". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bishops' Proposal - Virginia Tech

From Michael and Jeri Bishop, posted here by permission (for those who may not know, "Steffi" was Jamie's wife):

What follows is a serious proposal for the use of Norris Hall, where our son Jamie was slain along with thirty-one innocent others on April 16 in the worst school shooting in the history of our nation. It is not originally our idea, and we don't intend to claim it as ours, but we do hope to gather support for the idea of a peace center at Virginia Tech, and we hope to gather it from as many places as we possibly can. Note that our letter is followed by one from Tech alumna, Kathleen Ann Goonan, a successful science fiction novelist whose latest novel IN WAR TIMES deals in part with "the possibility of peace."

Michael & Jeri Bishop

To Whom It May Concern:

We, Michael and Jeri Bishop, the late Jamie Bishop's parents, wholeheartedly support our daughter-in-law, Stefanie Hofer, and several others in their fervent desire that at least a portion of Norris Hall can be turned into a center for the study of international peace and crime prevention -- as one component of a major effort on Virginia Tech's part to take the lead in promoting campus safety at institutions of higher learning all across the country and indeed the world.

As Steffi has repeatedly pointed out, many of those slain, physically wounded, or psychologically scarred by the events that took place on April 16 in Norris Hall were international students (or international faculty), and there could be no more fitting memorial to those who died or more fitting tribute to those who survived than to acknowledge the horror that occurred in Norris Hall and to redeem that horror by establishing, within its repainted walls, a center for the study of international peace and crime prevention.

Many currently say, and no doubt believe, that no one will ever forget that morning or the lessons implicit in it, but as a species we have to be reminded repeatedly of matters that we would prefer to forget (as is demonstrably the case with the Holocaust); thus, the total necessity of appropriating space in Norris Hall for the purposes of remembering, redeeming, and preventing further acts of the sort that killed Steffi's husband (our son) and so many other good, kind, and productive people that we cringe before the raging bonfire of so much loss.
We intend no slight to, or diminution of the importance of, the concept of Norris Hall as an engineering facility; we recognize its significance to the engineering program and applaud the fact that no one wants to completely decommission the building. However, we think it crucial to champion the equally vital notion that only two or three classrooms in the building devoted to the study of international peace and crime prevention would stand as a permanent, proactive memorial and as a bold statement that we can not only learn from past horrors but also take steps to prevent them and better our world for everyone. We understand all too well that some people disparage this vision as naive and Pollyannish, but we argue just as vehemently that if figures as naive and Pollyannish as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela had not put forward their powerful ameliorating visions, the world would today be a poorer, less just, and more violent place than it currently is.

We would like to relay these sentiments to all those discussing the fate of Norris Hall and instrumental in making decisions connected with its future use. We would also like to acknowledge that taking this visionary step will pose difficult financial, organizational, and teaching challenges, but that the benefits accruing to Virginia Tech, our country, and the world from accepting and overcoming these challenges would outweigh almost all the costs and attendant struggle. Some of these benefits would perhaps be intangible, especially at first, but they would not be trivial or merely symbolic. They would include a clear communication of the fact that Virginia Tech intends to do something concrete and coherent to redeem the events of April 16 (not only for itself but also for other universities, colleges, and educational plants around the world), and an authoritative daily proclamation that through vision and effort even the most intractable of human problems can be taken apart, diagnosed, and treated. Greatly daring, we assert that this approach to establishing peace and preventing crime even has a conspicuous engineering element wholly in line with the original provenance of Norris Hall.
Forgive this small treatise, but we wish to lay before you and others not only the heartfelt rationale behind our proposal but also our passionate conviction that this idea will prove practical, doable, and beneficial. Even if others demur and even if it must start humbly, we envision this center growing incrementally in size and impact until it works, and goes on working, positive measurable change in the world at large. This we propose in remembrance and redemption of an April morning too dreadful to forget.

Michael and Jeri Bishop

No comments: