Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Liberal Arts and Its Discontents

If one looks closely, one can easily spot the evasive liberal arts graduate. We are as numerous as the stars we once reached towards, held atop giants' shoulders shouting, "We can be anything."
Whether it be the dead eyes that accompany wide smiling servers at restaurants, the baggy eyes doing their best to beam bright at the hope that their pay may jump from 7.50 to 8.00 per hour, or the slumped shoulders of baristas who decided they were talented enough to make masterpieces with sinewy hands only to find themselves making flowers or clouds about to pour.

The plight of the liberal arts graduate is not one roared through rafters in union halls, nor is it one held at enough societal esteem to lividly argue to those in power. It is a strange cocktail of the passion that seeps into bones, burning a pre-med major to instead stampede towards the pursuit of sculpture, paired with the sobering regret that douses when tuition loan bills slither into  mailboxes, awaiting their long prophesied penance.

We chose this. 

We did.

We chose to study Sociology, Painting and Poetry. We took classes on Scandinavian History and Women and Gender Studies.

The long held creed that many Americans have lived for and died believing they were protecting was that we could be absolutely anything we wanted. That the spire we sought needed only be burned for. That the wings in which we needed to ascend from the shit stain that was our adolescence into a sustainable life was not only possible, but entirely in our hands.

We were raised by a generation of people who believed in us. They were people who valued college simply because any college degree had an inherent value to them. While that is still true, a college degree is now something you can pay thousands for and quite literally print it from your home computer. A mass producing assembly line education flotsam is what we find ourselves wading through, attempting to make sense of why we even chose to dive in.

Go to university, make something of yourself. Financial problems? No worries, as long as one has a 2.3 GPA and a 15 ACT score, monoliths of education will welcome you with warm arms holding tufts of financial aid. Aid that we would, of course, be forced to repay with droves of interest. 70,000 dollars in loans later, we are collectively scraping by at dead end jobs that we are supposed to, in some way, be loyal to, whilst they perpetually hold pink slip guns to our chest, sniveling to pull the trigger. We are told that we are "putting our time in", that we will eventually make it. The people that told you that are the few who have been fortunate enough to, it is not a story told by those liberal arts graduates who settled into office jobs, or anything they could get.

It has taken tens of thousands of dollars in perpetually accumulating bondage for many of us to realize how dismal our chances are at sustainable success. Do not mistake me, the sheer courage it took for any of us to pursue the improbable contains an immense amount of value, and we are not yet beaten. The makers of our destiny, we were always, but we were lied to. The belief we chose to have in ourselves was not just a nice in-flight movie, our final destination does not have to be low income jobs for companies that treat us like lowly animals until we have the courage to walk away to another place of employment that sees us similarly expendable, we can do better.

We are collective of artists. We are those brave enough to rage against the tidal wave of corporatism and do what the fuck we wanted, and we are financially oppressed, working long hours to make just enough to not feel hungry. We must come together, lest we find ourselves in our middle ages meandering through a mediocre existence like others who have given up. We are alive this very moment, and we need to obsess over the fire we feel of our frustration. We need to paint a better picture, because the one that is currently painted just won't cut it. We have chosen to tackle paintings by Monet or study poetry that has burned tears in the most stoic among us, to spend our time trying to scrimp and save enough to both make rent and masterpieces.

We did choose,  but its not like we had much else to choose from.

Just a thought.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Police State of Mind

Among the tragedies that take place on a daily basis, not much breaks a human like the loss of innocent life. The past month has broken the hearts, the minds, the spirit of people in a way that no single innocent life could. As Americans, we were raised to believe that there are people in place to protect us. We were given the understanding that when all else fails, when nothing but sunrayed silhouettes stand between a teenager and a demon wielding a .45 handgun with the desire to splatter the breath from your lungs, laws made by men billowing promises near campaign coffers could save you, or at least give murderers what murderers deserve. We are witnessing the fever pitch of a decade of police militarization, of black humans being routinely gunned down by police, of protest being made to look lawless.

The voice inside me that insists that justice will be served has fallen silent the way doctors fall silent when tumors grow larger than the hope one can harbor. We are experiencing the broken stare of empty eyed humans unable to articulate and understand any of the sadness that has come coursing through our collective veins as our nights are haunted with hungry shouts and whispers of words like "I can't breath" and "no indictment".

I could go on to retell stories of what put America in this dire and scathing predicament, but you, as well as well as every American, have heard these stories and have chosen a lens in which to attempt to understand and justify these unfortunate events.

Fire now fills the streets of St. Louis, New York, Cleveland over the haplessness that every Black human must feel to a degree right now. People still cling to the hope that peaceful protests and education will wash racial tolerance over the eyes of the ignorant in our country as Mike Brown's blood was allowed to wash the sidewalk for four hours.

Trayvon Martin's peaceful protests over the summer were a nice soundbite for news networks, but it didn't do a damned thing for Black America beyond maintaining the perception that they remained a people violent enough to flood the local news byline, but a bit too docile to do anything about how raw a deal our society has given them. The Black Community has perpetually been a people forgotten when pertinent matters like Kim Kardashian or the The Walking Dead arose.

So many are focusing on the audacity of looting, on the racial subtelties of calling these humans animals, on whether Brown or Martin or Garner deserved to die. This drivel shows only the remorseless justification White news networks have massaged into unthoughtful eyes. We do not attempt to vilify Native Americans who fought men in uniforms, gunning them into genocide, so why do we, as a people make concessions for those in power destroying a people that we stole from Africa hundreds of years ago? We must remove ourselves from the present moment, be suspended in the history of right now, and fix the mistakes of our fathers, our brothers, ourselves.

People say the system is broken, that somewhere down the line we lost our way as people. I whole heartedly disagree. This path of control, of exploitation, of massaging news stories to obtain a reaction from the ignorant is well worn, and has been walked on by those in power since our ancestors bore our nationhood from the blood of Cherokee, of Apache, of African.

Should one allow the human spirit to be put to sleep by the tears sprung from destructive people doing destructive things?  The path to love an acceptance from those who have chosen hatred is never an easy path, but it is one that must be stampeded upon. Society must turn its back on yesterday, forget that millionaires in the media and Congress have forsaken Black America, and must rise through conversation, rise through peaceful protests, rise through the glimmer in our eyes that shine notions like You will never break humanity's indomitable spirit. 

Just a thought.