I am horrified to find that when I search for the word “violence” on this blog, one finds all too many occasions on which I’ve expressed sadness and outrage at the prevalence of mass shootings in this country. Over the last days, we add Lewiston, Maine to this sad, sad, tally. Eighteen dead, and lockdowns continue as authorities search for the killer. I am reminded of Wesleyan’s own 2009 lockdown as police searched for the murderer our beloved student Johanna Justin-Jinich, gunned down by a stalker in the Wesleyan bookstore.
So much sorrow and pain in each of the many shootings by people who never should have had access to deadly weapons. Killers bent on destruction shatter lives. As I’ve written many times over the years: We don’t have to live this way. We don’t have to make death dealing so easy.
Remember Maine and work to reduce gun violence.
This weekend we will welcome back alumni and parents for our annual Homecoming celebrations. In this horrifying context, I can understand that some will hesitate. But I remain convinced that our educational mission stands against the violence all around us. I remain convinced that by pursuing our mission, we give ourselves a better change of resisting the purveyors of lethality who would have us believe that violence is the only way forward. It is not. Education, learning, is our alternative to violence.
When we choose education, we are choosing conversation against violence; when we choose education, we are choosing meaning — rejecting (and attempting to prevent) violence. When we choose to learn, to remain perpetual students, we commit to openness, to resolving our differences through consideration and not force. Sadly, what I wrote on this blog a few years back is still relevant today:
Recent events remind us of the threats against our choice, as an educational community, for uncertainty. We are reminded of the threats against our willingness to embrace ambiguity, engage with different points of view, and to seek compromise rather than certainty. Now we mourn the fallen, and we aim to help those damaged or still threatened by attacks. And we hold fast to our choice against violence—our choice for meaning and for education.
Hold fast to our choice, celebrate the power and affection of our education. And remember.