Wishing for Something Better


Hello from Dunkin’,

I have been busy doing work and trying to manage a number of issues. I have tried to complete a blog on two or three occasions, but the last month has overwhelmed me in ways I could have never imagined. There are a number of things that have required my attention outside the normal classes, prep, grading, and daily life, but it seems that I have felt more paralyzed by all of it than I ever have. It is hard to believe we have been through an actual strike of faculty within the system; it is hard to believe we as a country have endured a political campaign for president that seems to have created and exposed more hate and discontent than one might have imagined in their wildest dreams (at this point, besides feeling exhausted by it all, I am mostly embarrassed). I actually feel badly for those who are voting for the first time. While I am hoping they believe their vote matters and democracy matters, I cannot blame them if they are feeling a bit disenchanted or disillusioned by what we have witnessed.

As those who know me can be sure of, I have a particular viewpoint on the election and what I hope happens. Yet regardless of what we wake up to on Wednesday morning, if anyone believes the election will eliminate the unparalleled rancor that has characterized this election (be it the primary on one side in particular or the general election), they are sadly naïve. Perhaps what this election has revealed is the deep divisions in this country between those who are educated and those who have not gone beyond a 12th grade education (or less). Let me say immediately, I know this does not characterize every single person, on either side. I have college classmates who are adamant supporters of Mr. Trump, and I still respect and consider them to be intelligent and good people. I also know some persons who did not go to college, but support Secretary Clinton and are also not welfare recipients or on the dole. What I am saying is there are things that do not add up for me at times, but I will always try to respect the decision of another, particularly if they have thought through their position and can articulate why they believe as they do.

While I like politics and the give and take of what is happening in a campaign, what I realize is the last 20+ years of American politics has become an exercise in character assassination and working on most every level to attempt to thwart those with whom one disagrees. Any thought of working across the aisle is something of the past. Any attempt to see what is for the greater good of the country versus working to merely get re-elected is long gone. I believe the  practice that one can disagree with another, but remain civil is also a thing of the past. How did we get here. As I sat here today I listened (mostly because I had no choice) to a table of Bloomsburg sorority students as they were eating a late breakfast. They had language that would shame a group of Marine Corps DIs, and they were not shy about using it. Not very impressed, and there was not thought of what others might think of their vocabulary (or lack thereof). While this might seem of little importance as we move toward electing a President in a campaign that is certainly not like any other in my 60+ years, but I think there is a bigger connection here than one might initially imagine. What does it say when the use of vulgar language is commonplace? What does it say when there is little consideration for how what we might say might affect those who hear it? What does it say when freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or any of our Bill of Rights has become a license to do whatever, whenever, wherever we want? John Locke on his Second Treatise on Civil Government asserted that “[b]y entering into civil society, the individual submits him or herself to the majority, and agrees to abide by the rules and decisions of the majority.” And then goes on to note “[s}ince people are all born under some government, they are not in fact free and at liberty to unite together to change that government.” Furthermore, “[b]y entering into society, people relinquish their freedom under natural law, and their right to execute law. Instead, in this society, they establish a judicial power to arbitrate disputes between members of the society, a set of laws that all the members of the society must obey, and an executive power to maintain and enforce the law” (Locke). I should by extension note that he also says when a civil government has not done its duty, it is the duty of the people to stand against it. While many of us on either side of the political aisle can make our claims, it is interesting how so many “lawyers” who walk the hall of our United States Congress seem to be focused on only what they believe serves their own interests (i.e. getting re-elected and thereby receiving their pensions). Again, as I looked today, it seems Congress has an underwhelmingly dismal approval rate of 12%. The point I am trying to make is when our language, our actions, or our sense of decorum seems to exhibit so much individualism that perpetuates disdain for the other we have a problem. I have often spoke about “the other” in previous blogs. This election has often been about the other, be it the other candidate, the other view, the other person, the other religion, the other ethnicity, the other gender. What is so disheartening is the other has been, almost without exception, regarded as negative. We are a nation of others and have been from the beginning. We were the others that left Britain because we felt we were oppressed. Many others came here hoping that they might be accepted for what their otherness had to offer, but throughout our history we have struggled,  but learned to assimilate and accept. We were willing to incorporate, but many time with some kicking and screaming. Again, what I am noting is that change is always frightening. It is painful. What are the changes you see in our present situation? What are the positives and the negatives? Are we as divided and in such dire straits as some would like us to believe.

My good friend and brother, Jose, with whom I do need to catch up  when I can come up for air (this is my coming up for air for the moment), notes that too many of the 1% want the 99% to fail to think or question and he is correct. I do believe that some of the good in this election, if I can look impartially for a moment, is that there is a lot of questioning. That questioning can be positive, but when people are willing to accept sound bytes for answers, the questions have not really been answering, they have only be placated. There is so much more critical thinking that must occur. While I am willing to subscribe to some of the idea of “throw the rascals out,” I am not willing to jeopardize our democratic process. Questioning and even pushing those questions to make them critical is necessary, fear mongering and claiming things that are simply not true, blaming the other for all of our current difficulties is tantamount to returning to the a post 1933 Germany. I know that is a serious statement and one that might raise both eyebrows and ire, but as I stand as a Marine Corps veteran, I do not make such statements haphazardly. For too long we have blindly accepted what the Congress deems appropriate. It matters not (and I only mean this in this specific situation) who we elect for our executive leader beyond a certain point. When the Congress is willing to make statements like “We will make Obama a one-term President” (McConnell). Or there is already talk of further obstructionism should Sec. Clinton get elected, we need to rethink our legislature. I am a proponent of term limits for anyone in the Congress and I do not think they should get the pension they do. Let them be in SS like the rest of us and let them put part of their salaries into their retirement like the rest of us. I would also be a proponent of a one term Presidency – 6 years and done. I also understand that that might argue that every president is a lame duck when they enter office, but six years is a long time. I am also a proponent of a flat tax. Everyone pays a particular amount or percentage and no one (even if they can claim an almost billion dollar loss) is exempt. There . . . have I fixed all our problems. No . . . probably not.

What I wish is that we might merely be more civil . . . that we might realize that we have a duty to the other. We have a duty as humans to care about our fellow human beings, and I already know what some will argue or question? What does that mean. For me it means that all who are able need to contribute in a meaningful and significant manner. It means that we do need to help those who are less fortunate, but it does not mean merely taking from the rich and giving to the poor in some sort of Robin-Hoodian manner. It does not mean that we stop encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit or invention, but it means that we attempt to conduct ourselves in a manner that sees all people as valuable. I know that is difficult at time. I am reminded of a former colleague who has struggled mightily and consistently made choices that have impacted both the individual and those in even more than arm’s length from them (and I realize some of the syntax issue). This past week, I found out that one of my most important mentors passed away from cancer. Her name is Carol Berkenkotter. She is perhaps as single-handedly responsible for my getting a Ph.D. as anyone. She was the person I met by waiting on her one evening at The Library in Houghton, MI. She unknowingly asked what else I did and that led to an entire conversation that ended up with me visiting her office and getting accepted into the RTC program at Michigan Technological University. Her brilliance, her inquisitive nature, and her willingness to mentor and challenge her students taught me in ways that still influence me. As we move toward in the next 30 hours or so, determining where our country will go for the next term and beyond, I can only hope that we might find our national spirit that will move us beyond what has been nothing short of embarrassing as an election process. Can we accept the will of the majority or the electoral college? Remember in 2000 Al Gore actually won the popular vote and lost the election (and I do not want to get into the entire Supreme Court issue). Bottom line is he lost. What I hope is those who care to vote are able to do so and do so legitimately and without rancor or intimidation from anyone. What I hope is on Wednesday we begin to work toward some sense of coming together as a nation. What I hope is that we know that all people matter and as a country we still have a coveted and valuable society. What I can still say simply is, in spite of all, I still have hope. Even as a young 18 year old Marine, who looked more like he was 12, I had a sense of hope, though I was scared to death.

With that, I offer this video that says I hope we can watch and listen and appreciate the other. Thank as always for reading and I wish you a thoughtful and personally rewarding election day.

Dr. Martin



Published by thewritingprofessor55

As I move toward the end of a teaching career in the academy, I find myself questioning the value and worth of so many things in our changing world. My blog is the place I am able to ponder, question, and share my thoughts about a variety of topics. It is the place I make sense of our sometimes senseless world. I believe in a caring and compassionate creator, but struggle to know how to be faithful to the same. I hope you find what is shared here something that might resonate with you and give you hope.

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