Different Set of Eyes

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Yesterday morning, while sitting in a writing lab with a student, we both received notifications at the same time, about the Houston tragedy – Tragedy in Texas – and we talked for a minute or two of our sadness. We exchanged the usual, it keeps happening, oh that’s scary, terrible, any number of coined phrases that are now attached to school shootings. But then I turned to her and I asked her,

“How do you feel about that?” and I looked her directly in the eye.

She paused for a moment, and then replied, “I’m sorry, but the first thing I think about is White people,” and she tried to restrain a natural smile, not one of happiness but one of timid reality that she lives in every day. See this young woman is Latina, and her mindset does not comprehend such an acceptance of school shootings. She believes the ‘mental health’ attachment is just another way of protecting the White community.

I looked at her and said, “You’re right.” But I was just beginning to think about the reality of her words. I couldn’t get past it the rest of the day. In my class later on in the morning, when the subject came up, there she was again, and this time her response was that society just allows it to happen because they can wrap it around a ‘mental illness’ label. I wondered if the rest of our society might see it as clearly as she does. I thought about her world.

In her scope of reasoning she has other concerns. Number one, she lives in a world where ICE is constantly knocking on her door, her friend’s door, family, acquaintances who every day wake up wondering if this is the day – will someone today lose their rights and feel the anxiety of having their family, lifestyle ripped apart. Certainly, it is a different measure than the immediacy of a school shooting leaving the slain to disrupt the lives of their family and friends, but hers is a unique pain.

I honestly don’t believe there is a concern in her world that anyone she is close to would ever resort to bringing a weapon to school and gunning down anyone in their presence. But I do think she walks around school, with her observant insight, wondering what next. What will be the next offense that will bear down on her society.

I’ve thought about my conversation with this young woman for the last 24 hours. She has given me new insight into what it is each of us thinks about every day, what are our central concerns, who do we worry about, and rather, when we think of an emotional commitment, what end holds confidence in our survival? Where she might be in constant motion trying to balance her world, her education, her work life all in a genuine effort to survive in America as a Latina woman, I’m on the other hand thinking about what plans I have for the weekend, and how can I pace my grading through the end of school year.

I don’t worry about losing my family to an immigration sweep. I do worry about school shootings, and I am constantly confused by how it continues to occur and how our society is gradually hypnotized into this absurd level of acceptance. She on the other hand holds a very sharp and poignant answer that when the rest of us stop and think about it, reveals a posture in our society that seems easily put aside.

Perhaps we are erring when we simply call it mental health rather than privilege.


photo taken from Pinterest

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Fighting Ignorance

This word popped into my lexicon

today, while basking

in the setting sun,

I wondered aloud about

what it is we seem to focus

upon while all around

our familiar ground,

the ignorance of life

seems drawn to

interfere with

a

quiet reality.

 

Sweet ignorance

the bliss of our lives

suddenly has feet

begins its walk again,

when a man,

a seeming professional

screams a rant at his own fear

in order to make a point,

that was already denied

fifty years ago,

when the time for

ignorance

seemed waning

rather than gaining.

 

We do sometimes choose to ignore

that purveyor of our deepest passion.

Passing Cars, Traveling Lives

When I was a little boy,

leaving nose prints on the picture

window,

in the rain, the streaks I’d follow

a free hand, fingertips,

tracing this world in some design.

 

When I was a little boy,

I’d watch the travelers

all of them pointed in some

direction,

a quiet neighborhood,

I’d often know the cars,

know they were watching me,

nose prints on a rainy day.

 

When I was just yesterday,

I wondered about time,

if it were ever really the same,

or if with practice,

would our lives intersect,

like the cars milling by,

the neighborhood

would only speak,

if shouts were ever heard.

 

While I wonder quiet about time,

I watch and hope for every time

the rains fall the glass of windows still

remind me of my childhood, if I will.

The Circle of Deceit

I can’t listen anymore,

I’m a citizen of this country,

I believe in my freedom,

the welfare of my neighbor

the peace of mind of a stranger.

I want to understand the peril

that one family has overcome

in order to help another find peace,

find hope,

find their own sense of freedom.

 

But the circle of deceit

two parties battling one another,

a constant rubrics cube of

smoke and mirrors,

Pollyanna and Slaughterhouse Five,

they’re all the same,

all told before,

all recognized to be contributors,

to our own incessant

Catch – 22

of hit and miss, ugliness.

 

I suppose I will turn to fiction

once again,

the result of years of twisted reality,

I’d rather just …

Imagine.

Just Taking a Walk in the Neighbrohood

I was listening to a some Tom Waits the other day,

puts me in a certain frame of mind,

if you know, you know what I mean,

you know what I want to say,

so I just listen to the blues and try to find my way.

 

I was thinking just the other day, about a neighbor,

someone I know, they know me,

we all seem to know each other,

especially when we do have that chance,

the rare opportunity to say hello, a courtesy.

 

See it is not as much about the neighbor as it is,

each other, all of us, walking around

today, tomorrow, any other day,

it’s about the wonder of our lives,

whose do we touch, and will they every touch ours.

 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, still listening to the blues,

Tom Waits kind of sets the tone,

for your day, for some of you the week,

like sitting in an old rusty bar,

and he steps out of the blind with a guitar.

 

We all do walk the same neighborhood, together,

oh we carry our crosses, for some it is

that famous albatross from an old piece of

literature,

I believe it was Coleridge, one of the dead guys.

 

Point is the music continues, the riffs, the melodies,

the lyrics that seem to so mellow, haunt our lives,

so we can all believe in it together,

we do love to feel, to believe, to wonder, to wish,

perhaps walk the same paths we all would wish to choose.

I Would Wait For This Moment

If it meant two people from opposite sides might smile,

I would wait for the final moment,

if I could know it was coming soon, we might lose denial

to recognize the beauty of Man,

beyond the animal, far and away we might know

the human condition,

it all of its fervor,

trying forever to recognize the places

our minds might go,

but if in the moment,

I measured race to be an entity

of sharing love and passion and a compassion

for the well being of the misunderstand,

then certainly it might be the classroom,

the place where lives we touch,

could smile again,

look upon each other in a sea of clouds,

both distant and frankly above,

and through that atmosphere

of a certain unknowing,

might we then,

remember where this all began,

in a place we might call love,

yet,

understanding beyond the mystique

does lay the real,

we would then shout from the rooftops,

we now know how to look one another

in the eye,

sharing a pleasant catharsis.

is it as known as the love we might have shown.

To Know Who I Am

I struggle sometimes,

with the right words,

perhaps an easy phrase,

a greeting of some kind.

I want the world to understand,

I am my own being,

I’ve fought a war perhaps,

nothing like a soldier’s wrath.

 

I listen to what is real around me,

the smarter speakers

those meant to be listened upon.

I wait for revelations,

I want to know,

where is it that I shall go,

with my next adventure,

just a simple morning away.

 

I’d like to think I’m right,

but there is such wide expanse

of narrative to discredit

anyone who might disregard

the reality of fear.

Instead we live in a constant,

of idiosyncrasy and wealth,

the sort that leaves a waning.

 

See it seems we are a society

built upon certain hypocrisy,

and if someone argues,

another might step in

when the originator

is walked out of the ring,

a towel over their head,

to hide only that embarrassment.

 

Yet, what happens to the winner,

when it is realized,

there is a far greater fight ahead,

than anyone might imagine,

Or perhaps they did,

just in the blink of an eye,

when were all told a no,

we might find agreement instead.

 

I wonder what it is, where I’ll be

suddenly when asked to know who I am.