Ann Arbor. Shit. I’m still only in Ann Arbor. When I was home after my first year, it was worse. I’d wake up, and there’d be nothing. I hardly said a word to my parents until I said goodbye at the airport.
When I was here, I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back in school. I’ve been here three years now. Waiting for a letter from a potential employer, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this attic apartment I get weaker. And every minute my professors squat in their offices they get stronger. Each time I look around, the walls move in a little tighter.
Though ostensibly it is spring, I have a hard time realizing how fast this year went by. I guess all the fighting that went on this year was just so much fun that I lost all track of time.
I’d love to think that my adolescent, impulsive anger was left for dead in a city four states away, but I’ve let the part of myself that enjoys hurting other people have regular outbursts.
Sure, I still contend that a lot of the ranting and swearing over e-mail, conversation and in this column were in the name of something good (hey, I got to take a little credit for Rick Dorfman apologizing to the campus publicly, for which I laud him), but my love of having fun at someone else’s expense is immature. I feel I need to change, but I think others do too.
T.S. Eliot was right, April is the cruelest month, because as I stare into a bleak future for this country, and an uncertain one for me, I look back on this past year and have to face all the fighting and hatred that did not have to happen here on this campus.
My anger-driven activities have also brought out the worst in others. My exposure of some of the racist things perpetrated Students Allied for Freedom and Equality caused by its leader, Fadi Kiblawi, to libel me by proclaiming that I hate all Arabs and am a ‘delusional Zionist.’
Is detente possible? Maybe. To turn a phrase from Adlai Stevenson, perhaps if he promises to stop telling lies about me, I will promise to stop telling the truth about him.
Or, will he realize that in order to achieve peace in one’s self and others, one must not allow anger to distort one’s vision? Will he learn to love peace?
If he and his counterparts on the other side of the Israelstine battle continue to exploit suffering for their careers or scribble hateful comments, their tragic existence falls into my domain, making it my duty to stand firm between them and in a position of power for the sake of everyone else. And everyone who shares the concern for the greater good needs to stand up against these people as well. They will either change or they will be defeated. There is no alternative.
My e-mail box has been the source of much of my anger this year. An announcement for a rich, white economist to talk about why sweatshops are good for the global economy crossed into my box this week. Would this product of coddled, privileged society think differently if it were his sister, wife or mother who has to be sterilized with a rusted knitting needle and beaten with a crowbar? I can’t say that I had a third-world upbringing, but the oblivion to how the other (more than) half lives while defending human rights abuses makes my blood boil.
When the pro-war junkies strut around on this campus full of smugness, knowing that they can watch the war on their big screen TVs and not have to risk their lives like their less fortunate, often minority counterparts, it gives me the urge to abandon my pacifism. But I know I have to be the bigger man. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I fail miserably.
Anger is a complex thing; it can be used to create so much improvement and so much destruction as well. I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of wielding my anger, but all the wreckage I see behind me tells me I have a long way to go. Maybe in four months I will have figured it all out.
– As many of you seem to know, Ari Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.