by Valleria Ruselli
“Across my home has grown the shadow
Of a cruel and senseless hand
Though in some strong hearts
The love and truth remain”
The words above follow Jackson Browne’s lines,
“Oh it’s so far the other way
My country’s gone.”
This article of mine, initial appearances notwithstanding, is one of hope, expressing belief in our collective ability to move in solidarity to make a difference in this troubled world. To carve out the advances now necessary, however, will require that some “strong hearts” in education — and their equivalents in the “real world” — take unprecedented action. Interaction which follows a fresh paradigm. Not just fighting the good fight. That’s alright as far as it can go, but — today — simply feeling good about one’s personal political correctness or individual contribution begs to be supplemented.
In light of the light that would go off if any nuclear bomb anywhere is detonated. In light of the light that is going off — as I write, and as countless speakers on the lecture circuit pontificate ad nauseum — with regard to environmental issues.
I live in Santa Cruz County, California, which has a reputation for being progressive, even radical (in some circles). The people here, though, are anything but that. In fact, truth be told, they are at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to working for meaningful social/environmental change. They are, God help them, as self-centered as the most selfish and misguided right-wing citizens who they routinely foul-mouth in their local publications, public rants during protests, and throughout their daily lives. They don’t see themselves as the gluttonous consumers and egocentric souls that they are.
And they are as ignorant about the “cruelty and senseless land” that Jackson Browne alludes to in “Our Lady of the Well” (from his 1973 album, Everyman). Well-meaning, highly educated (formally) and deeply experienced in many instances, when push comes to shove their primary priority is clearly self-advancement and/or personal comfort/safety… just like about everyone else I cross paths with ‘cross this troubled country these days, which has gone “so far the other way.”
Push does come to shove every single day, doesn’t it? And it is my fervent wish that the reader will understand that what’s in gear at present in “progressive” quarters such as Santa Cruz County is obsolete. And quite typical. One has to have not been paying attention to not see that things have gotten infinitely worse on just about every score for the last half-a-century. Certainly that’s the case for an old soul like me who’s actually been around long enough to have personally witnessed Paul Robeson attacked by a racist, “patriotic” crowd in Peekskill, New York.
At that time, I saw so-called “law enforcement” look the other way, as Eugene Bullard — the first African-American pilot — almost got beaten to death a few feet from me. And, then, actually participate in committing atrocities alongside the local patriots.
To what end? Where does it end? Around the bend?
I think not.
fully understand what Noam Chomsky means when he points out that there has been some significant progress since the sixties. He often cites advances in what we know as the Women’s Movement. But we all should be able to see now that there’s not much comfort in that now. And not just because this and that legislation has been rolled back. Far more important is the sickening fact that the collective spirit has been poisoned — seemingly — irreparably.
But one must not succumb to that bitter business of being under the thumb of The Dumb. Nor stop drawing out our message in huge and dramatic circles for The Deaf.
We must embrace the belief that with Spring we can — at least sometimes, never knowing when — things can take a turn utterly unlike the snow.
As an educator and proactive concerned citizen since the sixties, I have learned that little can be accomplished unless protesters continually self-educate, enlarging their horizons and hopes, forging new angles of vision. Not just joining in with generic rants and raves along the barricades.
So… on that note — and in keeping with the promise that I began this piece with — I humbly and respectfully request that the reader glean meaning from Philip Larkin’s last line below. I know that it will inspire select souls. And that will be more than enough to get the new ball rolling… perhaps.
Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.