Back to school. Mixed emotions on that count.

19 Jan

You’ll be able to tell that I’m back at school because of this post. It’s a continuation of something I was marinating on over the break after a conversation with someone who will remain nameless to protect his honor. We were talking about what we were going to do after school, and I asked him if he still wanted to pursue the field he’d mentioned previously. This field had to do with illegal immigration. I’ve been hoping he’d come around, stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, and join the sane, but no. He came back with “that’s where I’m still conservative!” and proceeded to talk about how illegal immigrants “take advantage” of this country because they don’t pay taxes blah, blah, blah.

And, you see, when people start talking like this I lapse back into this problem. Mainly, I become so confused by their thought process that I cannot form sentences that make any sense further than, “I can’t believe you!” My thought process about this issue goes something like this: How can you possibly accuse a community of taking advantage of the system when they are the most vulnerable and precarious population in the nation? They are the most exploited, and you are accusing them of exploiting you? Are you kidding me right now? Of all the people you could be pissed at, all of the groups you could blame, you pick them. The ones without rights. Seriously? And what completely baffles me is that these same people who say that illegal immigrants are taking advantage of the United States by not paying taxes or whatever are the exact people who don’t want to tax the most wealthy Americans. Really? Are you kidding me? You want to take out all of your anger and fear on this population, you want to build a wall?

As you can see, I lose all capacity to have a conversation and devolve into accusing them of being stupid/ignorant/unfeeling/soulless. This doesn’t accomplish anything, because I know this dude personally and I know he isn’t stupid/ignorant/unfeeling/soulless. We’re actually pretty good friends. So here’s where I realize that I can’t even understand their thought processes, because where I operate from a sense of social justice and human rights and almost always come down on the side of those who have the least and are the most exploited, other people think about things like taxes. Granted, their thoughts on taxes are (most likely) baseless, I mean look at their source, but still, their arguments are based on things like economics instead of basic human dignity. So I’m starting to realize that, if I ever want to change any minds, I have to change my own. If I can’t communicate in a language they understand, we’ll just sit and yell at each other forever while real, valid, living people are being overlooked in a political battle that directly effects them.

This brings me to class today. We’re talking about poverty and inequality, and I’m really excited because my teacher is an economist. She’s basically a badass. Yes, she actually is. She connects economics and human rights/social justice/grassroots activism all the time. It’s her job! I am pretty positive that if anyone can help me understand how to have the economics conversation, it’s her. Then we watch this documentary that everyone should see called Life and Debt. It’s about Jamaica, the IMF, the World Bank, and the living conditions of the people on the island. It also implicates tourists who come to the island and ignore the devastation, just like I’ve done on cruises to Mexico. Then, I had one of those moments.

By “those moments” I mean that second where… well, you know that saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees”? Well, its like you’ve been looking, staring, really concentrating on this one tree, or this one patch of trees, or whatever, and then suddenly you zoom back. Not just to the forest, but to the whole region. The entire living planet ecosystem. Just zoom straight out. And from far away, you can see all of the different forests. You know, the Forest of Poverty, the Forest of Climate Change, all of those forests. And suddenly from your zoomed out position, you channel The Doctor. Well, on a small scale. One of The Doctor’s things is that he’s aware of all of time happening at once. So here you are, staring at all of the forests, but you can also see forward and backward in history. So, now, you have the Forest of Climate Change, the Forest of Poverty, etc, and all around them, acting on them, you see things like Colonlialism and Racism and Capitalism and Greed. And suddenly you’re like, whoa, I thought all of these were separate forests and forces, but really they’re all here. I’m just saying, I had a moment in class where my brain zoomed back. The farmers in Jamaica can’t sell their produce in local grocery stores, because they can’t compete with the prices of the imported goods from all of the countries they previously had trade barriers against until the IMF told them to take down the barriers and integrate. Of course, the taking down of trade barriers only applied to this poor country, and not the other countries with so much money they can subsidize their goods down to such a low price even with the cost of exporting it to Jamaica. And then you think about how much fuel and pollution comes from taking food from one place, processing it, packaging it, and shipping it from one country to another all around the world. And now you think, today, when we’re all so concerned about climate change and pollution and global warming and green industry, firms from rich countries are competing to export goods across the world?

Do you see what I mean? And then I feel like I’m just this little leaf, or something, floating on a current in the middle of all of this shit. It existed before I was a leaf, and all of the forces acting on me are so, so huge. I’m just being pulled along by this epically intricate and massive system of currents. And it’s just a little overwhelming.

But at least I’ve got The Doctor to keep me warm! He’s the best humanist ever. And sometimes you just need someone, even a fictional character, to tell you humans are good.

SOTP: “Chances Are” by Garrett Hedlund

In sisterhood and solidarity,



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