Hi guys! Wow, two posts in a week, huh? Looks like I’m finally earning my keep!
Classes are almost over (ONE MORE DAY WHAT WHAAAAAT?!) and so I have a bit more time on my hands, but I shall soon be swamped with paper writing. And what better way to procrastinate writing about oppression, sexuality and gender in Coleridge’s “Christabel” than writing about my super exciting life?!
Actually, today was very exciting! In fact, today is very exciting all over the world except in the U.S., because May Day in basically every other country other than good old ‘Merica is also either an excuse to festoon everything and everyone with flowers or is also known as International Worker’s Day. When I lived in France with my family, the first of May was a national holiday, with the occasional strike (but let’s face it, the French don’t really need permission to strike, amirite? Heehee.) But for many others, May 1st commemorates the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, when workers protesting for an 8-hour work day were murdered by the police. As always, you can read about it more here, if you would like. So today, my comrades and I took to the streets to protest not only the impending changes to the permit regulations on campus, or the ongoing discussion (which, in my opinion should stop being a discussion and start being a reality!) in Tompkins County about making minimum wage a living wage, but also oppression and injustice everywhere. From the horrific, inhumane treatment of Bengali garment workers to the suffering of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, we came together today to protest all oppression, because all oppression is one oppression.
OK. I’m a bit nervous now that I’ve said all this. Partly because it inevitably reveals my very left-leaning politics. But that’s not really what I’m nervous about.
I’m going to put this out there: I don’t really enjoy politics. I know some people who really enjoy fighting the good fight and sticking it to the man, but me? Honestly, I just want to make myself a pair of lace mitts for the fall. And possibly a sweater. And then I would curl up with a good novel and snooze in the shade of my backyard.
So then, why am I involved in campus activism? Why did I feel compelled to walk all the way downtown shouting slogans about workers rights, and getting in the way of traffic, including one very impatient car-ful of police officers? (I even stopped to pick flowers for my hair, because I couldn’t resist the poetry inherent in the action of creating beauty in the face of oppression. I think the police officers did not feel the same way.) Why do I spend so much of my time and energy on something that I just claimed not to really enjoy?
I think Samuel Taylor Coleridge put it best: Sentiment is not Benevolence. Even if I wanted to, I can’t close my eyes to the world. Having roots in Bangladesh means that I have had many glimpses into poverty, injustice and cruelty. I have seen children digging through garbage for their next meal. I have seen old men, their eyes bloodshot and milky with disease, begging for what would be the American equivalent of a few cents. It is heart-wrenching. And the worst part? It happens all over the world every single day. It is most of humanity’s daily existence. And most people will do nothing about it.
So I could knit those mitts and that sweater and read that novel and feel horribly guilty for doing nothing. Or I could put those things aside and stand up for those who cannot do it for themselves. I can try to create a world where these people at least have a patch of land to stand on and shout their message loud and clear to the world. I can at least do that much, even though I cry when I read the news from the Middle East, when I see the numbers and the names of the dead and wonder what the hell am I doing at an Ivy League when I should be doing something to stop this, all of it. I organize and I raise my voice of dissent and I write because even though sometimes I wish I could, I know I cannot do otherwise. I have no other choice but to be involved, to be engaged, even though the emotional cost is sometimes unbearable.
But that is it to say that I have to bear it alone. My activism on campus has made me some pretty wonderful friends, without whom my time at Cornell would not be the same. So after we had walked all the way downtown and after we had made our demands, we came together at Shaun Greenwood Park. Antonio Gramsci made pasta, as usual. Patrick impressed us with his vast knowledge of leftist history. G. Mortimer Halfspoon made his usual jokes (“What do we want?” “ICE CREAM!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”) and Monseigneur Emanuel looked on and tried not to smile. (I know most people won’t get the last reference…think Mr. Rochester, but more academic. And not as handsome as Timothy Dalton and Michael Fassbender make him out to be. I apologize to Monsieur Emanuel in advance.) Aisha listened to me rant about meeting Tamora Pierce (something I will definitely blog about once it happens!!). And we sat in the sun and talked. And spring surrounded us with its flowers and gentle breeze, and even though we didn’t save the world, I am perfectly content.
Good night, world. As Arundhati Roy once said, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”