Parking at UAHuntsville — I’ve never seen as much activism. People are furious! Makes sense — increase parking fees a gazillion-fold, and what do you expect, eh? Most campuses charge a hefty fee for parking, and often those campuses don’t have adequate parking. Doesn’t make it right. Why can’t I get more upset about it all? I’ve been at too many different campuses to get bothered, I guess. I’m more concerned about recycling on campus. Or faculty salaries. Or a center for best practices in teaching………
It’s been a little over eight months since Ana died. Lately, I keep wanting to call and check in. Have one of those long rambling conversations that traveled from grandkids to politics to ceramics to misbehaving friends and family shenanigans. Twenty-five years of friendship — that’s almost half my life. Hard to keep missing such a loving friend, a sister.
At a meeting the other day, someone I admire talked about her new car getting keyed all down the side. This person has a bumper sticker: “Middle-class White Women for Obama.” Maybe her car would have been safe in Seattle, and one would think she’d be safe in nothern Alabama and this city, which often votes blue — but her politics endanger her possessions — and her self. I’ve had several instances of road rage directed at me — big trucks tailgating and passing too quickly, squeezing me into my lane, close calls — and I wonder which instances are the normal road rage in any city and which are punishment for my dark blue Obama presidential campaign bumper sticker.
My son wants me to take the bumper sticker off. I won’t. I will not give in to my own fear and others’ intimidation.
The day after Obama’s speech on health care to Congress, a student in an elementary school here said, “I would like to put a gun to his head and shoot–but I don’t have to because somebody else is going to do it.” Another child said, “”That’s wrong to say. You respect the President of the United States and you don’t make threats of violence to anyone.” Where was the teacher’s input? Absent. The teacher said nothing.
Are we healing racism in this country? The hate talk against Obama indicates we are a nation in need of radical soul searching. Political road rage and cowardly responses inflame. Do we know how to debate with intelligence and decorum? Before the election, I came out to the parking lot and found a piece of notebook paper with a penciled message under my windshield wipers. The message said something about my being blissfully ignorant as a liberal. No signature.
Courage. Conviction. Respect. Dialog.
The Bailey Cove branch of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library hosted a talk by R. A. Nelson yesterday at 10am, and our small audience was treated to the story of Nelson’s writer’s journey. In order to get to the talk on time, I had to break off my reading of Nelson’s most recent novel, Days of Little Texas, about a young pentecostal preacher. Not the subject matter I would normally pick up — but his third novel, like his first two, deals with uncomfortable subjects (pentecostal evangelism and ghosts, our collective culpability in slavery), or as Nelson puts it, subjects that “scare” him, subjects that “push[es] him creatively” (“About the Author,” Days of Little Texas). I am glad he practices this creative courage because we reap the reading benefits. Discussing his research for Breathe My Name, Nelson said that he changed his views on the main character’s mother (I’m trying not to give away the book’s story — go read it!), and because he learned a different way of seeing, his writing gave me the same insight.
I did not want to stop reading Days of Little Texas to go listen to Nelson talk, and that’s the highest form of praise for an author. But the book was waiting for me when I got home, and I finished it. Nelson’s books have great pacing, and Days of Little Texas kept me hooked all the way through, delighted with some of the twists I didn’t see coming. Once again, I’m left thinking about things I’d pretty much fixed my mind about. I like seeing in new ways, especially if it’s a good story that helps me do that. I’ve always felt that a great novelist teaches as much as she or he tells a good story — Chinua Achebe’s essay, “The Novelist as Teacher,” has always made a lot of sense. I’m happy to claim Nelson as one of my new teachers and favorite authors.