I hope to forever be a “militant sunflower.”

My sunny Saturday evening read is “Envisioning a Healed World, “an essay by the poet/educator/farer-of-light Mark Gonzales. I’ve experienced Mark speak and perform multiple times and each time I come away with a new energy — sometimes this energy comes from an idea new to me that he eloquently presents and other times this energy comes from an idea so latent in my mind, words, and actions that once I read or hear his words, I get a strange feeling of deja vu. Like I was supposed to know this. Like I knew this in another lifetime or like my mother told me stories about this when I was not yet able to dress myself or dress my ideas with words. Today’s light came from the term “militant sunflower.” While I recommend that everyone read the essay as a whole, I will provide the following for context:

The two primary energies on this planet that propel change are love and frustration. While the latter is far easier to introduce, it is far more limiting. People guided by frustration have a limited amount of emotional capital. They will eventually burn out, as we have witnessed countless times before. People who grow visions from love dare to view their movement as an act of beauty instead of war, psychologically shifting the axis of their energy. The purpose of engagement no longer becomes primarily the destruction of the enemy, but the blossoming of the world we deserve. Our gente, buried and breathing, are allies on this Earth and in the afterlife. There is a power that comes when we remember this world does not turn without us, for in the physics of people, refugees and love make the world go round.

Let the world see how resiliently fierce and beautifully dangerous a militant sunflower can be.

In institutional spaces of education, it’s too easy to be a militant. It’s easy to resist the bureaucracy and the system, the documentation and quantification of the undocumentables. The unquantifiables. I’m not sorry, school administration, that I cannot devise an Excel-compatible formula to appropriately evidence the four-hour long conversation I had with Ahmad about being a three-year-old refugee moving from continent to continent, from home to house, from baby boy to young man.

I cannot do justice to the injustice of having a room full of refugees and children of refugees who are not taught their history but taught words-of-the-week on a taut schedule that is defined from the top down and never refined to the needs, desires, imagined-nations of people-students who I am instructed to simply teach.

Can you “walk-through” the silences that punctuate our debates, dialogues, discussions ? How can you expect me to teach the roots of words when my students do not even know their own — when my students, subjected to the commercial zombie-fication of Insta-everything, do not even know that our lands have been renamed, our homes repossessed, our borders redrawn, our minds re-invented?

How can you expect me to go on with the lesson planned objectively-speaking when the article you have given me mentions Israel and the boy in the corner whispers across the room: “Israel? Where is Israel located anyways?” Someone whispered back a little louder, a little frustrated, “It’s where Palestine is.” “No it’s not — come on, bro.” Do I give this boy his first reprimand for talking during instruction? Or do I stand in front of a room for some time, allowing my heart to sink to the carpeted floor with the realization that we do not know who, where, why we are? Do I allow my heart to repalpitate and run to Jihad and hug him, kiss his beautiful forehead that looks just like my brother’s, and breathe in my own jealousy for his refusal to believe in the capacity for human evil, for human displacement? The colonized mind has been United-States-of-American-ized, institutionalized, normalized,  standardized.  Where does that go on your long term plan template? Where do I document this? How?

I have never felt as much love as I have in my classroom. I’ve felt love received, love given, love shared, love in question, love in response, love in any measure, every measure. I’ve also felt anger. A hell of anger. And I entered the classroom to become what I did not know was a “militant sunflower,” to prove to the world, to myself, to my students, to us, that we can create a space that revels in beauty and  justice. What I find myself doing too often — while I may be in this place in my process — is a militant re-creation of the world. I see a militant reaction to the world. And this militancy hurts me and hurts my students, hurts the craft of self-creation or education. It’s tiring me and tiring my students and tiring our space. It’s too easy to be militant.

“Let the world see how resiliently fierce and beautifully dangerous a militant sunflower can be.”

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