Word From the Front: Bulletin 1

3 [or really 4] April 2000, sometime after midnight

[NB If you are confused or annoyed about why you’re getting this, explanations/justifications/appropriate channels for protest can be found at the bottom of this bulletin.]

Well, I really shouldn’t say from the front, because actually as I write this, I’m still in my (relatively) well-appointed study, listening to old protest songs to keep the adrenaline flowing and occasionally trying to give a few moments’ attention to the cats. (By the way, someone really ought to do a study on the relationship between adrenaline levels and typos. I’m pretty sure I know what the findings would be, and I apologize for the many which this may contain–last night’s was kind of a doozy, I realize).

As soon as I finish this, though, I’ll be moving into Jessup Hall, home to the University of Iowa administration, now under the occupation (though not, I hasten to add, sole possession, like SDS propping their feet up on the desk of Columbia’s president and smoking cigars) of UI Students Against Sweatshops. Wow.

I’m going to be moving in for a variety of reasons, and I’m not going to be sitting in in the absolute sense, since I like to have my fingers in as many pies as possible, so I’ll be venturing out into the world for classes, teaching, and so on. But I do want to be in there, and I’d like to send out a few words from the unconventional press, namely me.

I promise that these bulletins will be both as accurate and as subjective as possible, which will strike a lot of you as a total contradiction but which seems to me the only way I can proceed. I strive for accuracy in numbers, in quotation, in quantifiable fact. But as for impressions, opinions, connotations–those are all my own–and most of you, I suspect, know where I stand.

So–on to the report:

Jessup Hall today was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Oh, yeah, sure, there was the festive “we’re taking over the building!” part. But there was so much more.

Picture in your mind a class–and I’m sure you’ve all had them–the kind where everyone just kind of sits there, staring into space. No one ever talks, no one seems even to have heard of the reading. It’s not even necessarily because the material or the teacher or the students are bad–there’s just something missing. Whatever that thing was was present in abudance in Jessup today. Classes visited throughout the day, from frosh rhetoric classes to graduate women’s studies seminars. I watched one class. People sat on the hall way floor, amid the sleeping bags and tents and signs and art projects and guitars and media. The SAS members who sat in President (or CEO, as we like to call her) Coleman’s office yesterday described the event, how it was planned and coordinated, the logistics of civil disobedience (having a legal observer and counsel, making sure everyone knows the plan, etc.). And students had the kind of looks on their faces that one longs for. They looked baffled, some of them, but baffled in the way of people who have just realized that there are questions to be asked, and that they’re allowed to ask them. And they did.

Reporters aplenty were there, too. I talked to a guy from KCRG for about half an hour, all about administrative accountability and the purpose and meaning of education–all that stuff I touched on in yesterday’s e-mail–and how I felt that what we’d created here was a university, a society, all to itself–a model of what a university could be. I mean, I’ve always regarded education the way some people regard psychedelic drugs, as a way of expanding your mind, experiencing things which lie beyond you–in short, as truly psychedelic, which (and hey, Timothy Leary did get an education at some point, though you may well (and I do) kind of question what he did with it) literally means “clear mind” or “clear soul.” (“I’m just trying to get my soul free,” etc., etc.)

I was rereading one of my favorite novels, Goodbye Without Leaving, by Laurie Colwin, recently, and there’s a moment when the narrator says that there are few moments in life when you get to be effortlessly yourself. I haven’t been around for that long, but I’d say she’s right. I had a number of moments like that today, though. I was standing there, explaining to this reporter what I think about education and idealism and accountability and my heritage and how it influences me, and suddenly I thought maybe the feminists and Witches had something going with that whole “power-from-within” notion. I’ve always thought that was a particularly hokey phrase–but there’s something about being able to speak and realizing that everything–the things you’ve learned and the things you believe and the things you’ve always wanted to believe and the way you’ve always wanted to be–is converging–it’s pretty damn amazing.

I’ve got to pack up, but I’ll be sending more whenever I have the chance and can hijack a phone line.

Keep on rocking,

as promised. . .

  1. You’re on the New Rambler mailing list. One of the reasons The New Rambler exists, aside from my being bored and frustrated after I got out of college, is that I wanted a place I could say whatever I wanted, beholden to no one–that whole freedom of the press belongs only to she who owns her own thing. I don’t charge a subscription (unless you want hardcopy, in which case I charge a little for printing and shipping costs), and you don’t have to subscribe, and that, for me, gives me the freedom to do whatever I want. (I should mention that I’m writing this paper right now–at least in theory–called “What is an Audience?”, so I’ve been thinking about the question even more than I normally do, which tends to make me paranoid, which is why I’m providing these possibly extraneous explanations. . . .) Now, I know that Sam Johnson said only fools wrote for free, but I don’t agree with him in every single one of his peculiarities; I just stole the name of his periodical.
  2. I thought you might be interested.
  3. I write for your paper and feel I should explain my recent preoccupations.
  4. I’m taking a class from you, and I felt I should tell you about all the wonderful education that I’m getting outside the classroom, if yours is one of the classes I’ve missed recently.

If you hate this and never want to see my name in print again, just tell me (politely is nice, but not essential), and I’ll knock you from the list. If you want to get the regular New Rambler but not this stuff, that is also possible. If you know someone else who might appreciate these, send ’em on, or send me the e-mail address and I’ll add them to the list. If you are an infiltrator–well, hey, welcome aboard. I’ve always suspected that privacy was basically a myth, anyway. If you have anything else you want to complain about, you can send that along, too, and there’s a chance I’ll listen. I think that about covers it.

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