As nearly everyone on our Rouge Forum Community list knows, teachers
have the privilege of waiting for historical distance to build, for
sufficient time to pass, to look back and reflect in comfort when crises
occur like the horrendous terrorist assaults that took place today.
Teaching is praxis, the linkage of theory and practice, and especially
the k-12 world teachers today were called upon to make sense or security
out of what appears to be a senseless and very insecure world. Not
be said to overcome the revulsion that anyone who cares about justice
feel this day.
But learning moves from appearances to essence, from considering the
to reading the book with care. In cases I witnessed today, I saw classroom
teachers addressing the horror with great care and good sense. They
suggested to their students that it is possible to comprehend and act
the world, and in some ways to change it. They struggled for what is
They courageously demonstrated that the terrorism of this day, the horror,
can be analyzed, that it has a history, that it is not one sided, and
it can be combated, by building community, critical analysis, and care
world beset with powerful messages about individualist greed and fear.
Here are some things I saw others do, mixed with some things I did in
own classes today (while San Diego State shut down, we conduct many
in the community).
There are answers in history and history has many sides. Terrorism was
investigated as both a weapon of the powerful, and a weapon of the
powerless. The terror, for example, that the most ‘civilized nation
world at the time', Germany, heaped on the rest of the world, using
respectable science and technology, is well known.
But others have demonstrated that terror also emanates from the lone
today, that the mass murders in Chile in the early 1970's following
terrorist overthrow of the elected Allende government, were engineered
The wars on Vietnam killed more than 2 million people, and about 50,000
citizens. That war included an effort to eradicate the food supply
On a smaller scale, both Israel and the US have long conducted
assassination campaigns against leaders of governments (Castro, Lamumba,
PFLP leaders, etc) and against their own nationals (Black Panther Party).
Terror emanating from power is often seen as simply warfare, or a response.
Terror emanating from the powerless is an effort to replace a mass movement
of conscious active people with a bomb, or with a hijacked plane. Terrorism
is rooted, then, in contempt for people, in hopelessness, in irrationalism.
That this consistently fails and, indeed, typically heaps repression
even fascist responses on masses of people seems to regularly escape
Every day seems to bring its particular irony. Today, the NY Times ran
article reviewing the book of a known American terrorist, Billy Ayers,
Weatherman, who to this day refuses to renounce his terrorist past,
because he is the son of a very wealthy family, his work is widely
in education circles. The Weathermen were a sect of mostly rich kids,
liberals with bombs, led by the police, who were expelled from SDS
late 1960's, but whose agent provocateur work poured shame on the entire
organization. Their notion was that the working people of the US were
complicit with imperialism to ever change, hence, bombs would replace
reason and people. Today, Ayers is a liberal without a bomb, but still
a liberal. Armed or unarmed, Ayers never had a grasp of what he opposed,
nor a plan for a genuinely communal future.
The article was used with considerable impact in one classroom. Here
In the university setting, Frantz Fanon's book, Wretched of the Earth,
(Grove Press) is helpful in understanding the despair that exists in
of the world, and the reason terrorist violence seems to be the route
for both dominance and the powerless. See especially the sections beginning
on p 48-49, and 57, dealing with the impossible contradictions of the
colonial world and the Empire, non-violence and violence. Since Fanon
been frequently (and wrongly I think) cited by terrorists, the book
an analytical tool and a historical document.
At issue in many classrooms was the question of security. We might note
that the terrorists struck, to our knowledge now, a military center
financial center, not a school nor a theme park. In Northern Ireland,
however, less than a week ago, Protestant terrorists struck out at
school children, attempting to halt their schooling.
More to home, perhaps unnoticed as it is woven so into day to day life,
corrupt Detroit police department, one among many, has killed more
citizens this year (and untold more died in cells under mysterious
Another class took up the question of the Bush Star Wars project. Surely
the crude methods of the terrorists make this plan, at best, dubious,
Maginot Line that is easily circumvented, and may set off another arms
with China. Maurice Meisner, a brilliant China historian, has written
on this: http://www.progressive.org/pmpmm2301.html
So what is the path out of the morass? To me, it is linking what Marcuse
called Reason and Revolution
(http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists/reference/archive/marcuse/) , the
struggle for what is true with rationale humane action.
It may be that we will see a full-on assault on what civil liberties
remain, an assault that could be led not only by demagogues, but
democratically, by much of the populace. That is hegemony, the democratic
stripping away, finally, of volition itselfas well as of understanding.
must condemn terror, and repel it with community—not police. Clearly
latter method does not work.
I saw kids on playgrounds today, full of hope, despite the horrors
morning. We should learn from them. Despite the horror, we can understand
and change the world.
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