Monday, April 11, 2005

Taps in Kansas

A Tuesday Evening

Day is done. Sitting on my patio, my pre-dusk cocktail in hand, I wonder if my Adirondack chair feels as out of place as I do sometimes out here on the praire. We just had a vote in the Wheat State that swung far to the right, affirming a ban on any type of marriage other than, well, you know, the kind between the pimply boy you were forced to square dance with and the prom queen. Now, the winners in this state sense the time is right to forge ahead and overturn abortion rights and evolution too. I sigh and am gifted with a drop of bird poop on my lap.

A Wednesday Morning

Today is a day designated for silence - if you register for it.
day of silence

The thought of asking students to remain silent in support of Gay and Lesbian rights is strange to me. I'd like to believe we are all just seeking gestures and signs to exhibit or recognize as reaching out for alliance? But here in the middle, we don't really need a day of silence . . . most folks never did want to talk about it anyway.

Last week one of our writing consultants, Noel, presented her mini-research project at practicum. It was on silence. Her review of dozens of articles, found with keyword searching of silence and teaching, led to this conclusion: k-12 writing about silence and teaching was focused on the uses of silence; post-secondary writing about silence and teaching focused on how not to silence others, how classrooms operate to silence students, how silencing is violence.



At 1:19 PM, Blogger shady said...

(echoing the sounds of silence)

At 2:26 PM, Blogger /WCJ/ said...

Thanks, Shady...I think are saying: I hear you.


At 8:56 PM, Blogger shady said...


i have always found “protest by silence” to be an interesting form of protest, especially at times when, as you say, “we don't really need a day of silence . . . most folks never did want to talk about it anyway.”

it is my experience, no matter the topic, that most folks who don’t want to talk about something are, in fact, practicing a form of “silent protest.” this form of protest is especially effective for dominant groups—because if they are not willing to talk about something, then no one is allowed to talk about it (or, at least, no one is “supposed” to talk about it). in effect, this is a rhetorical technique of “silencing via silence.”

what does this do to the minority? well, often times it makes them want to talk more, talk louder, to kick, scream, throw verbal punches, and protest LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER. it then gets to a point where others (especially in the majority) grow tired of hearing the protests or the protests have become so LOUD that they are no longer heard. the expected protest almost becomes cliché. white noise.

and this is sad.

this is why i believe the silent protest effective.

there are tales of bob kaufman, a ‘50s african-american (semi)beat poet who was arrested over fifty times in a span of only three or four years because of his one-man street protests and poetry recitals. kaufman had become the face of the north shore civil rights and anti-war protest scene—which meant a quick arrest for almost anything he did.

upon his final arrest, which occurred in nyc, he was given involuntary electric shock treatment (he had been labeled “abnormal”). after this, and witnessing jfk’s assassination on television, kaufman is said to have gone into a decade-long silent protest of america. he would no longer recite, no longer stand on corners and fight the fight he had become synonymous with in sf.

this was, in many ways, a buddhist vow of silence, only with protest underlying it. and it was effective because sf’s north shore took notice. everyone who had expected kaufman’s “cliché” never got it again (until the late ‘70s at least). everyone who waited for a catch phrase or for a sound byte was left in silence. kaufman no longer gave anyone what they were expecting. he, i believe, silenced their desires for conflict. his silence became LOUDER than his words.

silent protests, then, can be a beautiful way of being LOUDER than screaming. they can also be a time when protesters reclaim themselves.

in solidarity,

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