Student Perspectives on Peace and Justice
Drawing Venn circles in the student paper
It's a Venn diagram of sorts. In one circle are written opinions. They've been around for a long time Martin Luther, after all, made some noise when he nailed his theses to the door in Wittenberg, and editorial cartoons predate United States independence.
In the other circle are students at a college like GC, long known for expressing idealistic feelings which combine a life of Christian discipleship with a commitment to the broadest peace and justice issues.
At GC, those circles overlap in many places, including classroom essays and the often active Opinion Board. But perhaps the most common and certainly the most public arena for opinions is the student newspaper.
In those weekly Record pages, the section that typically creates the strongest feelings, and yes, the most consternation, for students, faculty, staff and administration, is the Perspectives pages. Typically two pages, this section of student editorials, cartoons and columns on life gives space to issues ranging from personal beliefs and struggles to reports on worldwide concerns.
In this issue of the Bulletin, you'll find a collection of commentary from the past school year, all of which was published in the Record's Perspectives or opinion pages. To preserve the integrity and originality of the students' writings, we did little editing occasionally providing context with a parenthetical note, correcting an errant typo or factual mistake or shaving a few lines here and there for space purposes. Overall, the writings appear as they were published in the Record, complete with a few warts and shots directed at GC and its administration. Our choice of columns wasn't based on which papers might get an "A" in class (though most would have). Rather, our goal was to share a variety of writers and subjects. We think they represent a cross-section of campus, and contrary to the tent-dwellers in Luke Jordan's (So., Goshen) published cartoon at left these students do know what they are talking about.
The cover art is by Sarah Kingsley '99. Though not a published item from the Record, it offers the kind of insight demonstrated by our writers. Her work is a tribute to "the many women throughout Latin America who have faced the challenges of living in a world of hardship, poverty, terror and oppression," she said at the time of her senior show last December. "They have turned to age-old traditions of weaving as a way to better their situations. Their weavings are transforming their lives and giving these women hope for the future."
Thanks for this issue go to each of the writers who granted us permission to use the columns, along with Record editors Amy Gingerich '99 (fall) and Thomas Bona '99 (spring) and Perspective page editors Lisa K. Koop '99 (fall) and Laura S. Kanagy (Sr., Leola, Pa.) (spring).
Kingdom of heaven found in charred morsels - Amos Kratzer
Lessons on the way back from nowhere - Scott Garvin
Listening for the voice of peace - Ryan Friesen
A salute toward change and healing - Liz Lewis
Blood on the columbine - Bryce Miller
With liberty and justice but not for all - Obed Diener
For Indonesia: A lament and a prayer - Ezra Nugroho
Hebron: the next bulldozed house may be yours - Laura Schildt
Getting by in the world, and then some - Diana Phillips-Kanagy
Tough food choices for 'email@example.com' - Anne Horst
Joining hands on the ladder of success - Thomas Bona
Kingdom of heaven found in charred morsels
At Vita House we like our chocolate chip cookies a little on the dark side. Recently the Vita House members were responsible for adding four dozen cookies to the refreshment selection at a benefit concert. Unfor-tunately, because of the deceptive power of appearances, we had the privilege of carrying most of our cookies back home to our own kitchen again.
Once a year the Mennonite Disabilities Committee (MDC) hosts a benefit concert in the Church-Chapel. This year the evening featured the South Bend (Ind.) Vesper Chorale and the MDC Shalom Ringers, of which Vita House resident Matt Troyer is a member.
The evening worship service was indeed a beautiful experience. The Vesper Chorale sang a few numbers, and then our attention shifted to the balcony.
The Shalom Ringers were positioning themselves. I distinctly remember sitting near the back of the sanctuary, laughing as the bell choir opened with a giant chord. The sound that reached my trained ears told me that one stray bell had found life and expression despite a printed rest in the score.
My laughter did not erupt in mockery or from embarrassment. Quite honestly, I was beside myself with pride. I know that to the Lord's ears those bells chimed beautifully. The Shalom Ringers were real.
The anticipation in Matt Troyer's face illuminated the whole sanctuary as he stood, poised, gripping his "C" bell and his "D" bell, ready for the conductor's cue.
With every thrust of his forearm, Matt rang his bells with zeal. If there was ever a question about whether or not to ring his bell, Matt seized the opportunity and gave his bell a good ring.
The piece soon ended, and the congregation burst into applause. The warm affirmation from the audience was well-received. One of the ringers motioned for a standing ovation. Not one of the performers sat down without a sense of accomplishment.
The people sitting in the pews were not clapping because they chose to compromise on musical standards. They were clapping to affirm the bell choir that had put forth its best effort.
Afterward, I reflected. Is there anything inherently wrong with trying to cultivate excellence? Is there anything wrong with trying to live a life that meets Jesus' expectations? What are Jesus' expectations anyway?
Playing "perfect" music for church services and living "perfect" lives for Christ seems like a pretty exclusive art. Was the church established for the perfect?
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:12-13). Yet the church has not always been overly kind to the marginalized, the rejects of society. The church is not the first place the morally offensive seek refuge.
Surprisingly, it was often people on the edges who gravitated to Jesus. The pious Pharisees were the ones who stood on the perimeter and thought Jesus bizarre, to say the least.
How refreshing it was to sit on that church pew and applaud the MDC bell ringers. Does Christ's church also offer applause, healing and hope to all of our imperfections as well? Jesus set the standard. Matthew 5:48 reads, "Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
As musicians we are not called to lower our musical standards. As followers of Christ we are not obliged to compromise high standards of living for the sake of inclusion. Regardless of what we presume about our own moral integrity, we all fall into the imperfect category by Jesus' standards.
Yet, paradoxically, in the kingdom of God there are no undesirables. Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).
Let us not too quickly forget the purpose for God entering this world. At Vita House there are times when we burn our cookies. Matt and I smile at each other as we sit at the kitchen table and reach for yet another toasted delicacy, masking its hints of carbon in a cool glass of milk.
Amos Kratzer '99 is from Kidron, Ohio. During the 1998-99 school year, the education major lived with three other students and two residents at Vita House, the college's joint venture with Mennonite Disabilities Committee.
Lessons on the way back from nowhere
It is impossible to describe to someone who's never been in prison exactly what goes through your head. When the bars slam behind you, they make a very distinct sound, an unfor-gettable sound. No matter how hard you try, no matter how long you live, the sound never goes away. Along with the sounds are the smells: body odor so distinct it sinks into your bright orange clothing, putrid and acidic, a reminder of lives gone sour.
The first time you walk down the long row of cells, you can feel the eyes upon you, digging at your soul, searching for a weakness, waiting to exploit any that they find. Instantly a mental block goes up and you try to hide your fear, but any experienced convict will tell you that it doesn't do any good. They see right through you.
When I first stepped into the hall, I tried these methods. But being dis-tracted by having to carry all of my "worldly goods" (that being my sleeping mat, my bedding, a pillow and a torn paper sack that held my toothbrush and cigarettes), I could not compose myself very well. I tried not to look in the other cells I passed, but that's like trying not to look at an accident. I looked, and they stared back. All of them wondered who the "new meat" was and if he was tougher than they were.
I wasn't tough. I had been a star swimmer and football player in high school, but that meant nothing in prison. At such a place, you need to be good with a shank or at hand-to-hand to mean anything. Being able to protect yourself from being raped is the business of the day. Guarding your "house," your 8-foot by 8-foot cell shared with at least one other inmate, is another daily activity that can never be lax.
Oddly enough, a strong alliance must be made with your "roomie" in order to make this possible. George was from Fort Wayne and I know that city pretty well. We got along and watched each other's backs. He was doing time on a drug charge nothing serious and it was his first time down. I knew he would be all right. He knew I would be okay after he found out I was down for drinking and driving.
George was a better roommate than the guy next door. His name was Six-nine, because he was six feet, nine inches tall. A brute of a man, he got his way with everything. And I do mean everything. It was nothing new to hear Six-nine's cell mates screaming in the middle of the night. Six-nine was not a rapist, but he liked to smoke and if he didn't have any cigarettes, neither would you.
I was glad I got George. He was nice and relatively educated, so we could read books and discuss them together. Reading made up the main part of our days and nights, while most people played cards or gambled with their cigarettes in some fashion or other. I didn't like to gamble there because someone would eventually get mad, and a fight would ensue. This would bring the COs (Correctional Officers) to lock us down for several hours, if not for the whole day.
It was right after one of our many lock down periods when something happened which became a memory that plagues me to this day. Late one night none of us could sleep since we had been locked down early and most of us slept all day.
Night is a bad time when memories of the outside creep back into your head. This makes you lonely; it makes you think. I was thinking about how I had ended up in a place like this when the screaming started. A man several cells down was screaming at the top of his lungs, "C-O! C-O! Help me! He's going to kill me!"
But they never came; they never did. The poor guy just kept yelling for them until his voice gave out. He kept screaming even though he was being slammed up against the bars of his cell. You could hear the noise plain as day and you could picture what was happening; it's a picture I still carry in my head. Just like the sounds, it never goes away.
During this episode, my thoughts delved even deeper into how I had gotten this far. What had I done to deserve this? Had God forsaken me, or had I forsaken God? At the time, sitting in prison, it was easy to blame God for turning His back on me.
In retrospect, however, I think of the times when I was drunk and I didn't kill anyone. I could have done so easily and not even have known about it. I was interred for drinking and driving several times. And it would have been fitting to have killed someone, considering the way I had run my life.
"That's why I'm here," I finally figured out. It's because I did not kill anyone. I had been given a second chance, although I had to learn a lesson first. And this place was where I was to learn my lesson. How far did I want to travel down the road going nowhere?
I had been drinking ever since I could remember. It was a part of life growing up. But had I grown up? I don't think so, not until I got to this place. I was at a fork in the road. A decision had to be made and now was the time to make it. While I could still hear that man screaming for help I could not give him, I decided to take full advantage of this gift of a second chance at life. Not the life I had before, but a life full of happiness and sobriety. A life that would never lead me back to prison!
Time passes, although a little slower when you are "down state," but it passes just the same. I even-tually got out and got my life in order. I'm writing this three and a half years after my prison time and still my thoughts haunt me. Every once in a while, the urge to drink begins to creep up on me, but all I have to do is remember the guy screaming and the urge goes away.
My sobriety is very important to me now, and I will not allow a day to pass without thanking God for this very special gift of life. Do I consider it a gift? Every day, my friends, every day.
Scott Garvin '99 of Goshen majored in English. He was a finalist in the 1998 C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest for a speech titled "Silent Killers: The Global Effects of Landmines."
Listening for the voice of peace
This past weekend (second week of February 1999) I returned from Dayton, Ohio, where I attended a Model United Nations conference.
I learned about the impact of even the smallest misused word. Once, a U.S. representative thoughtlessly referred to Middle Eastern nations as "small." Immediately the representative from Jordan demanded that the United States no longer refer to countries as "small" even though they may be geographically smaller. We Americans often let our power and influence go to our heads.
The United States actually has little respect for the institution that was formed within its own borders immediately after World War II. This disrespect was painfully evidenced in the blatant disregard the United States showed for the opinions and policies of other U.N. members in the last bombing mission in Baghdad.
What I learned about diplomacy and tact in Ohio is transferable to my life in Goshen. I have always strived to better understand where people are coming from and what they have to offer. The conference helped me realize how ineffective the United States has been in doing this, choosing rather to make a show of its military power.
I believe that the United States as well as GC students are more supre-macist than we like to admit. This is obvious in our offensive chalkings and the relentless, almost unconscious, racial comments that I hear far too often in the cafeteria and behind closed doors.
I am convinced that those who perpetrate the slurs and jokes are the least informed about the issues or people they belittle. With the position we as U.S. citizens occupy, though, there is simply no excuse for this insensitivity and ignorance. We have the privilege and responsibility to be educated both globally and locally.
"Knowledge is power," but it is also peace. Ignorance breeds fear; fear turns to hate. The progression has happened many times throughout history, but it works in reverse, too. With at least a sincere openness to learn, one is able to see the faces behind the misconceptions. Applying all this to modern situations, I see many people at home and abroad who neither take the time nor have the desire to stop hating and start listening.
The members of the United Nations are supposed to listen to all the voices in the world. Neither the United States nor Iraq have done much listening in the past few years. Both have overstepped the bounds of U.N. ideals and therefore made peace almost impossible. Peace is also impossible in our little world without the willingness to listen and learn.
Ryan Friesen is a sophomore collegiate studies major from Goshen. He attended the Model U.N. conference as part of a group organized by J. Robert Charles, assistant professor of history.
Campus voices respond to "Replacing Fear with Hope" violence prevention conference
A salute toward change and healing
My introduction to Mennonite culture, and specifically to pacifism, came to me through the novel Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe. The story, set in Canada during the 1940s, addresses the struggle to keep community boundaries closed during a decade of war.
Five years have passed since then, years in which I have become more familiar with Mennonite culture and have come to understand the con-tinuing struggle of Mennonites to be "in the world but not of the world."
I was therefore surprised to walk into chapel and be saluted by Lt. Col. David Grossman. At a peace confer-ence organized by Mennonites, the last person I expected as a keynote speaker was an officer from the U.S. military, an officer who exclaimed, "I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a soldier."
I applaud GC for exposing us to speakers who represent a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs, for listening to those who might not be pacifists, but who are, nonetheless, committed to preventing violence. Like Wiebe's book illustrated, it is not through separation that we find change and healing. Rather, by joining together with those who are outside of our community we will uncover solutions that will indeed "replace fear with hope."
Blood on the columbine
The columbine is a bluish-purple flower which sits about four inches off the acidic soil of the Rocky Mountain highlands, which dot the front range, which forms the western boundary of the Denver Metro area. This idyllic natural setting, however, is no longer what we associate with this name.
The flowers have been soaked in blood.
For me, the incident at Columbine High School comes especially close to home. I lived about eight miles from that school this summer (1998) as part of the Ministry Inquiry Program. I related to those who teach in that same system. I knew them, learned from them and lived with them in an experience that inter-twines our lives. My heart is there.
I understand what the glib reporters mean by "small, caring community," and I grieve with them for their peers, for their town, for their innocence. Additionally, I am forced to think as an educator, "what am I going to do?"
I will be the one in the classroom in August. Reality is an ugly beast. I will not may have to deal with a firearm in my classroom sometime. I will have these mafioso in all their shapes and forms in my classroom. I will be called on to act, to be part of the web which can either hold up or dismantle other incidents just like this one.
Here is where we must step out of the classroom and into the Coliseum the place of testing and proving. We have conferred and done the important work of answering "why" and "how." We now need to step from problematizing to practice, from fear to functionality, from lacking the knowledge of what to do, to loving all those around us in order to prevent having anything like this from happening again, not just in schools, but everywhere.
Seniors Liz Lewis and Bryce Miller were two of the more than 700 people who attended the con-ference, "Replacing Fear with Hope: Violence Prevention in Our Communities," at GC in April. Liz, a social work major and a member of the 1998-99 GC worship teams, is from Ibb, Yemen. Bryce, who will do his student teaching this fall while living at the Urban Life Center in Chicago, is from Orrville, Ohio.
With liberty and justice but not for all
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Ñ from Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty emblematically raises her torch directly east toward Europe not Africa or Asia, and certainly not south, towards Mexico and Central America. The nearest resemblance to the torch on the United States' southern border is the row of flood-lights illuminating the Rio Grande, assisting the border patrol to apprehend Hurricane Mitch's "homeless, tempest-tost" and others making their way north.
I spent last year (1998) in Mennonite Voluntary Service in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, serving undocumented immigrants incarcerated in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. I worked with a nonprofit immigration law project called ProBAR. This organization deals primarily with refugees who have fled persecution of some kind in their countries and can only hope to avoid deportation by applying for asylum in immigration court. I also helped with a project to educate all INS detainees about the procedures of immigration court hearings and the few possible forms of relief available to certain immigrants.
One does not become an immigration law expert in a year, and I don't want to pretend to have a comprehensive understanding of the system. I also will not pretend to fully grasp the hardships, terror and rampant discrimination that undocumented immigrants face in this country. Only an immigrant can tell that story.
That said, I would like to bear witness to the small window into the immigrant experience that I encountered. Hopefully this will encourage an informed discussion of both the broader forces at work in driving individuals across the border and what the U.S. legal system does to those individuals once they arrive.
I believe that every resident of this country needs to recognize the shortcomings of the social and legal structures that currently exist. First, I cannot emphasize enough that institutionalized poverty is at the root of illegal immigration. Most inhabitants of Mexico and Central America are either barely getting by or not getting by at all. At the doorstep of the United States only a few blocks from the border in many cities people are living in garbage dumps or shanty-towns, with no prospect of economic advancement.
As long as these woeful conditions persist, no amount of militaristic border surveillance will keep people from trying their chances in a country as wealthy as ours. The most effective way to control immigration is to fight poverty, not poor people.
Second, legal immigration to the United States is an option reserved for the wealthy, or close relatives of U.S. citizens or legal residents. Work visas are generally not available for the poor. No one can enter this country legally without first demonstrating that he or she has no incentive to stay permanently. Many immigrants try every possible legal route before making this harsh discovery. Illegal immigration happens when legal immigration is an impossibility.
Third, simply having lived in the United States a few years in no way entitles people to legal permission to reside or work here. Undocumented immigrants don't willfully avoid paying taxes, nor do they collect welfare. They do what they can to survive pick onions, work in factories or clean houses and often for less than minimum wage. They are trapped indefinitely in a situation they are powerless to improve, one that deprives them of most legal and human rights that U.S. citizens take for granted.
This is the bleak reality for undocumented immigrants in the United States five million in number, by INS estimates. These people have chosen one form of oppression over another and are making the best of it, while the elites in our country flippantly accuse "illegal aliens" of laziness, ignorance and disrespect for the laws.
We who profess concern for social justice have the responsibility to educate ourselves about this reality and look for ways of walking beside those who are in its clutches in our community, in broader U.S. society and across the southern border.
Obed Diener '99 is a senior English major from Harrisonburg, Va. He completed voluntary service in south Texas in December 1998. This summer he served as a Spanish interpreter for Elkhart County courts.
For Indonesia: A lament and a prayer
During the first morning of midterm break I had a 50-minute call to my family in Semarang, Indonesia. I was excited because I could call while my family members my dad, mom and sister were at home. We started the conversation with some formalities like how we were doing, how my sister's and my studies were and so on.
Shifting gears, we then talked about my plans for next semester. Conversation moved to my sister's desire to study at GC after she finishes high school and my plans to go home next summer.
Then came the most poignant topic. We talked about the economic and political condition of our country.
As I laid my phone in its cradle, tears dropped from my eyes. I had two reasons for crying. First, I was touched by my parents' serious efforts to keep me studying full-time at GC. I know it's not easy for them to provide me with much money. The Indonesian monetary exchange rate has been very low compared to the United States dollar; hence, tuition is extremely expensive. The Indonesian economic condition is also very weak. Prices have increased three to 10 times in only a year.
Secondly, I felt sad about Indonesia's severe hardships. I began to think about what had happened since I left my country last year. I couldn't believe that in one year Indonesians lost almost all of what we had gained in the past three decades. I felt so sad because I couldn't see what really happened there with my own eyes. Worse yet, I couldn't do anything to help.
Everything occurred so quickly and dramatically that many people believe God is punishing Indonesia. Our condition is as bad as Israel's when God punished it in biblical times.
The night before I called home, a 17-year-old high school girl named Martadinata Haryono (Ita) was brutally killed in Jakarta. She was found slaughtered and stabbed in her throat, heart, liver and elsewhere, with her hands tied with cords.
The police have treated the murder as an ordinary crime. They say the murderer was her neighbor, Otong. But everybody knows that it was not an ordinary crime, and that Ita's real murderers haven't been caught yet.
Otong is just a scapegoat pegged by the police.
Everybody knows that Ita was killed by a very systematic group that also organized the rapes and the riots that occurred on May 14 and 15. The rapes and riots were a response against Chinese shopkeepers who the public perceive as responsible for the rapid inflation and rising prices. While the government denies it, Romo Sandyawan Sumardi, the leader of a rape victim advocacy group, claims that at least 168 women were raped during these riots. The government says as long as no witness testifies, the rapes can't be proven. News-papers frequently report that rape victims and those who assist them continue to receive threats from an unknown organization that wishes to silence them.
Ita was a volunteer who helped care for the rape victims. Along with her mother, Wiwin, and four victims, she was planning to come to the United States to testify to the United Nations.
The book of Lamentations again comes to my mind: "Oh Jakarta, why do you rape your own daughters, why do you kill your own princess?"
I must ask, why does God punish Indonesia? Who sinned? Is this former President Suharto's sin? Is this the government's sin? Is this the rioters' sin? They were just uneducated people who were exploited by the powerful elite. Why must the sins of a few people bring ruin to the whole country?
Right now, I am not really looking for physical help, like food or money, to be sent to Indonesia. This is not because we don't need such help, but because we need something more than that. We need people who are willing to spend time and pray for those abandoned people.
We need people to pray for over 20 million people who lost their jobs; for hundreds of women who were raped; for millions of people who were robbed; for the thousands of stupid and arrogant corrupters who worked for government; for those who rioted, robed, raped and killed; and for over 200 million Indonesian people who are suffering. We need you.
Ezra Nugroho is a junior computer science major from Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. He and other Indonesian students held gatherings last year to support economic reform in their home country through prayer and singing; the GC community, led by students on SST in Indonesia, raised hundreds of dollars to purchase food and other supplies for a number of families there in need.
Hebron: the next bulldozed house may be yours
I lay in my tent, wide-awake, listening to the muffled sounds of voices outside and loud chirps of small insects in the cornfield. A fire was burning down, smoke swirling off into the darkness like an offering. The stars were brilliant pinpoints of energy overhead.
The setting was Joyfield Farm in North Manchester, Ind., where 11 other GC students and I, along with 200 people from many places, were attending a conference led by Christian Peacemaker Teams. CPT is a Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren initiative which sends women and men to witness the need for peace in violent and sometimes desperate situations.
As I stared at the canvas above me I thought of Wila' Al Atrash, a 14-year-old Palastinian girl who would also lay in a tent that night. Wila' does not choose to sleep in a tent, but she has no other option. Three times she has attempted, with her family and friends, to build a house but all three times a bulldozer destroyed their home. Wila' lives in fear, not only that the small two-room structure being raised for the fourth time will be bulldozed, but also that her brother and father will be arrested, her mother thrown into a ditch and her older sister kicked in the stomach until blood comes from her mouth. All these things have happened to her and her family.
From the time we arrived at the farm to when we hopped into our cars to go home we lived in a more simple and sustainable manner. A sense of peace settled over the farm as we lived for three days close to each other and close to the earth.
"The suspense of having a home demolition order is similar to torture," said Sara Reschly, one of the main conference speakers. Sara spent time in Hebron, a town on the West Bank where CPT has stood nonviolently between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians who have lived on the land of Hebron since ancient times. As Sara spoke about a Palestinian family who recently lost its home and its orchards, tears ran down her face.
In response to this most recent home demolition, many people attending the conference took part in a public witness. Friday afternoon 200 people stood outside the office of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar's office in Fort Wayne, Ind. Our voices, songs and prayers for peace rose between the tall buildings. These sounds mixed with the noise of cars honking, shoes briskly clipping on the sidewalk and flags above us flapping in the wind.
As we sang, " And everyone ... shall live in peace and be unafraid," I lifted my hand to my checks and realized they were wet with silent tears. I thought of Wila' again. I remembered visiting her in Hebron this past spring along with other CPT members. I remembered watching her gracefully pour coffee for us, her visitors.
While I watched her hand, it began to shake and the thick black coffee spilled down the sides of a small white porcelain cup she was holding. Confused, I looked at her face and saw her dark eyes full of fear.
Only after I followed her gaze did I realize that a vehicle was coming up over the hill behind her home. As the truck bringing a load of sand to their home came into view, Wila's hands returned to pouring the coffee as steadily as they had been the minute before. Only then did I realize what it is like to live in constant fear that the next vehicle over the hill will be a bulldozer coming to demolish a home.
Leaving Joyfield Farm and coming back to GC felt like returning from SST. Too many possessions in my room, too many choices in the hot food line at Marriott and too many indifferent people made me yearn to be back wandering through the garden or sitting under the cottonwood tree with others who had gathered to struggle for justice in our world.
Most of all, though, the stability of my home impacted me. Made of boards and beams thick and strong, my house is never challenged by a bulldozer or wrecking ball. I lay in my bed that night and I felt my privilege. As I drifted off to sleep my thoughts were full of hope that someday Wila' will truly "live in peace and be unafraid."
Senior Laura Schildt is an interdisciplinary major from Marietta, Pa. She has traveled to Hebron with Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Getting by in the world, and then some By Diana Phillips-Kanagy
Well, February is finally here. Once again, the ironically short month half-heartedly devoted to black history is upon us.
The time has come to pay homage, to search our memories for all the information crammed into our brains about the colored historical figures that have affected our lives, all the heroes and role models that darkened the pages of our textbooks with their brave portraits.
Are you done? I am. I could probably fit all the black history I was ever given in 12 years of public education into a week's worth of class. I first recognized this dearth in the fourth grade when my teacher spent a whole 10 minutes talking about the horrors of slavery. I recall more said about indentured servitude than actual slavery.
Now this didn't ring true to what my father and grandmother had said, and I began to wonder why I was being lied to in school. How else was I getting ripped off by my so-called education?
This was the day I went to the library and checked out the auto-biography of Frederick Douglass. I suppose I may have done this out of some deep, ingrained duty to my ancestors, but mostly it was because I was furious about having been lied to.
It was like a large-scale version of finding out the truth about Santa Claus: sure, the actual subject matter of the discovery is disappointing, but the real blow is that what I thought was truth had actually been a slap-in-the-face lie the entire time. Now that system had crumbled into a mere hoax. I was determined to find out why. So I worked my way through an ongoing career of self-education. I could give you my reading list. Then again, any professor can assign a reading list, but nothing is more crucial than your own educational choices.
The minute you begin to suspect that you probably ought to know a little more about something, start reading. Ask about other cultures; take yourself out of the idea that your current education is sufficient to get you through this world. It definitely is not. You must push yourself.
In The Bhagavad-Gita, the Lord Krishna says, "Sacrifice in knowledge is better than sacrifice with material objects; the totality of all action culminates in knowledge. . . . Know it by humble submission, by asking questions, and by service; wise men who see reality will give you knowledge."
I transferred to GC from Earlham College, where my major was English with a focus on African and African-American literature. Here there aren't any classes in that area, so I have changed to an English and theater double major. Now the need for pushing myself to keep up with my self-education is even greater. All this came to a head on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. That evening I found myself thoroughly disappointed in the days' goings on. The speaker during convocation was great, but my classes (with the exception of one) completely ignored the meaning of the day. At most, we had to watch a silly movie or two. No discussion.
Here, in Goshen, where blacks were not allowed in town after dark until much too recently, no discussion.
Here, in northern Indiana, a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, no discussion. Understandable, I'd say, since one cannot adequately judge a situation until one is actually in it or at least has attempted to understand through the knowledge of others.
In her autobiography Assata Shakur states, "The schools we go to are reflections of the society that created them. Nobody is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that knowledge will help set you free.
"Schools in amerika are interested in brainwashing people with amerikanism, giving them a little bit of education, and training them in skills needed to fill the positions the capitalist system requires. As long as we expect amerika's schools to educate us we will remain ignorant."
So do yourself a tremendous favor: Do what you have to do to get by in the world and then some. Your education is in your hands, not in the hands of any system. Use black history month as the perfect excuse to begin, whatever you choose to teach yourself.
Originally from Indianapolis, Diana Phillips-Kanagy is a junior English and theater major who lives in Goshen. She played the role of Maggie Mundy in the fall 1998 GC Players production of "Dancing at Lughnasa."
Tough food choices for 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
"Tomorrow the grounds department will be spraying a herbicide around the Gingerich Center, Newcomer and the Westlawn dining area. If you are sensitive to chemicals, please avoid these areas in the afternoon. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you."
This message should sound familiar to everyone who receives e-mail addressed to "email@example.com." Chemical herbicides and pesticides are commonplace in the United States, and the GC campus is no exception.
According to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, U.S. agriculture uses over 800 million pounds of pesticides every year. These chemicals pose cancer risks, and contaminate air, water and ecosystems. Shouldn't these facts make us pause to ponder the pesticides trapped in the wax on apples in Marriott or rubbing off on our Frisbee-playing feet?
To be responsible and consistent, we need to include all creation in our ethical frameworks and decision making. That's partly why you may see a few students and bikes strewn across the Vita House back lawn at 6 p.m. today (May 13, 1999).
For some, Pax 299: Organic Gardening and Ecojustice, which meets four days a week during May term, is a way to live in the gap between our ideals and the way the world really works. Too often, our vision is limited to our own immediate contexts: what will benefit us in the short term. Organic tomatoes, raisins and peanut butter at the Centre-In Food Co-op downtown bear considerably higher price tags than their commercially produced counterparts. When one thinks only of personal interests in an immediate shopping situation, it's hard to answer the glib query of Meijer superstore: "Why Pay More?"
The reality is that we cannot separate the tiny, mundane decisions of our personal lives from the larger social fabric in which we live. "Society" is nothing more than thousands of individuals, all getting up every day and doing the same things in the same way everyone else does, because they are afraid to or lack the energy to make a change.
We're faced with choices every day: stop at McDonald's or bring a lunch along? Blast a spider with poison or toss it outside? Nobody's perfect, and we won't go to heaven or hell based on how many pounds of pesticides pour into waterways as a result of our food consumption and lawn enjoyment. But I find it impossible to live a meaningful life without seriously considering the larger ramifications of my actions and personal decisions. How could my life be different if every morning over the Cheerios I asked myself, "What is the nature of the good life? How ought one to live?"
When I observe local organic growers providing food for the community and smell the chemicals on GC's lawn, I feel something is not right. I know I want to sustain myself with food production pathways that consume resources justly and treat the earth responsibly. But how can I make this wish more than a fleeting feeling? For American society to produce food locally and ecologically seems like a fairy tale.
In a small way, participating in the gardening class helps me live intentionally in the gap between my ideals and reality, to stretch my little roots beyond chemical college lawns, waxed apples shipped across the continent and multinational food services and retail chains. Joining local economic activity and responsible earthkeeping through organic food production is a viable step towards a vision of a just society and a sustainable ecology.
Anne Horst is a senior Bible and religion major from Goshen. She spent the summer in Guatemala City through the Ministry Inquiry Program, the first student in MIP to serve outside North America.
Joining hands on the ladder of success
Before last year's commencement, several GC students prompted by similar initiatives at Manchester College and other schools introduced a pledge for graduating seniors to have the opportunity to sign. The pledge calls signers "to investigate and take into account the social and environmental conse-quences of any job opportunity I consider." Members of this year's graduating class will have the opportunity to sign the pledge as well.
Job-hunting fever is the current infection for GC seniors. RŽsumŽs are flying out of computer printers like 747s out of O'Hare Airport. Seniors are so busy investigating job opportunities in general that they may feel unable to investigate the "social and environmental consequences" of those opportunities. But, it is still an important concept for GC graduates to keep in mind because of this school's emphasis on serving instead of simply succeeding.
Many people may balk at the word "service" being mentioned in the same breath as employment. For them, the idea of post-college service brings to mind terms with Mennonite Central Committee or the Peace Corps, not a "real job" in the "real world." There exists a tangible vocational dualism: An aspiring pastor or teacher or counselor is being called to a life of service while an aspiring businessperson or advertiser or physicist is just trying to earn a living like everybody else.
The pressure is definitely on those of us about to exit our undergraduate days to prepare for the economic strains of working-world life. As loans become due and bills pile up, a realistic alumnus of GC cannot blow off the financial aspects of employment. However, the potential paycheck should not be the only ox pulling the job-hunt cart. After four years of amassing thousands of dollars of debt, are we only equipped to pay off that debt? I challenge students who are seeking future employment, whether two months down the road or two years down the road, to seriously consider what their goals are in the "real world."
While the graduation pledge is a student commitment and the impending decisions are theirs to make, the college as a whole has a responsibility to address. Are we preparing our graduates to enter the world as servants? Will the lessons learned in and out of the classrooms about Christ-like living be applied in the workplace?
Amid all the talk about rŽsumŽs, interviews, dress codes and cover letters in the senior seminars and other classes, is there talk about the ethical decisions that also have to be made? Concerns about how one's job affects the world socially, environmentally and economically must be dealt with. Does coming from a school oriented towards "Culture for Service" simply mean that we do the jobs that the rest of the world does in the same way, except that we don't smoke, drink or curse? I challenge professors and other instructors to ask these questions of their students instead of simply encouraging them to get the best available job.
Not every member of the class of '99 will sign the graduation pledge, and those who choose not to sign should not be viewed in a negative light. But, as another set of college graduates is about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, those coming from GC should not be like the majority of people jostling for position on the job ladder. The GCers in the world should be the ones helping others up the ladder with them.
A double major in communication and Bible and religion and a member of the class of '99, Thomas Bona is from the Bronx. He served as a member of the 1998-99 GC Campus Ministries team, helping plan All-Campus Worship services.