Thursday, November 09, 2006

Knitting and Politics

I am quite the political person--even have a degree in it. I am glued to the television on election night. I have been known to weep at the results. I consider myself to be an activist. I've marched on the mall in D.C. several times. I've been to the state capital for bill-signing ceremonies. I've written letters to my state representative and to the editor. I've dragged my butt out of bed on many a cold, rainy Saturday morning to volunteer my time for various causes I care about.

I tend not to talk about it publicly much though. There are no bumper stickers on my car and no political signs in my yard.

Maybe it's my east-coast upbringing, where one did not talk of such things. Back there, it's vulgar to rant.

Maybe it's the current tolerance of shouting people down that keeps me quiet. We have this idea that people who disagree with us are stupid or unpatriotic.

Maybe it's pure despair.

Maybe it's that my job is to teach people to think critically. I can't punish students who disagree with me, and I work really hard to provide counterarguments to students who agree with me. I teach them about the danger of preaching to the choir. I urge them to find common ground, shared values. I ask them to question their assumptions. I really want them to feel passion, and I try to accept whatever that passion is.

Maybe it's just that I don't necessarily want to know how other people feel. We all like to assume that people we like and care about see the world as we do. I know that's not true of course. In some of my communities (music, dance, volunteering, my neighborhood, academia), I'm surrounded by people who think like I do. In others (civil war reenacting, quilting, various listservs, family), I assume that no one agrees with me.

Knitting? Madame Defarge was a political knitter. And I'm not sure she was such a nice person. That's an understatement actually. Classic litotes. She was a nutjob, a zealot, cold and uncaring. Her needles were weapons.

I'm glad we don't knit like Madame Defarge. I'm glad we come together to knit chemo caps, red scarves for foster kids, tiny caps for preemies, pet squares--prayer shawls and helmet liners even, if that's your thing.

Knitters across the political spectrum were knitting as they watched the election results roll in. I hope they were knitting something for someone they love deeply and passionately or knitting something for someone they'll never meet, but who will be comforted by a warm red scarf in a college care package or a soft cap on her bald head as she sits in a cold lobby, waiting her turn.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Beautifully put, but then you are preaching to the choir.