Assault Art

Sandy Hook Elementary. Aurora movie theatre. Virginia Tech. … Columbine.

Such horrendous acts are too complex to reduce to simple cause-effect relationships, to reduce to simple answers answering a complex and bewildering “why.” I want to offer this thought, though, knowing it is probably inadequate and insufficient.

One of the reasons I love being an English teacher and a student of literature — being brought to tears by poetry, being moved to consider my own tiny existence in the aftermath of a performance of a Shakespeare play or an O’Neill drama — is that, as has been said so often, literature conveys the human experience. Literature, a window into another’s experience and a mirror of my own, serves to nurture my vulnerable soul. It’s why I go to art galleries, why I “bother” to take time out during my summer or during a vacation to go to a museum, a concert, or a gallery. The arts — dramatic, literary, visual, musical — touch, move, inspire, awe me.

And I wonder about the effects of decreasing attention to these arts in our schools today. English classes should serve up heaping spoonfuls of Mary Oliver like metaphorical meringue. We should feast on Hemingway. We should have mounds of Morrison. All kids should receive a birth certificate and a library card when they enter the world. They should — we should — celebrate the human experience with a mandated trip to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and a summer performance by Theatreworks. Immediately after immunizations, children should be prescribed one story read to them. Two if they are feverish. Daily doses for a lifetime.

My point is this: In a world growing more complex with interdependent relationships across the room, across town, across zip codes, across area codes and time zones, we need the window of literature even more. We need the glimpse into our shared experience.

Maybe the solution is not so much in controlling guns or threatening to snatch away what people argue is their Constitutional right. Don’t get me wrong; I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why a person needs an assault rifle for any sort of “sport” shooting; their sole purpose is to inflict as much damage in as little time with as little effort as possible. The very name — assault rifle — is an assault on reason and civility.

But maybe we need to think and act differently to find a solution. Maybe the solution is not just in limitation and restriction. Maybe it is to be found in expansion and inclusion. Maybe white males (it’s always white males, isn’t it, behind the mask, under the body armor, firing the weapon?) would be less likely to pull the trigger if they recognized the humanity in “the other,” and perhaps if they were in touch with their own.

Maybe part of the solution is thinking bigger — where we recognize each other’s humanity, where we peer through the window of literature into the lives of others and into our own reflection.

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One Response to “Assault Art”

  1. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a co-worker who has been doing a little research
    on this. And he in fact bought me lunch because I found it for him.
    .. lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your blog.

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