Sunday, February 12, 2017

Questions For A Museum Exhibit

Through a dear friend, I was asked to answer some questions for a potential museum exhibit. The interviewer's title, the consultant company creator, instead of CEO, was Chief Curiosity Officer! Who wouldn't want that job?

1.  The First Amendment grants us five freedoms:  speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly.  Think of your daily life.  Which of these freedoms (1 or 2) intersects with your life in areas that you treasure the most?  Please explain when and how.

I see Norman Rockwell's thematic paintings honoring the four freedoms.

Unfortunately, because of my surroundings, I take my religious freedoms for granted--in spite of knowing how prevalent religious persecution has been throughout time; in spite of my best friend's grandmother who lost her entire family in WWII concentration camps; in spite of my own grandmother who came to America for religious freedom; in spite of mild persecution (even from my own family) for my beliefs--yet I still take this privilege for granted and hope I always will; to take this for granted is a privilege I acknowledge. The "otherwise" is unthinkable. 

In today's political environment, the freedoms seem to be equally important. Hugely important. Yet, I wonder how many people realize that free speech, petition, and assembly, also have the power to instill fear to do so. Freedom has an often ignored yet absolutely necessary equalizer: responsibility. As a teacher, I honor the responsibility of my right to "free" speech. I have been reprimanded by students who felt I had breached my responsibility.  I love that women gathered around the nation to protest, yet as I listened to some of the heated speeches, I felt they had let go of a certain civil responsibility-- portrayed in a former student's instagram photo and explanation which showed her holding a sign she had created with her own menstrual blood. I fully support her right to protest; I was disappointed and grossed out by her choice of medium. These freedoms survive because of accompanying responsibility.

 2.  What is/are the feeling, emotion you obtain while in that pursuit? For example, some respondents feel powerful while protesting; others feel peaceful at Church.  In your words, how do you feel, what do you learn about yourself in this activity?

I find peace in the contemplation of these rights. That I can see multiple sides of the freedoms, that I see them as treasures, and that treasures can be plundered. I feel sadness that the very treasures of these freedoms have the power to deny them in others.

I have learned I am not a protester. I despise conflict. I can hardly stomach political talk, and wish there was a place to turn to where I could find unbiased interpretation of current politics. 

3.  Finally, what’s your belief about the power, potential and resilience of the human spirit?  

Last January, I was staying in a cheap hotel in Athens Greece. Each day I would rush back and forth to my third floor room, and in my rush, would pass a group of people who had a certain longing in their eyes. They must be refugees. When I got the chance to talk to them, I discovered a resilience heretofore unseen. Sixty people had paid smugglers to leave in a boat built for 15. They had endured hardship unimaginable to escape hardship even more unimaginable. In this group were Christians, Muslims, and people without faith. They asked, "If we can get along, why can't all people?" They were waiting to move to Poland, and in their fears were also found a power and potential of the human spirit.

I just learned a young man in my school is a Hazara refugee from Pakistan. In a desperate attempt to escape persecution, he endured that same horrific smuggler/boat experience we are seeing over and over again. Yet, I would have never guessed his depth of his resilience needed to endure what he did.

These world conditions are creating what author Phillip Hallie refers to as life and death ethics. It is in this critical moment that we are not only seeing the formidable human spirit to survive but also the human spirit to help--the ship captains on the island of Lesbos (NYtimes video 4.1 Miles), the family that took the Pakistani refugee, into their home. The human spirit rises in life and death ethics.

The power and potential of the human spirit also rises over time, often in a person's own time and it can't be forced, as seen in the young student who was moved by the description on pages 139-140 of a book (previous post: Timing).

Unfortunately, the power, potential and resilience of the human spirit, has an opposite side too. It's what is required to build a charter intent on the destruction of Israel, or the creation of ISIS.