I filled my weekend with the mundane. Soccer, chores, iPod repair. Discreet tasks that take no brain power. Partly it’s because, like post-9/11, I feel a little numb. It feels silly to continue on when so much has changed.
I had just moved here two months before 9/11. I was teaching in an urban school with students from other urban centers–DC, Baltimore, New York. I was teaching a course on race and racism. After 9/11 (one week into class), we talked about profiling, about Muslims and Arab Americans feeling discriminated against. Sadly, I learned that much racism was ingrained and rooting it out in a time when people wanted an easy scapegoat proved next to impossible. The only person I felt I’d gotten through to was a kid in the National Guard, who’d been called up to duty to help clean out the Pentagon. A few days after he returned, he was admitted to the psychiatric ward. But we talked before that. He said he didn’t understand why everyone was criticizing the government. He felt it was unpatriotic. I explained that to me it was the height of patriotism. In criticizing the government, we showed that we believed in many of its most basic principles: freedom of speech, government for the people and by the people. We believed we would be heard. There was a recognition there. And then I never saw him again.
I feel numb now, not out of surprise at what’s happened. Hurricanes are, after all, expected. I feel numb because of a sense that the government is no longer listening. It’s no longer a country that values its basic principles, that believes in government for the people. It caters to its friends, benefits huge corporations and the very rich. The poor and dispossessed don’t count. We are all but a medical tragedy, a lost job, a hurricane away from being the poor and dispossessed ourselves.
Though I want to hope that we will pull together as we did (more or less) after 9/11 (as Bitch, Ph.D. writes), I am feeling despair, a loss of hope, a loss of faith. While I believe that many human beings are good and caring, I fear that the people with power are not.