June 21st, 2007

Day 0: You are not prepared

It's been almost two years since I was a regular blogger, and while I don't plan on starting again on a daily basis, I am heading to Antioch Reunion, in part, to report on what happens.

I'm an '05 alum, though I really was the year before, as I hadn't been on campus since Spring the year before. When I heard about Antioch closing, I wasn't terribly surprised, or extremely disappointed. We'd certainly heard the warnings enough. I'm not even sure I wanted it to reopen, if people could even make it reopen. Yet, I felt obligated to do what I could. Attend the Chicago "Save Antioch" meeting. Work with that facilitator to try to get a group going, and to actually go, and see what was happening at reunion.

This sense of obligation is my Antiochian activist spirit, or at least, as it manifests in me. I'm not driven to do good things, I'm not passionate, or even terribly idealistic. But when it's there, I feel I have to do it. So, when I was given the opportunity to go, I had to do it.

There is a certain intellectual curiosity about it. I'm am interested, and have been in most of my academic work, on how people change their minds. What motivates them. I keep coming back to those moments in history when something new and previously unthought of becomes part of the public discourse. There are bursts of energy around it, people trying to comprehend it, changing their mind, forming factions relating to it. These factions tend to crystallize, slowly, making alliances with other groups, until opinions on the subject become part of a greater whole. The historical example I like to use is birth control. When, in the early 20th century, birth control became a major issue, its proponents struggled to fit it into political discourse. Eventually, the birth control activists found people who they could fit in with, with the racist eugenicists. Both wanted to control population, both felt that they were using the best of modern science to achieve a better world. Today, we see birth control as left-wing, and racist eugenics as disgusting and far out of the political discussion on the fascist right, but this was not always the case. These alliances can be shattered, and the political alliances reformed. Watch the Republican party in the next few years, as the fundamentalists, liberatarians, and militarists continue to butt heads.

What does this have to do with Antioch? The old semi-factions which existed have been thrown into disarray by the news of the school's demise. People no longer have to decide what's wrong with Antioch - it's now how best to bring it back. There will certainly be those who want to follow the administration's lead, and funnel money into the new plan - Renewal Plan Take 2. The majority of alums and community members, though, I think feel betrayed by the University structure, and will try to find an alternative plan. The seeds for that will come here. I'd rather not miss it.

It'll probably be done mostly through narrative construction, of course. The two dominant explanations I've heard for Antioch's demise are that it was too "liberal" for society after the late 60's, or that a generation gap caused two different visions for Board and administration members. Both can be correct, and not mutually exclusive. However, the occasionally vitriolic reaction, by those who consider it a generational gap, to the New York Times op-ed about Antioch's closing, which took the "too liberal" position, indicates to me that they won't necessarily be much common ground. How the history of Antioch's failure is framed will likely determine the positions taken by those who want it back. It'll be fascinating to observe how those crystallize.

I also have a simple gut reason to want to go. Antioch is my home. My family. My self. It's also not all of those things, or isn't anymore. My last several trips to Antioch have been apocalyptic. Graduations, senior parties, vacations, goodbyes, good riddances. And this is much much bigger.