A Justice Site
CSUDH - Habermas - UWP - Archives
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: January 10, 2002
Latest Update: January 15, 2002
This essay offers the experience of a group of college students at California State University, Dominguez Hills, following the tragedy of the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. We, like the rest of the world, were taken unawares, and felt rage and shock and a need for vengeance. We had no ritual phrases to fall back on. We needed to talk through the trauma.
And we were fortunate enough to have a forum on which to do that. Our teaching /learning site offered a focus to pull us together, to let us rediscover a sense of community in the midst of our anger and confusion. We put together this essay to offer to others a similar experience, since we have concluded that the healing we needed is shared by all those who are seeking peace and justice. We hope that by offering the stories of our own experience with using the educational institution as a part of the necessary recovery and understanding we may help re-orient some of our thinking to the role that discourse might play in recovery.
Our first reactions swirled about our feelings. We were angry, frightened, indignant, and wanted to punish the offenders. On our site we offered paintings, poetry, thoughts, and we stretched the connections we had established as a virtual learning community. Gradually we came to the point of considering peace and how our country's actions would reflect on world peace and justice.
At that point our site served as a resource, with the constant reminder that we needed to explore the many perspectives in good faith. We couldn't stop to read books on the Taliban, but some of us could share what others had read. And the reviews and summaries on site fed our discussions in a variety of classes and in the hallways.
Our purpose in this essay is to suggest that such a forum could serve as a focus in guiding other groups through the intense emotions we felt after September 11. We moved in phases from using the forum to express inner feelings that would otherwise have blocked reasoned consideration of validity claims. And we shared more information than any of us could have read so quickly in the face of other demands. We think such factors weighed heavily in our ability to refocus on peacemaking and the costs of armed conflict.
We offer the stories of our own experience, in the hope that they will transfer to many more communities, both real and virtual. The technology helped us, because we were not able to come together easily in our urban metropolitan environment. But technology was not essential to what we accomplished. It could be done face to face in local neighborhoods.
The Healing Effects of Having a Forum to Say What We Feel
In this section, we offer the actual submissions on which we are basing our assessment of what the site offered us that holds a potential for peace making.
Part of no longer being a victim . . . by Michelle Marshall
I am so glad to know that I will not have to wait until next year to vent about how really feel. Since taking your classes, I have been called dogmatic, intolerant. I don't see any problem with seeing things the way they really are. Often times it is too painful, so others may choose to look at the situation with rose filtered glasses. Part of no longer being a victim requires us to look at things for the way they really are and not how we'd like to see them in our head. This is the first step to healing.
Part of no longer being a victim . .
Transparency for Peace: Recognition of Harm in the Middle East
Michelle reflects here gratitude most of us felt for having a place to voice what we were feeling, and to be heard. She indicates the sense of empowerment that gave. Oddly, though we considered this empowering and enlightening, others in her experience have seen her newly-discovered freedom as intractability as she challenges the dominant discourse. That issue will afford us whole new areas of research on the means of supporting critical thinking.
It matters not if I agree or disagree . . . by Lisa J. Stevens
"That this country could ever experience such a tragedy and loss was inconceivable to me prior to 9/11/01, yet at the same time I wondered how we had escaped something like this for so long. What was so wonderful about the site, was on a daily basis, I could read about the disbelief, the horror and the responsibility that was felt by other members of our communities, worldwide. . . .
"Writing to the site, sounding off my opinions and checking in to see what was going on in the minds of others gave me a sense of "doing" something in a situation where there was not much that I could literally do. The confusion, hurt pride, loss of life and utter despair felt when facing this issue was lessened by having a place to go."
It matters not if I agree or disagree . .
Forum Access, Forum Control
Lisa makes a fascinating point that I would attribute to good faith listening. Even if we don't agree with the conclusion reached, or the theoretical approach, the discourse helps. This fits in with our advocacy project, in which we work at exploring the many perspectives that need to be heard in good faith and their validity claims explored. And that did satisfy, for many of us, the need "to do something."
Restorative justice by Patricia Acone
Jeanne, I picked up my mail today and a copy of the Albany Catholic Worker for Winter 2001/2002 was waiting for me. The following excerpt was contained on page 8 of the Book Review for Restorative Justice:"The thing to do right now is to create a new society within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new which is not a new philosophy, but a very old philosophy a philosophy so old that it looks new." Peter Maurin
As I reflect upon the events, which are now referred to euphemistically as "nine eleven", I remember it only in the abstract. Even though, I have seen the video versions many times it still does not seem real. I was a little girl when Pearl Harbor occurred and even that did not seem real.
I certainly realize that to those who lived this nightmare it is/was very real. Perhaps, I believed what the dominant discourse preached through its leaders and its media that after all the United States was impenetrable. Our shores and our borders were sacrosanct no one from outside the U.S. could touch us.
Ironically as a long time activist radical, I firmly believed that the United States was long over due for a retaliation by the countries that we have made into third world countries by the atrocities committed against them by a country that proclaims itself a democracy, For example when a country practices exclusion both within and without, when it acquires a "them and us" mentality, when it continues to colonize people and both pillages and kills the people and their land something is going to happen. I, however, must have believed that retaliation to the American people would occur within the boundaries of the countries that America had colonized--never here! > > As for the question of how can we help to bring about world > peace? I personally feel > that we as a people must stop and question what the > dominant discourse is telling us > through its leaders and its media. On a daily basis, we are > told that we must put an end > to these terrorist fundamentalists and yet we are never > told that we have terrorist > fundamentalists in the US. For example, Amos Oz, noted > author and Israeli peace > activist, (in a speech aired on KPFK during the week of > 1/7/02) says that there is no > difference between those in the US who bomb and > subsequently kill people at the > abortion clinics simply because they have a different > philosophy from someone else, > and those who bombed the World Trade Center. > > We must, also, keep ourselves well informed and well read. > We must never be afraid > to speak if we disagree or believe that an individual is > believing the language of the > dominant discourse. We must realize that our educational > system has egregiously > failed us by neither teaching us to think critically nor to > respect people for what they > are--human beings. > > In other words, we must, as the fundamentalists tell us, BE > VIGILANT. I am grateful, > on a daily basis, that I have the dearhabermas site to help > me to keep well informed. > > Restorative > justice http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/restorajust03.htm > > Pat reminds us of the convolutions in thinking as we struggle to > weigh the facts that simply refuse > to be pinned down as we study the many perspectives. I, like > Pat, have been grateful for the site, > for it continually forces me to consider new aspects, as we try > to respond in good faith to all the > perspectives and validity claims that pop up in the course of > our discussions. > > This also forced me to expand my range of reading, as I > discovered how many questions I could > not answer in good faith. This had the effect of giving the > students curricular control, for there are > issues I would not have hunted for, but for their questions. > > Segwa Revisited: Learning with our kids by Patricia Acone > > Good Morning! On PBS's Segwa, this morning's segment > illustrated how people in > Moslem countries live, their holidays (Ramadan), their laws > (the Koran), and so forth. > Even though it is a children's program some adults could > learn much from it. There > are segments of Segwas several times a day (consult your > local tv guide - always > wanted to say that, ha, ha). > > Segwa Revisited http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/islam03.htm > > This issue seems so deceptively simple, yet it is not. We have > found over the course of the growth > of our virtual community that learning demands sharing. Most of > us have children in our lives. And > most of us take time from those children for our studies and our > "serious" adult work. We have > found it to be a measure of respect when we take time from our > studies to share these issues with > them. They do have much to say, and they do respond to the respect. > > Our site helps by just such odds and ends of information as Pat > sends us here. I would never have > found Segwa, for there are no young children in the household to > watch it. Now, I can make it a > point to turn to PBS' program for young guests and for myself. > Again, we are sharing in the task of > locating curriculum for all of us. > > what a small world it is! by Kerry Partika > > Hi Jeanne, > Hope that your break is going well. thanks so much for the > oscar that you awarded me. > it really made my day. anyway, you won't believe this > one... my mom was reading her > fiance's christmas cards today, and she read one from one > of his old college friends. > she started to think how familiar everything in the > newsletter inside the card was > sounding when she realized that she was reading stuff about > dear habermas and things > that she had heard me talking about. turns out, the card > was from susan takata!! isn't > that so funny! what a small world it is! i thought that you > would get a kick out of that. i > think that i will email her that story and introduce > myself. well, have a nice weekend. > talk to you soon. Kerry > > what a small world it is! > http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/jclsw02.htm#kerry > > Kerry notes the special delight of realizing that we're out > there in the real world. We bump into > one another in the strangest places. That not only adds to our > delight in each other, but it brings > home another perspective of empowerment. By venturing out there, > by sending a message out > into the unknown, we find others. We're stretching the edges of > our community. > > Thanks for saying it, Kerry by Susan Takata > > jeanne, > > is the focus only on the WTC and sept 11th or the related > tragedies at the pentagon > and in pennsylvania? (the tragedies as a whole). the one i > would like added (i think i > pulled the file for you among the list of things i went > through yesterday and emailed to > you) was my first interaction with kerry when she emailed > orlando (took the initiative > to find his email) and email her condolences. and my > reaction was how neat because i > still haven't emailed him (it's hard to find the words, > especially the right words). > actually i've been meaning to email or better yet, write to > orlando to explain where the > students' emails are coming from and how he in his own way > helped my students at > UWP and i better understand fellman in practice, when > rodriguez urged peace, not > revenge in his editorial in the ny daily news. > > susan > > p.s. maybe in emailing this to you, i've hit my 300 words! > > Thanks for saying it, > Kerry http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/thnkkerry.htm > > Susan's message tells us quite a lot about our community. > First of all, she's a professor > at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. Second, she was > once, long ago, my student. > Third, she shares with all of us, across the country, > across issues. And like all of us, > she's juggling to fit everything in. Hence, the reference > to 300 words. In alerting this > workgroup I noted that Students for International Peace and > Justice said they would > accept an essay as brief as 300 words. > > Again, that may seem trivial. But most of us are caught in > hectic schedules, and torn > by many allegiances. The offer to accept brief excerpts > means that we can somehow fit > the project in. And that speaks to class. We are grateful > that there is a chance to have > our work recognized, even though we cannot plunge into it > to the exclusion of other > demands. > > Susan also reminds us that words are not always easy to > come by. Kerry had a safer > distance for writing. She did not know Orlando. Susan did. > And found it much harder to > find words. This willingness to cross the traditional > faculty/student barriers means that > we come to see each other differently. These are some of > the ways in which we need > to share tasks with our students, not clapping erasers on > the blackboard, or the > greenboard as it may be. > > You never told Habermas? by Rebecca McLaughlin ("Mac") > > "Yes, it's true. We never told him. He doesn't like > electronic communication. Old > school elite, you know. I never had the courage in the old > days. And then we're just > ordinary folks, doing discourse. I guess I figured that > people like Habermas don't talk > to people like me." > > You never told Habermas? > http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/others09.htm > > Mac has hit the nail on the head. This business of exclusion > really hurts, on every level where it > pops up its ugly head. Although we've been struggling to > understand Habermas, and to cherish his > optimism that somehow humans can co-exist in this new world > order, we still retain the scars of not > being part of an elite scholarly institution. To some extent > that just means we don't have enough > discretionary time to pursue our research. But to a much greater > extent it means that we've > internalized the labelling of academic rank. > > Maybe once that made sense of some kind. But today it speaks > mostly of excluding those who lack > the advantage of access to the hallowed halls of elite > institutions. The academy has long cherished > a hierarchical system that fosters arrogance and exclusion. And > once it could afford to. No longer. > As we face the new empire, or the new world order, arrogance and > exclusion are recognized and > challenged. Today, legitimacy would seem to demand that all have > access to the critical thought > that establishes and maintains policy. > > Because we are not yet ready to debate all the finer points of > Habermas' theory, I made the > unstated assumption that Habermas would not be interested in > what we were doing. In that, I > disrespected myself, and applied that label of disrespect to our > students. These are the slippery > slopes we need to beware of as we fight the battles of arrogance > and dominance. It's hard to > believe enough in ourselves to understand that anticipating the > arrogance that will exclude us > disrespects all of us, and reflects a psychological life space > that expects doors once closed to > remain closed, and is complicit through denying the validity of > trying the door once again. > > Worse than that, one of the Habermas sites calls us an > inaccurately named site. I guess we don't > get to be a real Habermas site unless we write more advanced > theory. So I'm working on it. We > really did start out with Habermas, and we really do keep > struggling to get through all his books. > There just wasn't enough time to do that and manage to summarize > and develop teaching > exercises for undergraduates. And teach four courses a semester. > > This points up even more the need for allowing participation to > those who are not smiled upon by > the academic ranking system. And that reminds me that I must not > in turn disrespect my students > and the creative production of their thoughts. That means that I > need to not be complicit in the > hierarchical system of believing that my students may not find > wholly new ways of approaching > social issues, if I grant them the respect of listening to their > ideas in good faith. We may no longer > have "enough room at the top," but we have a desperate need for > creative innovation in dealing > with social problems and issues. > > Making it and staying in touch by Victor Rodriguez > > Subject: Hello > > Hi Jeanne, How are you? I was your student for 3 classes > and i graduated from > CSUDH last year....I'm currently working as an Associate > Producer for NBC > Telemundo, and I just want to thank you for all your > help...God bless you...Victor > > Making it and staying in touch . . > . http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/makingit001.htm > > Victor makes the point that teachers often forget that students > really want to learn. Victor's > knowledge of where to find the site and of our genuine interest > in each other meant the site was > still available to him, and the community thus still benefits > from his participation. And I recall when > it was like pulling teeth to convince Victor to write e- mail! He > was in classes several semesters > ago, when we were still just barely learning how to create this > virtual community. > > I apologize for not communicating frequently . . . by Nyree Berry > > "Hello, jeanne > > Happy New Year, I hope all is well. I apologize for not > communicating frequently when > I was in Jamaica for the spring semester, However due to > the extreme > underdevelopment my access to email was limited. I was > living on a campus and the > access to television radio, Internet, electricity was very > limited, and the only way I was > able to contact home was a collect call to my parents' > house. I truly apologize for not > communicating with you. However the experience was > wonderful, and I introduced > several methods that I learned in your classes to the > students that I was teaching. It > was awesome to see students taking notes and remembering > things that I mentioned > in a class session." > > I apologize for not communicating frequently . . > . http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/trust02.htm > > > Nyree's contribution illustrates the extent to which we trust > one another. But for this virtual > community, I would howl about a student failing to check in. > Nyree knows that. But she also knows > that I abhor structural violence. In an elite world, in which > technology and access are possible, we > assume that that is always the case. As Nyree reminds me here, > it sometimes isn't the case. Her > manner of pleading the case suggests that we have dealt with the > issues of structural violence, and > learned to listen to one another and try to understand the other > perspective. That is the kind of > trust in which learning can flourish. And she notes that in her > pleading. > > Trust is not easy to come by . . . by Marlene Veliz > > On Monday, December 4, 2000, Marlene wrote: > > Hi Jeanne, I am writing to you to express my feelings > towards the class on Tuesday > night. > > I was very frustrated to see the discourse going on among > the black students mainly > because that monopolization of the discourse made it seem > as if they are the only ones > discriminated against. The truth is otherwise, us Latinos > are also discriminated > against. > > Latinos are also sent to prison unjustly. I can honestly > say this because I have a > relative who has been in prison for five years for no > reason. He was sentenced for 12 > years and was charged with no evidence, nothing was proven > against him, but since > the case was against a white person he was bound to lose. > Latinos are also > discriminated against by police officers. Whenever a police > officer sees a Latino > driving a nice car or nicely dressed they assume he/she is > a drug dealer. Therefore, > they are stopped and searched. That is certainly not right. > > I perfectly understand that blacks are upset by the slavery > their ancestors went > through. But hasn't anyone stopped to think that us Latinos > were also slaves once > during the time of the conquistadores? Hasn't anyone > thought that we also have the > right to be upset, since we are living in what once used to > be Mexico before the > United States took over. I believe we also have the right > to have resentment against > many people, but we do not go around portraying it. > Mexicans are not even allowed to > cross the border to have a better style of living only > because it is so hard to survive in > Mexico. White people do not understand that the life in > Mexico is extremely hard. > Some people do not have jobs, because it is hard to find a > job, whereas here there are > plenty of jobs, but to many lazy people. > > Latinos are also discriminated against in their native > language. We are not allowed to > speak Spanish which to me is so absurd. I was told once at > my job site not to speak > Spanish. I immediately answered that my title was Bilingual > Instructional Assistant; > therefore, I had the right to speak Spanish, and even if I > didn't, I would still speak > Spanish. > > Jeanne, I guess that what I am trying to say is: Aren't we > all the same? Don't we all > bleed the same? I certainly agree with Berthena when she > said that we needed to > search for ourselves. It is obvious that we all have > feelings, and we are bound to show > them when it comes to our background. > > Jeanne, I know I am not the only Latina frustrated in class > while we are doing > discourse. So can you please refer to ethnicity instead of > blacks? Because we are all > being discriminated against. What role do we play in your > class? > > Trust is not easy to come by . . . > http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/trust01.htm#marlene2 > > On Wednesday, December 6, 2000, Araceli Mark wrote: > > I just wanted to say that the piece on "Don't we all bleed > the same?" was great. I can > understand where the writer is coming from, being a Latina > myself. I wanted to say > that many of us go through discrimination and hardships; > Blacks, Latinos, Asian, and > Native Americans. It is important to remember that many of > these groups dealt with > colonialism and racialization. To be the "Other" in a world > that is dominated by the > dominant group is very difficult. We should all try to be > open to other peoples > experiences and embrace difference. I know it is hard, but > it's a start. > > Trust is not easy to come by . . > . http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/trust01.htm#araceli > > > On Sunday, December 10, 2000, Lisette Garcia wrote: > > Hello, Jeanne > > For your Tuesday night class Marlene Veliz wrote "Don't we > all bleed the same", I > was surprised Marlene actually spoke out and said what she > felt, because I've known > her since junior high, and I know she is a little shy. So > am I. I guess that's why I never > spoke out and expressed my feelings also, which are similar > to Marlene's. However, I > don't think any ethnic or racial group should feel any > resentment for anything that > has happened in the past. Life is too beautiful to feel > pain and be hurt by things that > happened many years ago. There is a saying: "learn from > your mistakes". I think > instead of being resentful, we should learn from everyone's > mistakes and avoid trying > to live in the past. > > Yes, we have all been discriminated against, and it > probably will not stop any time > soon, but we can sure try to make a difference. Another > thing I wanted to add is that I > hope you don't feel bad about the statement that the class > discussion was mostly about > blacks, because . . . you put up work on the web and bring > up class discussions on > what we ask for or what we are interested in. Therefore, if > we are shy and don't speak > up, then you don't know what we want to learn about. I know > because I love chicano > artwork or poetry and every time I've emailed you about > that you always have work on > the website you tell me to look up about it, such as the > chicano murals, Eduardo > Galeano, and that project in Reno with Mexican students. > > Trust is not easy to come by . . > . http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/trust01.htm#lisette1 > > Marlene, Araceli, and Lisette, in this thread from over a year > ago, allow us to see the trust > growing, the support coming from others, who have learned that > they may speak with impunity. > And I learned a lot about the need to balance validity claims > over time, not just when crises > develop. > > Our Brother's Keeper . . . by Malika Shakoor > > "All people must realize that the responsibility or the > lack thereof is like throwing a > pebble in a pond. The ripples (repercussions) are > far-reaching and all will be held > accountable. all quotes appear in My Soul Looks Back, 'Less > I Forget, edited by > Dorothy Winbush Riley." > > Our Brother's Keeper . . > . http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/others10.htm > > Graduation Reflections . . . by Malika Shakoor > > Greetings Jeanne, I was so happy to see you my > "revolutionary petunia"...It was > indeed a day to remember but it still smacks of structural > violence, nevertheless I did > participate so...... > > Anyway, friend, mentor, sister, I really thought these two > quotes were appropriate: > > "Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you > will." - Marcus Garvey > > "To struggle and battle and overcome and absolutely > defeat every force > designed against us is the only way to achieve." - > Nanny Burroughs > > The first is for all of us, regardless of race, creed or > color. The second is symbolic of > the battles you've fought and taught us to fight. Have a > wonderful summer...by the way > will you be around next semester? > > Graduation > Reflections http://www.csudh.edu/dearhabermas/strctviol09.htm > > Malika reflects here the sharing, the caring that holds us all > together. As usual, she quotes for us. > And she recognizes that peace involves battles. We're not all > gentle, peace loving. We understand > the complicity of denial and the need to say "NO" and mean it. > > Malika's final "by the way will you be around next semester?" is > also typical of our community. We > stay in touch. Especially through the site. It gives us a home > base where we know ourselves to be > safe. It worked during the "nine/eleven" crisis. And it seems to > work for us over time and over > space. We would like to see it work for student/ faculty/ > community groups all over the globe. > > > ****** > > Curriculum Vitae: > > Jeanne Curran, Ph.D., Esq. is Professor of Sociology at California > State University, Dominguez Hills. Susan Takata, Ph.D., is Professor of > Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. All of the students who > participated in this essay were students at one of these universities and > members of Curran and Takata's classes. All share in the writing of the > materials posted on the Weekly Journal: Dear Habermas, A Journal of > Postmodern and Critical Thought Devoted to Academic Discourse on Peace and > Justice . > > Would there be space for footnotes and bibliography? Could we add those? >
Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, July 2004.
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