Today, I wandered from the course of my walk to class over to the Pylons on Virginia Tech’s campus. “I See Fire” by Ed Sheerhan was blasting on my iPod, and the sky was blue enough that the sun toasted my shoulders and my back as the chilly breeze hit my face. I sat down at the end, with my feet dangling over the War Memorial Chapel. I wondered if anyone had wandered into there to think quietly about the shootings seven years ago, as I was almost inclined to do. I chose the sun though, and the panoramic view of the Drillfield, and Burruss, and the students gathered around the memorial of the 32 lives that were lost on April 16, seven years ago.
Right before this, I had accidentally come upon a display of various letters, collages, and projects that people, organizations, and school had sent from all around the world. The first that I saw was from an Afghan women’s association. Somewhere in the official letter of condolence was a shared commitment against violence in the global community, and most notably, they claimed to stand with Virginia Tech in solidarity.
An elementary school made one hundred beautiful cranes with bright colored paper, and a note explaining that a story they had read taught them that if you make 100 cranes, you get to make a wish. They offered Virginia Tech the cranes, and also the wish. Another letter from a university in Ireland, which shared its commitment, and familiarity with violence, and explained that universities all across the world are beacons of knowledge and creativity. In the letter, it said that the students there, in Ireland, shard our pain and suffering as Hokies. Another from the Prime Minister of Tasmania, offered his help in any way, shape or form, explaining there was a similar incident at a school in his country, and that also, he shared the pain of our loss.
Michelle Obama told us to be proud, to serve our nation as Hokies. Nikki Giovanni perhaps created a Virginia Tech nationalism in and of itself, claiming, WE are Virginia Tech! She shared universal experiences of senseless violence of natural disaster, political violence, and poverty around the world.
I sat on the Pylons and that word kept ringing in my mind: Solidarity.
In political science, we talk about community a lot. Never though, do we use the word solidarity. Community and solidarity are different words. A community is a thing, usually a place, or a group of people. You can’t have A solidarity though; there IS solidarity. A community is a group that is tied through geography, shared interests, language, culture, religion, a government maybe. Solidarity happens; it is a unity of people within a community, a shared sense of responsibility to the community interest. When I think of solidarity, I think of a sort universalism that connects individuals; something that moves them to action, or at least, moves them to commitment.
I think of the the picture (that as Hokies we have all seen) of the candle light vigil that took place after the shootings, and I see all of those lights, all of those Hokies, and it almost brings tears to my eyes. I feel like I know them, I feel like I am standing there with them, in solidarity.
On April 16 we all stand in solidarity against senseless violence, against evil, we stand in solidarity for the innocent, for the 32 to people who we mourn the loss of, even though we never met them. They are family, they are Hokies. The 32 people we lost seven years ago today, they would have done the same for me, or for you.
Invention, Serving, and standing in solidarity are things that Hokies do every day. We also go to TOTS, we sit with our feet dangling over War Memorial Chapel and breathe in the Southwestern Virginia air and watch other Hokies crossing the Drillfield, back and forth. We sit in the early hours of the morning, studying in the dim light and quiet atmosphere of Torg Bridge. We bustle through Dining halls to get to that freaking AMAZING food. We jump up and down A LOT at football games, and scream and chant and tailgate. We Relay For Life, we get involved in the community at Big Event. So many girls at Virginia Tech have babysat William for free. A baseball player gave William his lucky glove. The Hokie bird sat patiently in the heat for five minutes as William tried to teach him how to unwrap a lollipop (due to being confused about why the Hokie Bird wasn’t eating the lollipop William had given him). Professors have brought in children’s books that their children were done with so I could read them to William. Another professor hugged me in her office as I cried about how hard it was to be a single parent. Young men who live in my apartment complex have moved my furniture, helped me with groceries, and caught william by his hood as he has tried to escape on his bike behind my back! Today I am just feeling to incredibly lucky to be a Hokie. I am so lucky to go to Virginia Tech, and raise William in this community. I could hardly ever return to this place what it has given to me. It is more than being a part of a community, but having a commitment to this community, a stake in its well being, and a responsibility to its value. If that isn’t solidarity in some form, I don’t know what is.
Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with Beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
BUT, the rage of traveling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action.”