Avery Jephson-Browne - College of Education
Turbulent Albuquerque wind whips the banner unpredictably; now it is tauntingly calm, now it decides to challenge his grip on that bit of cloth. He knows how tricky the wind is, however, and is ready for this sudden change. It is a game they are always playing, and each participant resigns himself to a struggle for the banner which is supported by the two. Fortunately, their resignation allows each to go about his life without worrying too much about this particular conflict; in fact, wind and man are each so devoted to their causes that each seeks such comforting resistance. To have such dedicated resistance validates each one’s cause.
Certainly more than the faceless multitudes of vehicles which drive by, indifferent to the timeless struggle and determination found in the scene that flashes by them before disappearing again into irrelevance.
The wind doesn’t mind the cold indifference of these passing cars. After all, their reaction is the same as that of everything else in the city. In fact, they aren’t so bad; at least cars are affected by the wind’s efforts on occasion –unlike the stark buildings which refuse to acknowledge his presence. His object is, has been, and always will be change: social change, economic change, physical change, mode change, and reality change. But not self change. The wind does not change its basic nature –which is the nature of change- nor its methods. The indifferent cars may be countless at this location, but they are countless throughout the city, so why should this location of his most consistent resister be any different? He changes directions quickly, but the man is as prepared as ever, and doesn’t even feel the need to shift his footing. The man’s object is also to bring about change, but he is going about it in the wrong manner. It is foolish and self-defeating to attempt to bring about external change while resisting personal change! His routine is now part of the status quo, and as such, it is invalidating its own status as an agent of change. And so the wind determines to prove this point by ripping the man’s banner out of his hands and breaking the routine.
He doesn’t see it that way. This place is different, because he has chosen it to be the location at which he makes his stand. The spot on which he stands has ceased to be a space and is now a place. The sidewalk itself is unexceptional, straddling the corner of Eubank and Southern streets. However, Eubank extends south, where it is met by a security checkpoint which guards the entrance to Kirtland Air Force Base. The man is at this location because the Air Force base is the nearest and most solid representation of injustice that he can find, and he has decided to live his life fighting against injustice –or possibly for justice, though the two are not automatically inclusive. The banner –which is self-made– bears his message to the workers at the base, and so the man’s method is different from the wind’s, for the wind is focused on changing everything through constant, brute force, and couldn’t care less about convincing humans, rocks, buildings, and other staid objects to change. The man, on the other hand, is one of those “staid objects,” and as such believes that others can change willingly –well, the humans, at least. Besides, the man is nowhere near as powerful as the wind; in his perception, the forces of injustice have much more brute strength than he, and are not morally opposed to using their advantage. He braces the banner post against his shoulder as the wind increases his intensity. His steely grey eyes defiantly stare down each incoming car. The drivers who make eye contact are at times friendly but more often hostile. In either case, they quickly forget the man and his banner.
The banner itself doesn’t really mind whether or not the cars, buildings, people, societies of the world change their ways; though its inscription –“WHY WASTE A GREAT MIND ON WEAPONS WORK?”- seems to indicate otherwise. All the banner wants is for the man to untie it from the fence to which it is currently attached, roll it up around its wooden post, and leave it in peace. The banner feels itself spasm violently in a gust of wind, and the man is thrown backwards. Unfortunately for the banner and the wind, the man is not put off by this setback and remains resolute in his “peace vigil.” The irony of a peace vigil which inherently involves not leaving the banner in peace is not lost on it. The banner pities itself for being inconvenienced in such a persistent way, but is the least pitiable of the three in terms of unhappiness suffered. This is because both the wind and the man are constantly striving to have their goals met; forever hoping to make some difference, and never succeeding to a high enough degree to let themselves be satisfied. What makes this so pertinent is the fact that each knows the futility of his cause, but must continue striving. The banner, on the other hand, has a very achievable goal and is not doomed to consistent failure.
Though he is destined to fail and knows it, the wind must go on trying to make changes, though sometimes he feels forced and reluctant, because it is all he knows how to do. The man’s situation is much less restricted; it can leave at any time it wants! The wind is struck by the idea of this incredible freedom, and is grateful that something, at least, decides to interact with him of its own free will. The wind slaps the banner to the north suddenly, hoping to catch his adversary unawares. The man’s grip slips a little bit, but the wind decides the attempt is yet another failure and slackens off.
The man doesn’t see it that way. He is not like the wind, a force of nature free from guilt and responsibility. Instead, he himself participates directly and indirectly in the carrying out of oppression against fellow human beings and the Earth itself. He, too, feels trapped, because his conscience will not allow him to be happy unless he knows he is making his stand against oppression and removing himself as much as possible from such evil. As he will tell those few commuters who stop to talk, he does not pity himself. He is only doing what makes him happy. In fact, he pities other oppressors almost as much as the oppressed, for in his mind, many of those supporting injustice realize that they are causing harm, but do not act on their compunctions. Though he is destined to fail and knows it, the man must continue to strive, if only for the sake of his own happiness –and knows it. The man is hopeful –not optimistic- that the people in the cars aren’t just staid objects. After all, he is made up of much the same stuff as they! If he has these convictions, can’t they, too? Here is the crux of the problem, as seen by the man: other oppressors fall prey to moral dissonance and don’t live according to their own values.
The wind has no patience for such theories; he despises unnecessary complication, and feels much more at ease with the simple goal of overarching change than with useless over-analyzing. And so we realize that the wind is, in fact, fairly content with his role as well –though he himself may not know it. Strangely enough, the ignorant wind still believes that he is better off than the man, though not as a result of some subconscious recognition of his own contentment. No, the wind just realizes that he would rather not have as much freedom as the man. The wind swoops downward and lifts man and banner up into the air momentarily, resulting (finally!) in the man losing its grip on the hapless banner.
A crack runs along the sidewalk at the man’s feet. This is not unusual, as this portion of sidewalk is in general disrepair. The sidewalk itself doesn’t mind its forlorn state. In fact, the sidewalk doesn’t mind much of anything, because it is content with doing what it is built to do. Namely, for humans to walk stand, jog and bike upon it. Unlike the wind, man, and banner, the sidewalk is at peace with both itself and the state of the world. If it knew how the sidewalk felt, the banner would be envious of such contentment. The man would pity the sidewalk for its ignorance of the state of the world, and the wind would only hope to widen the crack or at least cover the content slab of concrete with sand. In any case, the sidewalk remains ignored, ignorant, and content.
The cars passing by are impervious to the drama which is unfolding at that corner; speeding or trundling along, their only desire is to be at some destination. A majority of the drivers don’t realize anything either, and continue with their lives, as content in their ignorance as the sidewalk is. A good portion of the drivers –those who pause long enough to make a rude gesture or two at the man and his banner- feel a surge of frustration that the man won’t just leave them alone. They are defending his country and his freedom, after all! “And this damn Albuquerque wind can leave me alone as well!” they add as an afterthought. One driver, an old colleague of the man’s, recognizes him. The sight of Professor Hosking standing silently with his banner causes the driver to consider the man’s message more deeply and consciously than the other drivers. The driver moves past the stoplight, thinking he might look for a different job. He doesn’t.
The wind sighs, flutters the banner tauntingly, and knocks the man’s bike over. Mr. Hosking is exasperated, thinking of how much easier his vigil would be if the wind weren’t so fierce. Then again, he’s here in this place for a while, so he decides that he may as well accept the wind’s company. The banner is dejected as it realizes the man has no intention of letting it go to pick up the bike. It is a long minute.