A tumultuous weekend has prevented me from blogging for a bit. I’ll be back tomorrow for #TeachingTuesday as promised with another course schedule template to make your teaching lives easier. Between my unplanned hiatus and getting back to normal I thought I’d share something just for fun. What follows is the beginning of a story idea I’ve been working on. Enjoy. (Or not, I mean, no pressure.)
Imagine time as a forested mountain range. Being in time is like standing in that forest. Most people pretty much pay attention to the space immediately around them. Sometimes they glance forward. Sometimes they glance back, but it’s more useful to focus on the things you can touch and use, the things in your immediate vicinity, so that’s what people do. You have your futurists who are always trying to look forward. They spend a lot of time looking backward too but what they talk about is looking forward. What’s the forest going to be like up there?
Historians, they stand in the forest and they look backward. They spend some time looking forward and a lot of time looking around but they keep looking back trying to see what the forest was like before. The thing is, what the forest behind you looks like depends on where you are in the forest at present. It’s all the same forest but it looks awfully different if you’re standing at the bottom of the mountain or the top. It looks different if you climb a tree or stay on the ground. It looks different depending on what’s around you too. Do you hear birdsong? Do you see a doe? What about a bear?
The historian may have the best of intentions. If she’s talented she’ll report what she sees in the forest-that-came-before in a clear and accurate way. But it’s only what she sees. It could look totally different from another angle, another position.
That’s the problem with history. It looks different depending on where you stand, what’s nearby, and what’s in your way. The historians are going to tell you all sorts of things. They’ll tell you that The Conflict was inevitable. They’ll tell you it could have been avoided if just this one thing could have happened in just this one way. They’ll tell you there were signs for years and they’ll tell you it happened with almost no warning—that The Conflict was a historical fluke—the right time, right place. Or wrong time, wrong place. The problem is none of them are wrong. They’re just telling you what they see from where they stand. You should take it all with a grain of salt. Read everything they say. Use your common sense, if you have any. Make up your own damn mind.
I guess this is a sort of history too. It’s also a story. My story and rememberings of The Conflict. This is what I saw. This is what I see. Take it with a shaker of salt if you take it at all.
Looking back it seems like The Conflict was inevitable. When I say that The Conflict was inevitable what I really mean is I’d like to believe it was inevitable and everything that means about human nature. Some historians refer to “the Stirrings” beginning in earnest in 2010. Some historians disagree. I couldn’t tell you who was right. I can tell you when I became aware of what would come to be known as the Stirrings. It was the fall of 2015. I was in Indiana then. I had a sweet little bungalow and was working my ass off in grad school. My program had something to do with cultural studies and I took it as my sacred duty to stay up on popular and political culture in the United States. Well, I stayed up on the popular culture I liked and the political culture I disliked. The presidential election, still over a year away, was almost the only thing covered in serious U.S. media. The whole thing seemed like a giant farce—reality TV gone mad.
I couldn’t tell you anything about that election coverage. The story that caught my attention was about an incident in France. A board of directors convening to discuss budget cuts and a peaceful protest by employees against said budget cuts. And then. The board members left their meeting and some of the protestors decided to not be so peaceful anymore. They didn’t actually hurt them but they did rip their expensive jackets and shirts. They ripped one guys shirt clean off as he tried to scale a fence to get away from them. That wasn’t the moment the Stirrings began, but it was the moment they began for me.
I don’t know if I can tell you what the Stirrings were. They were a million little things. It was people watching cop dramas and yelling at the TV telling the criminal in the interrogation room to “lawyer up!” even though they were supposed to side with the detective. It was people getting their news from satire websites and comedy shows because it seemed more real than the news from traditional outlets. It was people taking to writing letters over emails because the government didn’t spy on hardcopy (as much). It was people realizing that “playing nice” meant sitting on the side lines for most of us. It was people realizing that “civility” is a form of silencing. It was people realizing that the many have more power than the few when they work together. It was what it sounds like. It was a stirring that become Stirrings. It was waking up.