a walk in the park

i have been pretty unplugged for the last week.  instead i’ve been digging into the heady tastes of occupy charlottesville, with a brief interlude to zuccotti park.  and there are so many stories to tell.  and i will, i promise.  

last night kassia and i took roberto and paxus down to lee park, to the site of occupy charlottesville.  i hadn’t been there since the night before, when i’d had a confrontation with a drunken homeless man.  it was frustrating, because i’d had a positive experience of the same man earlier in the day.  but when he came to help kassia and i rescue a nice desk out of a dumpster, he immediately started expressing frustration and anger at the “girls” whose stupid idea it was to move the desk in the first place.  he continued to go on about what a “girl” thing it was, to underestimate the weight of the desk and decide to carry it from the dumpster and to the park across the street.  at one point, kassia and i were clear with him that his language was offensive and disrespectful and we asked him to stop.  he did not and when we got to the park, another man enthusiastically ran to help and i told the frustrated man we’ll call lorenz that he could stop carrying it with us.

fuming a bit from the experience of being so clearly disrespected based on our sex, and being met by uncaring and more disrespect, kassia and i noticed lorenz engaging with another woman.  she looked pretty defensive, arms across her chest, not looking him directly in the eye.  and he continued to creep into her personal space, not seeming to hear or listen to her.  kassia and i checked in, just to make sure they were both still interested in engaging in the conversation.  immediately, lorenz backed away and got defensive, saying that he didn’t want to be persecuted by the women’s group.  when we tried to clarify why we were stepping in, he got angry.  i re-explained the experience kassia and i’d had carrying the desk with him.  he didn’t seem to be listening and i started yelling at him.  at which point he stepped towards me, aggressively.  fortunately, another man stepped in between us.

an emergency meeting was called, lorenz offered to leave and started to walk off when another man in the group stopped him.  at this point i was pretty highly triggered.  forgetting lorenz i started to charge across the circle formation we were in towards the large male peace activist stopping lorenz from leaving.  someone must have said something in surprise that stopped me.  i walked back to my spot in the circle a little confused about what was happening and crying the whole time.  evan continued to speak, saying that there were just some hurt feelings and we needed to calm down.  i wanted to scream at him that, no, i didnt have hurt feelings, that i was feeling unsafe with a man who was drunk and clearly not respecting people’s boundaries.  this was not about hurt feelings, this was about having experienced different levels of violence from men all my life and not being okay letting someone into the space who couldn’t listen and respect boundaries.  we continued to work out our experiences and needs in the circle and eventually lorenz did leave.

i’d been planning on sleeping out that night, but then really just needed to go home to my own space.  the experience, though relatively minor, had triggered a lot of anxiety and fury.  afterwards another woman told me i was her hero for the day.  that she may not have fully agreed with me, but when she saw me bypass the small drunk guy and charge straight at the big guy, she’d been proud.  and i have to say i am appreciative of my ability to express my anger in the moment, which is something i havent been able to do before.  after talking a little and being dubbed hero, i too left.

later that night i got a call from one woman, checking in on me.  and the next day i had a simple heart posted on my wall by another woman.  so when we were talking about taking the boys to see lee park last night i was only a little hesitant.  but then, the way i was welcomed back.  as soon as pax and i got there i got a handful of hugs and many more hello sara’s and how are you doings.  and i was refreshed.  reminded that the most beautiful thing the occupy movement is doing is building spaces where people come together and take care of each other.  where we care for each other and listen to each other in deeper ways than we’re allowed to in our current society.  i dont want any demands, i just want to keep building these spaces and moving them from parks and into more permanent places.  and then we’ll be building that new world we actually want to live in.  more soon from the occupy world.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paxus
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 03:20:07

    What comes up for me is that you want to go back, you want to talk to the drunk guy again (when he is not drunk) and try to make it work, even though it is clear he has trouble listening. This is why this stuff is so important, because it makes us more human. It knocks me out of my “oh i can write this person off” place, like with the gal who was going to get the Tea Party and Occupy folks together.

    More stories, we want more stories.

    Reply

  2. EvanK
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 15:10:23

    Hey,

    Evan here. I had been talking to the offending drunk man in question for two days, trying to help him get into the VA system for homeless veterans, in order to address his substance abuse problems. He tried to apologize to you several times, I think, but I am not sure you were listening. Anyway, he probably did cross the line in his interacting with you that night, but you also did too. I think that anger, from anybody toward anything, including violence, is destructive to the group. I have learned this in my many years as a veteran for peace, being arrested and in jail, as well as being confronted and having my life and family threatened for my activism.

    So I am not sure if you are aware, but I had Lorenz arrested on Wed night after being belligerent, drunk and a clear nuisance. The consensus among the people who were awake at that late hour was to call the authorities, as he had been warned repeatedly for misbehaving. He is currently in the drunk tank detoxing, and probably plotting revenge on me personally.

    More importantly, I would give you some advice as a budding activist about anger. It seems to me judging from your own remarks about dealing with violence from patriarchy in the past that you were reacting not to Lorenz as an individual, but in anger to something much bigger and almost entirely separate from Lorenz himself. I understand this, as I used to heap abuse upon my fellow soldiers in anger over the war in Iraq. While the anger may be justified, the expression of it is not. The expression of Anger, according to Gandhi, has no place in social movements, as it serves only to weaken the cause.

    Also, you mentioned that night that you felt unsafe, threatened by Lorenz. I wonder why then you decided to intervene in his interactions with another woman? If I were afraid of someone, I would remove myself from the situation or immediately address it to the group. Possibly you should not intervene in the affairs of someone who makes you feel unsafe in such a manner as following him to another situation and interjecting yourself there. If you truly felt unsafe, you should probably have called that to the attention of the group before and not after allowing yourself to escalate the situation.

    Anyway, Lorenz has been dealt with by those of us who were trying to help him, in a way that was completely unambiguous ideologically. Also, I prefer to consider myself as a Veteran for Peace and not as an ex-military man, as I have been trained in nonviolent communication and facilitation. Might I suggest that you try to avoid using labels in your inner dialogue that trigger violent imagery, ideological anger, or other negative feelings? I for instance, don’t think of my army friends as baby-killers, but as misguided and dehumanized individuals who have been forced into violence with violence. It makes me much more tolerant toward them. When you see the world in terms of patriarchal violence, it might make you very angry, and I would hate to see you “go to the dark side of the force.”

    Sincerely
    Evan Knappenberger

    Reply

  3. Kristina
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 22:02:35

    I feel moved to share a few wee thoughts myself. The dialogue here is rich and complex, and much of it resonates. As a survivor of patriarchal / sexual violence, I feel a sense of empathy and understanding of the rage, the need to express it, and of the way of seeing that witnesses structures of violence made visible at moments like these. I recognize the need to meet fear with solidarity, to stand up for another woman even in the midst of the most challenging emotions. As someone who is white, friends of color over the years have spoken to me about how they may not always dwell in the experience of racism at every moment or in every space, but that they nonetheless experience those structures of racism and white supremacy to be very real and very powerful at moments when violence, however subtle or overt, manifests or threatens to manifest. It is challenging to wrap one’s mind around this, especially when I have perpetuated or perpetrated those moments, and especially because of the complexities of oppression and repression we all navigate. For those who can see clearly those structures, especially from inside them, anger can be a positive and constructive force if skillfully applied.

    And, as the sister of a fallen soldier, I was saddened by the characterization of Evan as “ex-military man” because of the images and expectations of binary positions that phrase conjured for me. When my brother died a violent death in Afghanistan, I journeyed much further into his world than I had ever dared to go. The most precious thing I learned — learned in my body/heart rather than my intellect — was that his acts in battle were motivated by love for his soldiers and for his family. Whatever the other complexities, love was possible and alive even at war. Whereas in the past I saw his livelihood only in terms of violence, misguided choices, or dehumanization, now I see a fuller human experience and even an interbeing with his path. Now, when I approach work for peace and justice, I want to learn from the best qualities of the warrior, to learn how to ground this work in honor and in love for the people who journey with me. How would a cultivation of fierce loving kindness, towards oneself as well as others, shift these structures we navigate and perpetuate? I don’t know, but it’s a direction I want to explore.

    I am speaking for myself here. I am grateful that Sara’s blog has provided a space for dialogue, and a space for me to share from my particular position – a survivor, a perpetrator, a sister of war, a would be practitioner of peace. It would be exciting if Occupy Charlottesville can create deliberate spaces for this kind of exchange.

    love and solidarity –
    kristina

    Reply

    • EvanK
      Oct 21, 2011 @ 04:00:35

      Kristina,

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I am so sorry you had to suffer through the violence of our culture in so many ways. I hope you can heal through activism.

      Evan

      Reply

  4. Sara Tansey
    Oct 21, 2011 @ 13:28:56

    Dear Evan and Kristina,

    Thank you for calling me out on the way i’ve played into stereotypes to dramatize my experience. In wanting to create the juxtaposition of evan and myself, i let myself use the term ex military in an uncaring and poorly considered way. Evan, as you wished, i edited the references to peace activist. And i do appreciate you as a person who is living beyond his experiences and from his experiences and contributing to the creation of new possibilities in occupy cville and other ways.

    And what i wanted to express as my triumph was my unwillingness to be unheard. When Lorenz wasnt hearing me, i yelled. I was angry in ways i’ve never let myself be angry before. And i genuinely tried to engage with Lorenz, because i’m more interested in engaging oppressive behavior as i see it, than to let it be taken care of by someone else. I wanted Lorenz to understand what was going on for me so we could dialogue about how to interact differently. He didn’t make me feel unsafe until he stepped towards me at the very end of our interaction, just before we called the group circle. And my reaction to Lorenz was two fold, he had proven to me that he couldnt respect me or listen to me and that he was unwilling to engage with my criticisms. At that level i was reacting to Lorenz. And i was certainly triggered by old violences and reacting to the larger level of male violence against women.

    And evan, i was triggered into that by your actions also. Which is why i rushed towards you. To be told by a man whose never experienced that sort of gendered violence, i was furious that you were delegitimizing my upset. I appreciated your care taking for Lorenz and i was angry about your dismissal of my experience as hurt feelings. I did not have hurt feelings. It was a very different thing.

    And when that level of silencing and that level of disrespect happen within the space we’re trying to create at lee park, i want to call it out. I don’t want to let those oppressions exist comfortably in our new social structures. And I want help making the experience of calling out oppression more useful for everyone involved, have the vocabulary to talk to each other in those ways and create something better together.

    Thanks for commenting and listening,
    sara

    Reply

  5. EvanK
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 02:12:19

    Sara
    thank you so much for being a part of the occupation. you bring a valid and valuable wealth of wisdom all your own. I am glad to be working with you and I sincerely apologize if I have ever acted poorly in the group. Thank you for listening also.
    Evan

    Reply

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