I feel a little late to this story, as it happened days ago, and I saw flickers of it hitting my facebook and twitter, but didn't really take the time to read anything until last night. And then I just cried. I couldn't help it. It made me feel sick. And I couldn't even actually make myself watch the video. This entire visceral reaction was just to reading about it.
I don't talk about politics much on here, because I shy away from the kind of traffic (i.e. trolls) that attracts. But, as a so-called mommy blogger, I think my heart and stomach are reacting to this as a mother, and I want to write about it as a mother. I read the UC Davis details and Nathan Brown's open letter through the lens of my experience, because that is what I have, and that is what we do.
In my experience as a student: when I went to the University of Cowtown, there was a protest that lasted several weeks on the central lawn of campus, because of proposed tuition increases. About fifty (? my memory fails me...) students camped out in tents, and ate ramen noodles, and told anyone who would listen why we couldn't afford higher tuition. I don't remember if it was effective. I don't even remember how or why it ended - were they forced out? I do remember, for sure, that pepper spray was not involved. At my Chiropractic college in the first few months of my very first semester, our (generally) beloved Chancellor was forced to resign. There was huge student outcry (well, as huge as a small Chiropractic college can get), protests in the streets, angry letters to the powers that were. It was not effective, he is now president of a different Chiropractic college. Pepper spray was not involved.
I am not (have not yet been?) a camping-out in protest kind of person. But I'm a sign-a-petition kind of person, which I did during the U of C protest. I am a write-angry-letters to politicians and boards of directors type person, which I did as a member of my Chiropractic college's student council. I have an Activist sort of mentality, though I don't express it very loudly. Papa Bean would say I have Causes, in a way that he does not.
In my experience as someone's child: during these events, I'm sure I didn't tell my parents anything about these things happening, or my participation in them, peripheral as it was. I don't really talk to my parents about my Causes, because we have differing opinions, because we have enough things to talk about without introducing new opportunities for conflict, because there have been times when I felt I was not taken seriously, just because. Because that is not something my parents and I do. If it were me getting pepper-sprayed back in my college activism, I'd be more worried that they'd just be mad at me for getting into trouble than anything else. Come to think of it, that's probably what kept my activity peripheral to begin with.
In my experience as a mother: well. I mean... God, if that was my kid? Father God, that was someone's kid, those were all someone's kids. And this is the world they've grown into? I would just lose my mind. Because I am a mother who believes in a student's right to protest, who believes a fundamental property of The University is its place, its foundational identity as A Place for Discourse. Is this naive of me, in this day and age of mixed corporate and government funding and 1% and lobbyists over us all, to still think that this is what universities exist for? That if there's anywhere for a tent city to exist it would be on the campus lawn of a post-secondary facility? Then I am a naive mother, and perhaps my kids will be embarrassed by my naivety, but they will also know that protest is not only a permissible response, sometimes it is the necessary response. I am a mother who wants to know what her kids care about, are moved by, feel passion for. I want them to tell me their Causes, even if we disagree, even if we sharpen our positions in the potential conflict, even if that's hard, just because. I want them to say, "Well, that's just what me and my parents do" and shrug it off. I don't want them to be afraid to step away from the sidelines just because they could get in trouble, if it's the right thing to do. And I want them to know, if it were them being brutalized by a police state that I cannot even fathom is real, except the video is right in front of us, viewed over a million times already, if that were them, that I would stand with them, and fight back with them, and not back down. Because that's my kid. And you don't do that to my kid.
We don't do this to our kids.
Look, maybe I'm just a Canadian with no real bone to pick in this fight. You can write me off like that, if you want. But I can't sit back and let this be our new reality. I can't mother kids into a reality like that. And I hope you can't either.