What Time Is It? Intro II, On the Second Day of Marches...
As of this semester, I've worked with about 5600 writing students. (This isn't counting summers or the literature courses I often pick up for extra cash and something different to do.) We don't talk electoral politics--except occasionally in a bipartisan way to emphasize the enormous displays of bad logic and dishonesty on offer--but each class is about what politics mean to me, in the small "p" sense. Writing is a way to reach people you wouldn't normally reach; it is a tool, and it can be a weapon, and by reading as many drafts as they want to give me, by meeting with each individually as much as they want to meet, I try my best to help each student use that tool to fight for their own power in relationship to the world around them.
For these reasons, I get to know them pretty well, at least as well as I know anyone but my closest friends. Years after my classes with them, I may not know their names, but I can remember the first story they wrote or the researched argument they made. I often remember their handwriting before the synapses sort through those 5600 names. I don't think this is anything special. I think this is the story of teachers everywhere, certainly ones in roles where they are coaching students one-on-one in various ways.
My subjective take on this is that I love these people I get to work with. When I learned one of my best friends died twenty minutes before class, I went to class anyway because a) my students were going to be there waiting and b) I had people I loved and respected ahead of me, and I wanted to spend that time with them. When I had a heart attack, I got back to class as soon as they'd let me mainly because I was worried about whether anyone would understand the condition I left my course in, BUT...the important part is I was glad I did it because those students, to a one, looked after me that semester.
On the whole, they are decent, caring people, and they are doing the best they can to make their way through this world, just like all of us. Some of them have lived very fortunate lives, but none of them are rich by any objective standard. Some of them have spent 12 years in refugee camps, some of them have seen their best friends murdered in Gaza, many of them have been abused--psychologically, physically and sexually. Many times, they have also come to sit in that classroom, in a state of grief, because they don't know what else to do.
My good friend and mentor Nelson Peery, a veteran who fought in the South Pacific in World War II, a Black man who fought segregation starting well before the Civil Rights Movement proper and every day of his life in his way, a man who never quit analyzing cause and effect in the changing world around him....over the course of the quarter century I knew him, Nelson always insisted on the fundamental decency of the American people.
At times like this, it can be hard to see. We are so divided on so many things, we feel paralyzed and conquered. But we are also moving more than usual in various directions, and even our fights over ideology and political actions are a higher level of discussion than we have perhaps ever had in this country. Of course none of that will change anything...in the long run...unless we find a basis for unity and a way to work together. We'll simply stay divided and conquered, and we'll increasingly be in greater and greater danger because of the objective changes happening in the transformation of our world.
One of the luckiest days of my life was the day I, alongside Nelson and a great number of men and women leaders in the fight to end poverty (many who marched yesterday, and others who will march today, some who marched both days), decided to commit myself to building an organization dedicated to spreading an objective understanding of cause and effect and possibility in our world. We formed the League of Revolutionaries for a New America. If you read the attached piece, "What Time is It?" you can feel the same love and passion for unity that has kept me in analytic and strategic dialogue and action with this group since that day. Message me if you are interested in talking about what time it really is. I don't pretend to have all the answers; I know that nobody does, but collectively, I do believe there's a way forward, and the body of work developed by the League is crucial to that perspective.
As my friend Ron Casanova used to say, "Through Peace, Love and Understanding,"
A heartfelt thank you to the Progressive Youth Organization KC for offering these pictures from Friday's march.