12 october 2018
I am sitting in a classroom waiting for my first class of the day as I type this, listening to Chassol's Big Sun yet again. Lately my local NPR station has been presenting some of its historical "StoryCorps" interviews, so I have heard a couple of these on my car radio before class in the morning, and they have been fairly tearjerking. There was an interview with Juan Romero, the man who held Robert F. Kennedy as he lay dying. Romero was a bellhop at the hotel where Kennedy had been staying, and recalled how Kennedy made a remarkable & congenial effort to aquaint himself with Romero and other members of the hotel staff, how all he could think to do when Kennedy was shot while shaking Romero's hand was to keep his head off the cold floor and give him the rosary beads he kept in his pocket. And there was an interview with Melvin Pender, who was ordered by the U.S. military to leave Vietnam, where one of the conscripts for whom he was responsible had just died in combat, to compete in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where his roommate was John Carlos, a track athlete who famously delivered a Black Power salute from the podium as he was awarded a bronze medal. Pender and other athletes sent by the military were extensively warned not to participate in any such demonstration under threat of demotion, which would have meant Pender would not be able to return to the platoon he had promised to take care of. Pender recalled that after that eventful medal ceremony, Carlos, on the verge of tears, told him "I did what I had to do," & Pender told him he was proud of Carlos.
I have been looking to history, as many of us have, to answer a pertinent question: What is there for us to do, when we barely have control over our own individual lives? How do we stand up to injustice when we are only footsoldiers in the dominant social order, which has co-opted the formalities of democracy to lend authority to our marching orders? More and more, I suspect the answer will often lie outside the obviously or overtly political, & definitely outside traditional partisan lines. I am thinking, for example, of mutual aid, and also of anti-pipeline activism, which is thoroughly opposed by of the two dominant U.S. political parties and largely disowned by the other. I am thinking of local public libraries offering Spanish-language information on immigration law to patrons, and of the U.S. and French farmers who have been indicted by authorities for providing water, food, & temporary shelter to migrants in border regions.
But then, for me all of this is theoretical, because I spend essentially all my time trying to bring myself & my family into a more stable financial situation, through work & school. But I'd hope that if I had to do something in the city I'd at least be capable of videorecording a police officer who is moving to arrest someone, should that occur in front of me, but then there is the question of my everyday anxiety. Am I going to let that get the better of me?
I have reached what I think is the busiest point in my academic career since I came back to university to study computer science. As I've mentioned, this is my first semster studying CS full-time, and I'm trying to determine how much more simultaneous coursework I can handle before I have to step back and make some difficult decisions. I think I can sustain this level, at least, for a little while. There's some medical forms I need to submit that I wasn't aware of; I will not be allowed to register for fall courses until I have submitted immunization records, and I am trying to determine whether this hold will remain in place until I also submit paperwork from a physical exam. I hope this is not the case, because I have not had a physical exam recently enough and the earliest one I could schedule is after course registration opens. I can't keep going to my current GP for insurance reasons, so I have scheduled a physical at a comprehensive LGBT health clinic in Boston. I'm excited because I know it's a very good medical practice, but I'm also a little anxious because getting into Boston is difficult; either I have to carefully time a trip by public transit which will take a couple hours each way and involve several transit systems, or I have to find somewhere to park my car, either at transit stations whose parking lots tend to fill up, or at my destination, where I have to hope a metered spot is open or wind up paying a couple hours' wages to park in a garage.