A Week oF Gearing Up

I’m going to be posting something about my political or social justice activities each week. I’m posting on my blog http://www.clarkknowles.com, on Medium, and on Facebook. It’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me on any of those platforms, I’ll just delete the comment without additional comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas here, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. Yes, I’m wicked liberal, but we’d probably get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal? Internet comments never solved anything.

This has been an interesting week. On Monday, I came out of my post-election funk. Either that or I ran out of 30 Rock episodes to watch in order to avoid despair, and my brain kicked me back into the ring. I had a lot of catch up work to do for school. I met with my classes, allowed the election process/results be part of the conversation, but we also got back to work. On Tuesday, the University of New Hampshire Democrats staged a walk-out and gathering on the T-Hall lawn (Thompson Hall is our flagship structure—the oldest, most visible building, and it is surrounded by a massive green). I encouraged my students to participate but said that I’d be hanging around for those that wanted to stay and write and talk about fiction. I left the room to get water and when I came back, five students remained and we did our work as we might on any other day. They are all good and bright and hardworking people.

The next day, the Union Leader (our state’s biggest conservative newspaper) wrote a story which quoted Republican State Chairman Jennifer Horne, who was angry that our Women’s Studies Program posted on Facebook telling students that if they wanted to come by and make posters with supplies in the office, that they’d be open till 4:30. The problem, according to Horne, is that the markers and poster board were bought with tax-payer money. This is unconfirmed, of course, and if the WS program is anything like the English Department, I’m suspecting that staffers there routinely by their own markers. Chairman Horne got pretty angry that a group of students who study women might want to make signs protesting against Trump, a man who has been routinely awful towards women in pretty much every way imaginable. I found her anger spurious and partisan at best, purposely distracting at worst (news of Trump’s lawsuit settlement broke the following day). I’ll be bringing a box of Sharpies and poster board over to the Women’s Studies Department so that they’ll have “non-tax payer supplies” to use next time. If I see any of those students who made signs in the Women’s Study Office, I’m going to thank them for participating in the process. The walk-out and protest, was not an “anti-Trump” rally, as the newspaper article stated. Here is the description from the Facebook invite: “This is to show our solidarity with all people who are at risk of getting their rights taken away by a Trump presidency, and to ensure that it is known that Trump’s hateful rhetoric does not represent our generation and we will not allow any anti-climate, racist, sexist, or xenophobic policies to win through.” Also, the comments on the Union Leader article were enough to make me want to start 30 Rock all over again and hide in a hole until the bombs start going off.

Also on our campus this week:

An anti-walk-out protest by two people. One in a Richard Nixon mask and one in a Gorilla costume. I heard reports that these two anti-protesters were handing out pacifiers to the folks with the signs. Although I understand the “Dick’s out for Harambe” gist of the thing, I’m not sure what these protesters were actually trying to say. My gut feeling is that the gorilla was meant as a racist comment, but Nixon? Unclear. Perhaps these two students should have gone to the Women’s Study Office and made some signs? They need to learn to use their words.

Also, an African American female student was taunted by male students with Trump signs and spit upon. There is no joke to mediate this point. It’s awful in just about every possible way. Our President, Mark Huddleston issued a statement two days after the election encouraging kindness and inclusiveness across the campus during what are obviously divisive times. Although I doubt it was his intent in the letter, it does have that “normalizing” tone that much of the power structure in the country (including the President) seem to be adopting toward the president elect and his increasingly frightening cabinet and staff. As an institution, and as a country, we cannot abide inclusion of racist, hateful, misogynistic, authoritarian, fascist points of view. We must stand up to those base qualities wherever we find them. My hope is that Mr. Huddleston will issue another statement that is perhaps more direct in its language, saying something to the effect that our school will have zero tolerance for intolerance, and that any attacks on students—verbally, physical, or in social media—will be answered swiftly with expulsion. I know the university president’s job is tough. He has to balance on a pretty thin line to keep the place (and its mass of personalities, opinions, and needs both intellectual and financial) running smoothly. And I do believe that student health and well-being is very important to him, but I would like to encourage him to speak more forcefully on this subject, and to address any hate-crime head-on, immediately. We cannot allow for one moment this sort of new-world fascism to be our new-normal.

On the personal side: I’ve subscribed to digital versions of the NY Times, the Boston Globe, and The Seacoast Online. I’ve been investigating newspapers from the middle of the country, too. Des Moines. Salt Lake City. Tulsa. I haven’t ordered subscriptions, but I want to see how the news is reported in those cities. If those states are so overwhelmingly red in population, they are definitely seeing a different sort of news. I’ve also begun reading ProPublica. I’ve donated to NH-AAUP and Planned Parenthood. I’ve been wearing my big-ass safety pin. There has been a lot of backlash about the safety pin, but if our president and vice-presidents elect or their white supremacist staff, need a safe place to go to talk about how the theater people are abusing them and making them feel bad about their homophobia and general alt-right agenda, I want them to know that they can come to me.

On a serious note—to anyone, but to students at the Durham Campus of the University of New Hampshire in particular: if you are feeling threatened, marginalized, afraid, uncomfortable, or if you’ve been the victim of hate-speech or action and you don’t know where to turn? You are not alone. That safety pin on my jacket is just a symbol, but it means that I’m someone you can talk to and that I will help you find the real help you need. Until next week—


One thought on “A Week oF Gearing Up

  1. I love you, Clark Knowles. You live fully in your integrity and by doing so, you invite us to do the same. Not to compartmentalize ourselves or each other. Thanks for sharing your post, for buying those Sharpies, for wearing your safety-pin and sowing the world what a mensch looks like.

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