There is something about this scene that’s been haunting me all day. The power of the silence. The footfalls on the sidewalk. The shutter-clicks of cameras. And the deafening disdain for this woman whose actions and horrible reactions have demonstrated the precarious and easily breached boundary between upholding order and sanctioning blatant brutality.
But this is not the parade of a war criminal surveying her victims. Nor a petty tyrant deigning to acknowledge the rebels. This is the steady, deliberate walk of a person clinging, however unworthily, to some kind of dignity, as she is forced to encounter the unequivocally damning (yet completely peaceful) judgment of the students – her students! – whom she has notoriously declared a threat to campus safety. Their mute condemnation, it seems to me, leaves her astounded.
And maybe that’s what floors me about this video – the eloquence of her bewilderment. The image of a person in authority, a decent, perhaps even humane, person being confronted with the outrage she has induced. There is genuine discomfort, it seems to me, when she is asked if she still feels threatened by the students. I read her barely audible response as a quiet plea for understanding: “I never felt threatened.”
This is the staggering moment that an academic politician, who has made difficult, and, it turns out, terrible decisions (and then failed utterly to own up to them) confronts the human costs of her failure.
But she is not a monster. And this scene is all the more haunting for the humanity it displays, both from the protesters and their Chancellor.