Several things zipped past me on Wednesday as I bulled through a very busy day. I barely acknowledged Pi Day. I was hoping to recognize the moment at 1:59, so it could be 3.14.1:59. Nope. Missed it.
But missing Pi sort of pales in comparison to missing the 10:00 a.m. moment. I work in an elementary school, so we were a bit conflicted about how to mark the moment when older students were walking out or speaking up. We knew that some parents deliberately hadn’t discussed the Parkland situation with their kids. We also guessed that some had had discussions. We decided that the best approach was to let parents know that they could take their students out of school if they wished to mark the moment, but we would not call attention to something that parents might have intentionally kept from their child’s world. None of my students mentioned the walkout. Still, I wanted to note it for myself in some way.
I missed it. I’m struggling to remember what I was doing at 10:00.
Oh yes, I know. We were reading and writing about the American Revolution. That’s ironic. Oh, God, it’s worse than ironic. Now it’s coming back to me. It may have been at that exact moment that I was saying this to one of my students: “You know, when you write about history, it’s really important to try to put yourself in that time and see things as they were right then.”
The student had been reading about the Boston Massacre, and now he was trying to write about it. I continued, “It’s hard for us to imagine how rough things were in Boston, then. We have to picture the mood at that time. Remember you showed me that page about Ebeneezer Richardson, the week before, firing that gun and killing that boy? Think about how mad and sad that made the people in that neighborhood.”
Holy crap. What does it say about me that I didn’t see any connection at that moment?
I kept going. “Yeah, it said a crowd of over 1000 came to Christopher Seider’s funeral. It made those people angry enough to riot a week later.”
Still, I was oblivious to the irony of what I was saying. “I know when you live in a peaceful town in Connecticut in 2018, that might be hard to imagine, that something happening in the news made you so mad you’d be ready to hurl rocks at those soldiers, but we have to use our imagination.”
Wow. I’m thinking back on that moment, and I’m wondering whether God was looking down on my classroom and laughing at me: “He thinks he’s saying something so helpful to this young writer. Does he have any idea how many outraged voices are shouting at this very instant? Does he have any idea how many people in his country are remembering fallen children at this very moment?” Sorry, God, that took “oblivious” to new levels.
So, yes, I missed some moments today. I missed some slap-you-upside-the-head connections, too. I’m not sure I should have said it any differently. The student I was speaking to revealed no awareness of the connection. It wouldn’t really have been my place to draw the comparison for him. I guess I’m just amazed that I wasn’t connecting. Did the word “massacre” really not tickle some neuron in the current events compartment of my brain? I’ve been told that men specialize in compartmentalization. I was in my school box, not my world box.
The fact is, it really takes very little imagination to conjure the outrage that those citizens felt in 1770. To imagine the heartbreak. To imagine the number of frustrated people who would like to hurl something at the out-of-touch people in authority. I’m so glad that the protests yesterday involved thoughtful words, moments of silence, and symbolic gestures. I just wish I was present for the moment.