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In Those Years

Adrienne Rich points out the paradox of living in community and being a person. It is in community that we uplift each other. It can be easy to forget about the you and the we that makes up community in the midst of what we perceive as our personal struggles. When that happens, we can find ourselves reduced to individuals and I.

We try to live a personal life and it is the only one we can bear witness to. It is in remembering our personal life carries an ethical responsibility for others, even those who we do not know. It is in locking elbows and holding hands with one another we overcome the tyranny and terror that strikes at us. The weather is not personal. It is something we share with each other.

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I.

Anne Murray performed a song called Good News. It seems appropriate on a day filled with heartbreak and loss for many in the world.

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About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and spent the last 14 years teaching in an incrediable hybrid school setting. My dissertation topic and research were how teachers experience becoming who teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

17 responses »

  1. As I see it, Ivon, community is the temporal expression of the One. While we are all One, we are each simultaneously an individual expression of Oneness. 😉 xoxoM

    Reply
  2. Building community is critical in divisive times. Thanks.

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  3. Another thing…She sang with all of her clothes on and looked like a regular person. You rarely see that any longer.

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  4. Also, community grows from certain circumstances. A lot depends on where you live. In large cities you have to pretty much ignore each other in order to have any privacy. “Mind your own business,” are words to live by.

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    • I agree about the large cities. I live in Edmonton where there is about 1 million people. Fortunately, we have lived in the same community for 40 years. When we go for a walk, people know us, we acknowledge each other, and still respect privacy. That is often lost in big cities.

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      • That’s so true. And if you stay in one place for a long time, that also makes a difference, although nowadays people move a lot more than they used to, that’s for sure. Chicago and the suburbs have 9.5 million people. As children, we made our own community but the adults, while polite, didn’t actually have anything to do with each other. Ethnic neighborhoods can be different. Where I came from we had people from everywhere and that’s not always good for bonding, since people don’t have anything in common to build upon. On my block alone, (Just on my side of the street) there were Irish, Swedish, Polish, German and I don’t know what else. People were civil but uninvolved. As kids, we got to taste a lot of different kinds of food. LOL We didn’t go into each other’s homes but ate outside, where kids seemed to belong. 🙂

      • I suspect if I lived in one of the newer areas of Edmonton I might experience some of the polite acceptance. Stability helps. Although we have been 40 years, we have neighbours who have been here longer and we take time to chat.

  5. Is this Rich’s poem, or yours? Good one, in any case.

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    • It is one of her poems. She wrote it over concerns about the feminist movement losing its way. I think it applies any time there is an injustice and violence to be addressed i.e. Manchester.

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      • If I may speak to this issue. As a radical feminist, I worked with NOW for years and years. What happens is, there are so many critical and important issues that need attention that we just can’t address all of them. If we all work for one thing, say getting the ERA passed, then women who want other issues mainstreamed, battering, rape, child abuse, equal pay, choice, an end to violence, racism, gay rights, etc., start working on their issues and that weakens the whole. Women have special interests for their issues and it’s difficult to wait while an huge organization puts all of their resources into one thing…which has to be done if you want to have the power to make change. However, one can only wait so long to be “next.” We always worked on every issue at the same time but most of the resources went into one thing. Women’s issues are multiple and the need for action on each of them is not only urgent it’s often dire. Women’ groups are constantly up against male dominated institutions that have unlimited funding and from incredibly wealthy companies/stores that despise women and will pay anything to keep the status quo. Many of these companies are from the religious right, very conservative. Take Wall-mart, who refused to sell a Denis the Menace t-shir for kids because the female character said “I want to be President,” on the front. Women’s groups do not have the financial backing to fight back. We get worn out from staying in place, from defending clinics, from marching, demonstrating, doing the same thing over and over. when we get a law passed, after years of work, the next administration overturns it and we are back where we started because no one seems to remember that this country was founded on a division between church and state. So, yes, we get lost. When the world, for the most part, has it’s foot on your neck, it’s hard to keep going and men just don’t care what happens to women as a group. They want us week, dependent, and afraid to go out. That’s the whole point. It sucks. It’s being a prisoner in your own space. It’s evil and cruel and men don’t care about women being beaten and raped, that’s why they don’t stop doing it. So it’s a NEVER ENDING battle to not go backward.

      • You are right. Any issue of social justice and equity seems to include steps back and multiple issues that appear, sometime unexectedly. I take the poem as a reminder of this in all social justice issues.

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