Journalist and activist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! spoke at Trinity University Oct. 7 as part of the Maverick Lecture Series. Goodman has received the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes termed the "Alternative Nobel Prize" for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” She spoke about the power of stories—how if we heard the perspective of a mother in Iraq, an uncle in Palestine, or a son in Israel, the space between us would grow smaller. The conversations about the issues would change, just as they have been changed by social movements addressing the economy, or equal rights, or the environment.
As a sociology and English double major, I couldn’t help thinking about the stories we tell and hear—as a culture, as an individual, as a writer—that influence our perspectives in significant ways. A single story can change how we think and feel about an issue, and how we talk about it or express our opinions to others. These stories can be found on independent media sites like Amy Goodman’s, in conversations, in travel, and most powerfully in literature. As Azar Nafisi said during her lecture at Trinity in March, where, if not in literature, do we learn to empathize with both the hero and the villain?
In 2006 Rebecca Solnit (author of The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness) offered advice to graduates of the University of California, Berkeley: “The universe is made out of stories—go change them, tell them, bury them, give birth to them. A difficult task, but not an impossible one. Not if you remember, as readers and scholars might, that we are living in an impossible world already.” Though it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by societal issues and discouraged by endless debates that rarely reach conclusions or create change, I see telling stories as a source of hope, a place to start change from the bottom up.