Apparently Johnathan Butler, MU hunger striker, is not as different from Tim Wolfe, the ousted MU president as you might think. They both were members of state championship football teams in high school. While Tim Wolfe held a job as President of MU, Butler is studying Educational Policy and Leadership for his master’s degree. Tim Wolfe has made millions of dollars in his life (He previously worked for decades at Novel) while Johnathan Butler has rich parents: his father is a Railroad company executive as well as a church pastor.
Of course Wolfe is white while Butler is black. And they are on opposite sides of a serious conflict over significant issues regarding UM policies as well as broader issues. Even as an outside observer I feel comfortable coming to the conclusion that they walk in different circles and have markedly different values.
I choose to highlight their commonalities because for me it provides some contrasting relief for the “him or me” nature of this conflict. Butler said his hunger strike would end when Wolfe resigned or he died, whichever came first. On the other hand, from what I can tell, Wolfe expressed only contempt for Butler and the other students who sought redress of their grievances.
As I read of the drama in Columbia, Missouri I am reminded of the events of the Arab Spring of 2010-2012 as well as their aftermath. Masses of people poured into the streets in dozens of countries, brought down presidents in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, civil wars broke out in Libya and Syria. A lot of people died and in Syria in particular they are still dying.
People will disagree about whether it was all worth it, if there was some sort of progress achieved through all this bloodshed. Maybe there was. I live halfway around the world, not the best vantage point for gauging the truth of that particular matter.
I can say that in my life every time I choose to stubbornly make my stand I find myself some time later on my knees, wondering dumbly how I got there. Whether the episode is mercifully short or painfully long, I know I’m always grateful to get back up and start walking again. Look around and get a fresh view through clear eyes. Of a world that is familiar and perhaps unchanged, yet seems to be welcoming me back with a bright smile.
Did I mention it’s been pouring buckets in Seattle?