Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reading the Moment at Hand

Cities are burning. People are standing and singing. People kneel, weep, throw things. People throw up their hands. People watch these events unfold with a creeping sense of dread: this is the moment we live in. Daughters and sons die, mothers and fathers cry.

This is not a not a new story.  On the one hand I wish this were otherwise (the age of the story); on the other, I take courage in standing among the ranks of the army on the side of justice. What is new are the people now in childhood, trying to become adults. What do we tell our children now?

Education is nothing if it does not show you how to interpret the current moment. It is critical now that this one be understood as something other than the worst we've ever seen. We live in dark times, but this is, as Rebecca Solnit has observed, "a darkness as much of the womb as of the grave" (Hope in the Dark).

Now we're coming on June, and I haven't seen my students since March 13, and it is possible I will not see many of them again.

What do we do as educators but provide a critical counter to the flame-throwing media frenzy of hatred, fear, and anger, and the dreary despair of being locked in at home with no immediate way out? I don't know. I am willing to have a different answer every week, but this is finals week, and I spent the morning weeping as I watched the news: part in hope, part in concern, part in worry for the next of the dead. But ultimately, I know (not think, not decide, not wish) that now is a time for hope. I know because I have studied history enough to understand why Richard Rohr asserts that "the story of history is a story of salvation." This is opposite to what standard presentations of news will have any of us believe. I am grateful in this moment to have been taught a deep belief in the power of the unseen, and I wonder now how best to translate this understanding in a world where the easy headline and oversimplified image reign -- on the level of the seen, that is -- supreme. This isn't new, either.

The diseases of bigotry, ignorance, fear mongering, hopelessness and despair are and have been at the level of a global pandemic for some time. As teachers, we must recognize the role we play in working against this system. The only curriculum that matters now is: 1. Why anger is the right response 2. What to do with this anger 3. How this moment is part of a history as old as civilization, and a specific series of wounds as old as this nation itself -- and finally, why now is a moment for hope.

"We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. So however difficult it is during this period, however difficult it is to continue to live with the agony and the continued existence of racism, however difficult it is to live amidst the constant hurt, the constant insult and the constant disrespect, I can still sing we shall overcome. We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, 1968.

This is what I am thinking about as we go into finals week. This is what comes of it.

2020 Visions: Final Reflection
It’s the end of the year, and all that I want you to take from your learning  (in this course and in life) is this.

Key Lessons

  1. If you have your eyes open, anger is the right response. You have to fight to keep them open.
  2. How to harness this anger, resist the understandable temptation to blow something up, and create real change.
  3. This moment is part of a story as old as civilization itself, and this moment in the U.S. speaks to wounds as old as the nation. These must be addressed, or the dream of America dies
  4. Now is a moment to hope.
  5. To grow hope and spread it to others, you must always be willing to recognize the unseen -- that which is hidden, obscured by dark, underground, or silent. This is where wonder and possibility live. Yes, we live in times of darkness, “a darkness as much of the womb as of the grave.”

READ. Study history. Learn where you come from. Listen to others who have lived these questions. Create and listen to your own. Answers DO exist. Hope is real. This moment’s crises are only old crises, felt in new ways.

The world needs the best of us now. To cultivate wisdom and righteousness in a world of ignorance and bigotry, you must be a very strong warrior. These questions aim to allow you to cultivate and practice this  strength.

So What is the Final? Here is the Final. 
Choose one of these questions as a focal point.

  1. What can we learn now from King’s legacy, in terms of how to deal with anger effectively?
  2. What can we learn from the 1963 Children’s March on strategies for effective nonviolent resistance?
  3. Why is this moment a moment for hope?
  4. Notice and describe a small wonder: something beautiful, profound, or otherwise remarkable, which is life-giving and beautiful to notice, which may easily be missed, especially now. 

Create a meaningful response. Your response may be:
A written reflection, a speech, poem, or original verse, a letter (to whom is your choice, or it can be an open letter to a group), OR a video you create. Then share it.

Related resources
Here are resources to help you think about the corresponding questions. Many of these have been explored in previous lessons. You may go beyond these, but please start by reading and/or listening to the resource(s) related to your selected question.What can we learn now from King’s legacy, in terms of how to deal with anger effectively?

For thinking about anger, consider this:

  • "Power of MLK’s Anger"  and also his "Three Evils" speech (Think MLK wasn't angry? That's because you got only the Disney version on TV of this complex warrior. Think again. MLK knows as well as anyone why anger is righteous in the face of injustice, and also why we must fight the impulse to do violence. We have the power to channel this powerful emotion into a life giving force.)

For thinking about nonviolent resistance, consider the 1963 Children's March.

For considering why is this moment a moment for hope, consider:

For noticing small wonders easily overlooked, consider the following:
You are here in this moment now for a reason. The world needs you to heal. Practice seeing what really is, and not what simply seems to be. And then listen, and practice speaking. Because it is time for a chorus of new voices to sing. I stand with you in awe, lifting my arms in recognition. Now is the time. The walls will come crumbling down. Take courage. Reasons to do so are here, everywhere around us. They are less loud than the reasons to despair. Listen carefully. 

Look. The hour of change is at hand. I am so proud to be standing here with you.