American Literature Revisited

You've probably read my earlier post about my Early American Literature class. I should point out that the main reason I've found it frustrating is the large class size. Also being a Bush supporter I kind of feel like an "army of one", but that's true pretty much wherever I go in Portland.

Following the election, there was a period of very lively political discussion in class. People were angry and frustrated - that's only natural, these are tense times and it's been a very intense election season. And for the first half hour or so, most of the students were going on about those "ignorant" Republicans, and all that stuff.

But then an interesting thing happened. Once folks had had a chance to get their feelings off their chests, the conversation grew more reflective. People began to question the assumptions about "red-state" voters. Several students stressed the importance of getting rid of liberal stereotypes and dogmatism. One even gave a very detailed critique of Michael Moore's "propaganda" (the student actually used that word).

All of this makes me feel very hopeful about the future of America. I didn't say anything, beyond pointing out that "not everyone in this classroom voted for the same person" (and how would I know that, unless I voted for Bush?). I could have gotten up and said "Michael Moore is a big fat stupid white man", but what would that have accomplished? The important thing was that these students understood the need for more dialogue. The young woman sitting behind me even said at one point, "I wish I could talk to a Bush supporter, and just ask them why they voted for Bush."

Because I'm outnumbered by about 40 to one in this class, I don't attempt to get into political debates, just as I don't go onto the Democratic Underground site and try to enlighten everyone there. But I'm always happy to talk with people one-on-one, and an attitude of "I'd like to hear what you have to say" is a good beginning for those conversations.

As we've discovered in class, American literature is inseparable from American politics, and you can't discuss one without the other. And neither of these things can exist unless people are willing to talk to one another - and listen. I think we're headed in the right direction.