“Attach yourself to what you feel to be true. Begin there.”
Much of our social existence is dependent on our isolation from one another—on our ability to inflict alienation on ourselves. We spend hours in our dorm rooms on facebook, while literally hundreds of other people sit a few feet away doing the same thing. We gentrify our collective broken-heartedness. What is it that keeps us from entering into meaningful relationships with those around us?
When students took Kerr Hall on at around 3pm on November 19, 2009, it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make my 4pm class. As administrators began to filter out of the building, an older gentleman in Vans caught my eye. I walked up to him slowly and said, “I just wanted to let you know, I probably won’t be in class.” His response surprised me: “Oh, okay… I’ll put the presentation online.” Among the numbness of everyday life, this was a moment that made me actually feel something.
We were only in Kerr Hall for seventy-two hours, but life in the occupation took on a kind of rhythm. When we were hungry, there was food spontaneously cooked by students (many of whom felt that was the limit of their ability to participate). More food flowed in from dining halls, dorms and dumpsters. When there was a decision to be made, we made it together. When there were no decisions to be made, we sat around and talked.
When I was scared, there was someone to hold my hand. It was 5am when the riot police came to Kerr Hall. The seventy of us inside the building were suffering from sleep deprivation and paranoia. As we watched our friends on the outside get smacked with batons, I realized my own fear of authority. I turned to the girl next to me, someone I had met hours before, and said, “I’m freaking out. Can I hold your hand?” She grabbed my hand and within minutes, nearly everyone around us was holding someone’s hand, regardless of how fiercely we disagreed with each other’s ideas or tactics.
We became connected by the reality of what we had done. In the university, where it seems that everything is preparation for something else, something that never arrives, Kerr Hall reminds us that we exist—together.