Had a sobering chat this afternoon with one of my junior colleagues, L, a social psychologist and human rights educator. We were speculating about why this year's first year class seems less engaged than last year's. Is it the distractions of dorm life (before this year, first year students didn't have a dorm of their own)? The wobbliness of a semester whose start was slowed by holidays and a snow day in the the week when classes usually come together as a learning community? Starting college at a time of economic anxiety, or in a school in transition?
Then we came to talk of the political situation. It started with wondering what it's like for students who came of age politically with the Obama dream - the "Obama generation" - and the disappointment or disillusionment which followed. I mentioned that some people I know, who worked in the Obama campaign, are quite blue - and beating themselves up for not keeping on.
Not to mention, I said, the ongoing freak show of ugliness from the party of No. It is ugly, L said with feeling, and started telling me about how heartbroken she is at what's happening in the country she loves, and how frightening it is. What's just happened in Arizona seems to her like trying to reintroduce Jim Crow: whites American by right, everyone else suspect and subject to interrogation. Do the politicians courting this racist xenophobia even know what they're dealing with? L's parents, who fought segregation, have said to her with great sadness that they hoped their children would never have to see this.