Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pocketknives, Icebergs and other things beneath the surface

Guest post by
"Tig" Intagliata, campus pastor

 Sometimes we really have to probe deep beneath the surface in order to see all there is to see. And sometimes we are surprised at what we discover.

I was reminded of this truth last month when I went through the airport security on my way to Colombia with a group of Bluffton students. The TSA agent motioned me aside and said he needed to hand search my blue backpack.

“The screening device detected a metal object that resembled a knife”, he told me.

“Sir, I don’t believe there is a knife in my backpack, but here you go”, and I handed it over to him, confident that it was my phone charger or large pen that set off the scanner.

The agent searched the backpack and couldn’t find the suspected knife. I reached to retrieve my knapsack, but he said “I’m sorry, but I want to run this through the machine again”.

The scenario repeated itself, again with the same result. Perplexed, the agent admitted “Sir, I can’t find anything, but I need to pass it through one more time because it keeps showing up on the x-ray.”

A third time my backpack complied with the orders and submitted itself to the scrutiny of the metal detector and then to the agent’s examination table. His gloved hands dug deep into my backpack, removing every item in all three zippered compartments, placing them all on the table. Still no knife in sight.

Then the frustrated agent turned the backpack upside down and shook it like it was on fire.

A bright blue pocketknife dropped out of the deepest part of the backpack and landed with a noticeable “thump” on the table.

My jaw dropped noticeably as well.

The agent’s facial expression spelled a “we finally got to the bottom of this” kind of satisfaction and relief. The culprit had been exposed and was promptly confiscated.

A little explanation about the knife is in order…

I remember packing the knife when I went on a weekend trip—by car—a couple of months earlier. I forgot about it when I was packing for Colombia; in fact, I thought I had emptied everything out of the backpack before I started to pack for that trip—but obviously I hadn’t dug deep enough or shaken hard enough!

My pocketknife story is a reminder to me of all those things that reside deep inside of me of which I am not always aware. Things like hidden agendas. Suppressed feelings. Buried hopes and dreams. Unconscious prejudices and stereotypes.

Last year I attended an anti-racism workshop that was sponsored by Bluffton’s Damascus Road team, of which I am a member. The workshop uses the image of an iceberg to illustrate how most of racism takes place below the surface, embedded in our own attitudes and values, as well as in the structures and institutions of our society.

Exposing the racism within us takes careful, honest and sometimes painful examination. But only when we name it and take ownership of it can we begin to work at dismantling it with the hopes of becoming a more just society where people can live without prejudice and where power is shared equally, regardless of the color of one’s skin.

This August, the Bluffton University Damascus Road team will be hosting another anti-racism training event. We would love to have you join us. Details and registration form.

According to Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As you go through life, I invite you to take time for self-examination. Set aside time regularly to reflect on what’s going on deep inside of you, below the surface. Then I encourage you to have the courage to identify the attitudes, feelings and agendas that may be having an unhealthy effect on you and on those around you, and find ways to turn them into something positive. It’s not easy work, but it’s worth the effort.

I am now in the market for another pocketknife. In the future, however, I will make sure that it is not in my backpack when I head to the airport.

Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Campus pastor

1 comment:

  1. Tig, I can't believe you found a way to rehash the pocketknife story into something meaningful. Good job :)