done with. The challenge of letting this experience stay present in my mind as uncompromisingly as I can manage (meaning I’ll be angry, sad, withdrawn…) is one that is reflective of a life struggle for me:
Injustice oppression far away [physically or socially] that I need to feel and work against and work to understand
I miss being silent.
I miss being silent with a group, when I know everyone is thinking about and grappling with an experience we share.
Everyone in this class is so unbelievably generous that it makes my heart hurt. Generous with their doubts, insights, vulnerabilities, profundities, talents, weaknesses. It’s remarkable. And it makes me cry.
I miss being slow and steady and feeling trust and feeling trusted and knowing I will eat good food with wonderful people and feeling out of control in the most communal way. We were unsteady together and now I am unsteady alone in my room at 1 am with half my thesis looming above me. I am so fucking tired. I want to go away. I want to live in a house with other struggling people and have a garden and do work that fulfills me and helps the world in some pure way. I want to hike and cook and get to know people. I really don’t want to be here anymore and it scares me. I love Vassar and part of my identity is loving Vassar but I’ve taken all that I can from it for now, perhaps.
Hey sorry for the swear words!
Here is one of my favorite songs:
and the lyrics:
A million tents and trailers
Will cover the open desert
Your kids will learn again
How to build a fire
Where to look
For water and the families are bound together now
By the fall of all the great cities
Finally to sing out their
Stories and the histories of hunger and a victory
Back into the old gypsy
Circles where the swaying girls
Will play out the old rituals
The boys will be delirious
But desperate and serious
The chasing will be furious
The drums and the rain
Will come together
Out and the
Cities are all lost but the circle is found
That’ll tie us together
My kind of town
Who were you before the fall
I was a singer, saw the future
Laid out in dominoes
Now I hunt the buffalos
And my darling
Who were you
Behind the counter with the day memorized
And those cold vacant eyes
Well you swore you were free
You swore you could see him coming
It was old angel midnight
He’s staring you down
He’s stealing the water right
Out of the ground
And the news is all true
But the views are unsound
And the market is dead and the phonelines are down
But it ties us together
My kind of town