Fuck, you guys, Berkeley is going up in metaphorical flames: The Police Riot At Berkeley: If They'll Beat A Poet Laureate, Will They Kill A Student?
At another time I'll have something to say about how strange it is to feel closer to events happening on the opposite side of the country than those happening just half an hour's subway ride south of where I work and live, but that's not what this post is about.
This post is about the queasiness I felt when I realized that one of the women at the front of the linked-arms line of protesters, one of the first people to be pulled aside and forced to the ground by the police, was Celeste Langan, my romanticism professor, who wrote me letters of rec and sponsored my SURF project last summer and gave me incredibly cogent and compassionate grad school advice. I'd seen the YouTube video of this action a week ago. I hadn't realized that it was her -- the thought had never even crossed my mind, and I assumed, watching the clip, that since all of the students I knew had more or less graduated, the terror of the thing would be about violence happening in a place
that has, for me, epitomized the grandeur and import of learning and knowledge. I never expected that it would be happening to people
who epitomized the same thing. I got another shock when I realized that the Geoffrey O'Brien whose ribs were broken by the police is Joanna Picciotto's long-term partner, and Joanna is my absolute role model/future self.
Thank god Celeste is okay, and she wrote a brief and wonderful account of her arrest
-- why she protested, what it means to her, and how appalled she is (and will continue to be). I don't know yet about Professor O'Brien, though he's quoted by ABC News local
describing the event after the fact, so presumably he's more or less okay:
"I said, 'if you're going to hit somebody, hit a professor,'" O'Brien admitted. "The cop said, 'you want some?' It was a rhetorical question, and I was hit viciously in the ribs and went to the ground."
I'm torn between feeling an immense upwelling of pride that THESE ARE MY PEOPLE, this is where I come from (and where I'd like to be going back to), and a visceral disgust that just about tears my innards out, because HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO MY PEOPLE. When I first heard the news I was physically sick to my stomach for a few minutes and couldn't say a word about it. It's about an hour later now and I am still
feeling it (though it's mostly transmuted itself into a headache, as all my anxieties always do).
I started this entry feeling like I had something important to say, but right now all I think I can say is that I'm disgusted and terrified and I just want to go cry somewhere for a bit, but NONE of that is going to get my state and my country and my former university back in working order. And I don't know what will.