I finished Watership Down today – after a few fairly intense books it was a nice change of pace; not that it doesn’t have an intensity of its own, and some particularly fierce parts, but it also had some good folk-tale-telling and charming British rabbit drama.
I had wondered if it would work for me or if it would be one of those books that just doesn’t resonate with you if you don’t first come to it at a younger age. I’m sure that if I’d read it or had it read to me when I was a kid or young adult it would’ve had that extra layer of potency that stories only have when you encounter them at a young age, but it was absolutely affecting.
I loved Hazel – there was something particularly moving about how he started the book without any ambition at all to become a chief rabbit – and in fact he never actually developed that ambition, he just stepped into the role when it became clear that it was needed. He was a rabbit who did what was needed, without fuss or fanfare. He just did it.
I also loved Hyzenthlay, though she didn’t have as much to do as I would’ve liked – I hadn’t really expected a strong, sensible female character to be in the mix, so I was pleasantly surprised when she entered the story.
The willingness of the rabbits to leave behind what they knew in order to find, build and fight for something better also resonated with me. It definitely isn’t a tidy parallel for immigration – the rabbits were forming their own, completely new, society, rather than joining an existing one. But it’s not hard lately to get me thinking about the journeys of people who leave their lives behind in order to find, build and fight for something better.
Listening to Pod Save the People teaches me so much with every episode – and makes me think so much. Recently he talked about how many families that include undocumented people face the need to establish plans for their children – what to do if they get deported. Which of course they would – it’s just one of the many things that hadn’t occurred to me. I can’t even imagine.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how, while my form of social action is volunteerism and education more than protest, I’m open to doing more protest as well – but I listen to someone like DeRay, who has engaged in so much protest and has gotten arrested for it multiple times, and I think, you know, for the most part, the kinds of protest opportunities that come up in my town are pretty unlikely to result in me getting arrested – a vaguely hipsterish white woman in her late 30s at some big “March for … ” event or even at a Planned Parenthood protest probably isn’t super likely to end up spending any time in jail. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but it’s not something I’ve particularly felt any trepidation about.
The kinds of protests where you know going in that getting arrested is a distinct possibility haven’t been a part of my experience as of yet, which has made me think, what would I be willing to get arrested for? What kind of protest would I go to even if I thought I could potentially end up in trouble for it?
The Hispanic center that I volunteer for serves a population that includes undocumented people. I don’t know, among my students, who is documented and who isn’t – one student has told me about the process he went through to become a citizen so I know his situation, and I’m always glad to learn more about their experiences when they want to talk but it’s certainly not something I ask them about. These are people I spend time with a couple times a week and who have become friends, and I know that some of them live with the possibility of being deported.
If ICE came to the center? If I were in a position where I could either stand up for my students or step aside? I hope that I’d be willing to get arrested for that. Mostly I hope that it never happens, but it could, and I hope that I’d be up to it. I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket – the thought of getting arrested terrifies me. Sitting here writing a blog post it’s easy to say that yes, of course I’d stand up – and I hope that that’s true.
One a recent episode DeRay talked about how he doesn’t want to protest, he doesn’t want to get arrested, he’s done what was necessary – and, it’s a theme, I have so much admiration for people who just do what needs to be done. I hope I could do what was necessary, too.
(Did I just bring this full circle by comparing one of the things I admire about DeRay to what I admired about Hazel? I think I did.)