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Vo l . 6 N o . 2 on winter travel plans or stockpiling wood, and the other physical realities of preparing for a northern winter. I learned about Davis’ death sitting alone at a government computer in the middle of Denali National Park. It was eleven pm in Georgia, seven in Alaska, and Democracy Now! narrated the execution on Twitter. As Gay wrote, “The fairly closed circle of a Twitter feed can be deceptive…On the day Troy Davis died, most of my friends were sharing their outrage and sorrow. We felt helpless. We were helpless.” I cried at the injustice. I posted a transcript of Davis’ last words with my own network. When I left the office and rejoined the small group gathered in my partner’s summer work home, celebrating the end of summer and friends’ impending moves, I said nothing about Davis. I could come and go from that deceptive circle of outrage and sorrow as I pleased. The office window behind the computer overlooks a wide river valley, and a mountain whose peak was hidden in the clouds. Fall colors had mostly faded to brown, but a few stands of willows in the narrow drainages still held golden leaves. It was dusk, and raining a soft, cold, drizzly rain. When I think now about Troy Davis’ death, I see that mountain, half-hidden by slow-moving clouds, hazy through the rain. I see the braided river, its flow reduced to trickles of clear water as the mountains freeze. So I’m not really thinking about Troy Davis’ death, I’m thinking about reading about Troy Davis’ death. I’m thinking about a mountain that he never saw. I’m thinking about me. I do sometimes miss the actual, social communities that activism, as I experienced it, created. I miss being part of a group of people for whom a belief in the necessity of systematic change is a given, and the discussion was about methodology of change rather than legitimacy of the belief. I started college a year after 9/11, and quickly found my kindreds among the groups of students, professors, Quakers, and anarchist desert rats who spent their evenings discussing boycotts, sit-ins, marches, and sabotage. I met some of my closest friends baking (vegan!) “cookies for social justice,” and for a short time had a boyfriend who read to me from The Communist Manifesto. We made zines and spraypainted stenciled raised fists on sidewalks, and I took to eating cheese in secret, biking to out-of-the-way cafes for cheesecake lest the vegans see me. Maybe I’ve romanticized my memories of public protest the same way I romanticize other city activities, like reading in coffee shops. Now, when I do that I end

53 up wishing for my own mugs, my own music, my own solitude. Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming too much of a curmudgeon for the revolution, and then I search for an article addressing that particular problem. Eventually, even if it’s gray and damp and cold, I stop reading. I drift outside. Even in October, there are so many other things to do at home, like make food, go to work, or don’t go to work, chop wood. Squint into the flat gray sky and watch for the snowflakes that will inevitably fall and transform the landscape. The night my faith in student activism died, five of us cooked vegan adaptations of Russian dishes—borscht, vinegar-soaked potatoes, and dry, salty biscuits—to serve the next evening at a screening of a documentary on the inhumane conditions in Eastern European women’s prisons. I was twenty-one, privileged, and deeply invested in a campaign to bring down Lehman Brothers for their involvement in the Arizona private prison industry as well as underwriting bonds for the state’s universities. Lehman’s demise seemed impossible at the time. Conversation flitted from one cause to another, and someone suggested we lock ourselves to the University administration’s front door in the morning. We’d need bike U-locks, and a message. At the time, the most readily available message related to the connections between the Iraq war and rising tuition costs, which was always a solid fallback, and the cheapest bike locks were sold at Wal-Mart. We cleaned the kitchen, and despite my feeble protests, the five of us piled into one car and set out for the big box store whose practices we regularly spoke out against. “Is giving money to Wal-Mart really the best option?” I asked. One woman sighed, and said, as if we were filming a commercial for the store, “Erica, where else do you think we’re going to get cheap bike locks in the middle of the night?” She had a point. I said I wasn’t going to lock myself up this time. I had my afternoon tutoring job to go to, and then the Russian documentary, and it just wasn’t a good day for me to spend two pointless hours locked to a door. The others bought their ten dollar U-locks. In the morning, I stopped by the administration building on the way to work to see my friends, who were smiling with the locks around their necks. I felt a little left out. In Gioconda Belli’s memoir of her role as a poetrevolutionary in the Nicaraguan Sandinista movement, she wrote of a conversation with a friend who wanted to help

Profile for Michael Burwell

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Profile for burwellm
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