Rarely does something touch such a raw nerve as the events of this past week on UTC’s campus. And I found myself-a dude who prides himself on not letting life upset him-getting VERY upset as the situation unfolded. Then, I became more upset because I let myself get upset, and here I am writing a column about it when I’d rather just tell you about my cat. This is a BIG red flag for me. I’ll try to describe, as best I can, my feelings on the situation; they run the gamut of disgust, empathy, apathy and sadness. The whole situation sucked. Nobody won because there wasn’t a damn thing to win. Here is my spew, and then I’m done talking/thinking about it.
I interviewed street preacher Angela Cummings a few days before student Cole Montalvo was arrested,and I chose not to publish it for several reasons. For starters, she didn’t make a lick of sense, and I didn’t feel comfortable exposing that. While religious discussions are sometimes rewarding and enlightening, her particular brand of fundamentalism is far too convicted, too fire and brimstone, for a two-way conversation to take place. But despite her beliefs, I also found myself leaving our phone call with a better understanding of why she does what she does. She enters a university like UTC as a warrior for the God she believes in. The campus is a battleground, and she enjoys the “militant and frontline” approach, she said. She knows sin and wants you to know how closely she walks with God. But she also told me she lives in her car.
The world is a harsh butthole sometimes, and I hate that Montalvo had to get arrested for his convictions. It was really hard to watch him forced to the ground and cuffed. I honestly believe he had no idea why he was being detained, but I also think his actions deserved reprimand. I think something weird happens to our brains when we feel our belief systems are getting stepped on. That’s the problem with having structured beliefs: Sometimes, you have to defend them. I don’t know Montalvo personally, but of all the people upset by Cummings, he seemed to feel the need to play the hero. That makes me sad, Cole. I hope you can brush this one off and laugh about it in a few years.
What a job. Imagine getting your assignment at the start of the day, and it reads like this: “Make sure nobody disrupts the street preacher as she calls out impressionable, fired-up college students.” Can’t you just hear the long sighs? Folks, they don’t want to be there anymore than you want Cummings there, but a job is a job. I can’t believe all of the BS about “police brutality” and such that keeps spewing around. The police were more than generous with warnings, and after watching the video, I can see no evidence of the officers doing anything other than their jobs. Am I off-base? Or are you?
The most sanity I’ve heard this week came from a group calling for a day of silence on campusThursday amid all the noise. Students have reacted with loud and silent protests, anger and outrage. Others have simply ignored the situation altogether, which is the best approach to dealing with a street preacher like Cummings. As the group demonstrated Thursday, the most logical response to an in-your-face attack is to, simply, turn away. These students are aware of a spiritual ceiling that many keep hitting their heads on and refusing to operate at that level. Kudos to them! I’m reminded of the Buddhist term “metta,” which simply means “loving-kindness” or a strong wish for the well-being and happiness of all living things. This mindset has the power to transform and was missing from the situation at UTC this week.
I am upset that I let myself become so upset. The question I keep trying to wrap my head around is what part of the situation at UTC irked me to the point of needing an outlet. Part of it is pride. UTC was/is MY university, and I feel a pang in my heart when I see such mindless negativity on campus. Another part of me wants to wring a bunch of necks on all sides of the confrontation. I want to scream, “Wake up!” at the top of my lungs in all directions and tell everyone how ridiculous all of this nonsense has become. But then a part of me understands that if I did that I’d be considered just as crazy as everybody else. So from now on, I’ll just stand in a distant corner and shake my head. There’s no use getting upset about it.
Updated @ 12:10 p.m.on 11/26/13 to correct the spelling of Cole Montalvo’s name.