My roommate was telling me how he was listening to these girls at work talk about fair trade products and how he thought of me. I love how I am now being associated with social justice! Today in class we were talking about just how we have been changed and I think we all agree that we have all become units of change, but we’re having trouble becoming catalysts for change. This was one of the biggest things that hit me arriving back from Poland. I came back inspired with all this enthusiasm to change the world, but it seemed people weren’t sharing my enthusiasm. I remember the day we arrived back, I was eating at Chili’s with my mom and sister, and when they would ask me questions about Poland, I would answer back with things that were to come. I was spilling out all these ideas for having a street performer day to raise money for various human rights organizations like Save Darfur or International Justice Mission. Their blank stares hit me like a bag of bricks.
Some other comments made in class concerned how weird it now is to hang out with our other, pre-existing friends. I was eating dinner with some friends from high school and felt so disconnected from them. They didn’t understand to avoid using words like “hate” or “gay”. I was walking after class with one of my best friends, whom I once considered one of the funniest people I know, and I know longer found his jokes funny but racist and in bad taste. I was looking at Dr. Anderson’s photos on my computer, and was tearing up when pictures of the camps started popping up, when my roommate walks in, talking on his cell phone, and says to me, “You’re still Poland sick!” He doesn’t understand. None of these people understand. For me Poland doesn’t represent a free trip. It doesn’t even represent the country. The word “Poland”, for me represents an experience 23 students had that changed them forever. “Poland” represents the desire for social change. “Poland” is a synonym for resistance or to resist.
This is why we are doing this insane amount of presentations. This is why we won’t stop talking about Poland. We can’t shut up! I remember when Eva made the heavy realization of how easy it was for us to walk in and out of the camps, when the prisoners did not have it so easy. Now I’m beginning to realize though, that it wasn’t as simple walking out of the gates as we initially thought. We have these images burned into our minds now, and while people would rather not hear about the holocaust, we refuse to shut up. We refuse to stand idly by. We are rebelling against our own indifference. We are resisting the norms of our society and choosing to live more unconventional lives. We are displacing ourselves to represent the 1.6 million people displaced in Northern Uganda and we are walking barefoot to represent the 40% of people who don’t have shoes. We are resisting everyday in small ways and big ways; in the way that we talk and the way that we treat others. This is our task, it is the price we paid for entering the camps. Our burden is the normality of the world and our burden is heavy, but we are 23, and we are strong!
…And people are beginning to listen, though many are not. People are being converted to our way of thinking. Along with the warm spring weather, and the blooms in the trees, is a wind of change in the air. The most radical thing we can do is educate people and that is just what we are doing. We are intellectual activists. Hate is contagious but so is love, and although love is the slower of the two it is the most powerful.
So you see we are catalysts for change. We are all crazy, but so were all the other great catalysts for change.
Dr. Martin Luther King? Crazy.
Mother Teresa? Crazy.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? Crazy.
WT Readership Ambassadors? Insane!
We are all crazy! Crazy because of the books we choose to read, because of the news that we choose to watch and the news that we choose to filter. We are crazy because we choose to associate ourselves with other crazy people. We are crazy because we can’t and won’t stop talking. Whether it is to our friends or some random lady that develops the photos at Wal-Mart, we will not remain silent. Dave Eggers sums us up through the voice of Valentino Achak Deng in the novel What is the What:
“Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered…because to do anything else would be something less than human. I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”
We all have our own voices. For some it is writing, some speaking, for others it is music and art. We are growing, we are no longer 23. Every time we tell our stories, we are changing the world, even if only one person hears our message of refusing to stand idly by. We are gaining in numbers. We are crazy but not alone.