When Pointing Fingers . . . Perhaps Only at Ourselves

Hello from the kitchen,

The routine is set, at least for the most part. I get up and make my bed before I do almost anything else. I have been that way for most of my life, so that is nothing new. I walk to my bathroom, shower and get ready for my day. Sometimes I am more leisurely than other times; sometimes I imagine I will do more than spend the day at home. I fix breakfast and check out the latest mind-boggling news. This morning it is a continuation of all things Covid-19 and the incomprehensible way people are responding to directives, suggestions, or guidelines to offer some sense of the best way to manage this contagion that has upended every aspect of our lives. After breakfast, I do a visual inventory of the plants in the house and make sure all new plants are watered and have light as needed (and the number to consider seems to be growing a bit). Then it is off to my upstairs office and to work on a variety of topics, classes, and issues. Depending on the weather (and this 32 degree stuff is not appreciated), I try to get a significant walk in. Then it is back to the computer and more work. I am trying to fix dinner in both a healthy, thoughtful, and enjoyable way each day. As many of you know, playing in the kitchen is my relaxation and my creative time. Then it is back to the computer. Most nights I have tried to be in bed before it gets too late. A couple of nights I have turned to Netflix and watched something. I finally finished the ninth season of Shameless. I also finished another series I had been working on for a couple years. Needless to say, I do not spend a lot of time in front of my television. I have iTunes playing in the background as I type this (I am listening to The Carpenters). It has been a while for that too. One of my friends have noted a sort of Groundhog Day aspect to their existence. I think it is true. However, I have found this a helpful time, a time to reflect and imagine what matters. I have also thought about ways to rise above the vitriol that seems to be so much of what has happened during this past three years. I do believe, it began before the 2016 election, but the level has elevated beyond anything I remember in my lifetime. 

I have lived, and in fact, grew up in the Midwestern states where there is serious question about stay-in-place directives as well as living in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. I am not surprised that there is a backlash in Michigan. An April 2019 article in the Irish Times interviewed individuals at the annual meeting of the Michigan Militia Corps. As noted in the article, Michigan claims to have several thousand members of the militia (Starr). I remember many conversations about militia groups in the state when I was lived there. They are not shy and as the article notes, they see no middle ground on many issues of federalism versus states’ rights. I think what I find the hardest to wrap my head around is the seeming contradiction for many who want their freedom from federal intervention, but then are willing to use things like unemployment insurance, SNAP, Medicare, or other things that provide a federal safety net. There seems to be a contradiction. Again, this article noted, as provided by members of the militia, that membership rose significantly after President Obama was elected. I have not done enough in depth research about all of this, but there would seem to be two possible reasons for this. First, basic 2nd Amendment issues or because we had elected a black person as President, or both. The consequence of Federalism and States’ Rights is more front and center than perhaps ever in my lifetime. The second time it seems apropos to use that. I am continually stunned by how people are questioning the reality of this virus, and the degree to which they want to argue that caring for the health of all people by social distancing and other things that occur is a violation of their freedom. I am also amazed that many of these same who are protesting with the guns and their trucks are the same who will claim they are Christian people. Where is the greatest of all commandments in their actions? Please someone explain that to me. Explain how a President’s tweets that can do little more than incite civil unrest is appropriate? And this after noting he wants to provide good news again and again. How is it that people do not see the discontinuity? I am not trying to point fingers here, I am merely trying to make sense of what seems illogical to me. Where does the disregard for element of society on either side of the political aisle unify us? I believe in a right to protest, but to do it without a mob mentality, which seems more and more unlikely in our present national conversations. Where does the blame land? Where should the finger be pointed? I think we need to do some incredibly deep soul-searching as a country. If we are going to survive this catastrophic event, we must work for the benefit of all people. While I am not afraid to die at this point, I would like to be believe I still have something to offer. I do not want to jeopardize others or myself at this point. I do not want to operate in a manner that shows unparalleled selfishness. Simply, this is part of my Christian upbringing. 

As someone who is not an economist, I do not begin to understand all of the financial consequences of this shutdown, but I do know what it doing (at least partially) to people in my small down, people I care about, people who matter to me. I do not know what will happen to some of my students as they try to navigate this, but I know they are frightened and they are hurting and if I can somehow help them, I need to do so. I know people who are in law enforcement, people working in healthcare, and people who are putting their lives on the line everyday to give us some sense of normalcy. I need to support them the best way I know how. I am quite certain that life as I have known it is gone, but we need to create a world that demonstrates and practices more care than the one we have been living in. This seems so apparent to me. As my Dominican family patriarch has said for some time, too many do not want us to think. Too many are willing to merely follow the recipe. It is time to think and think critically about what kind of world we want for those who will live beyond us. I often here that my students feel entitled. I think perhaps we have that backwards. We believe because we have worked for some of this, we can squander, misuse, and overuse anything we want because we have earned it. There are undoubtedly some who will find this statement difficult, but step back and ponder for a moment if you will. Certainly we have lived during a time of profound, even unprecedented, change. We have developed, created, and provided unparalleled possibilities, but how did that happen? It happened because it was built on the backs of the generations before us. It was accomplished through the sweat and tears of our ancestors as they toiled often by hand, as they moved and immigrated for better opportunities, and as they often thought first about their families instead of themselves. What are we leaving for those graduating from college now? We are leaving them with a mountain of debt; we are leaving them with a world that is on the precipice of irreversible climate change, a new level of contagion, and a world economy that will be devastated beyond our wildest imagination. And how are we acting? We are unwilling to stay locked down for even two or three months, arguing that our freedoms are being trampled? That is who we are as a nation? 

I want to say no, and in fact, HELL NO! It is not the world I have given and not the world I want to leave for those who follow me. As noted in a recent blog, I believe this event, which is beyond what any of us has experienced, either locally or globally, could, and more importantly, should, be a time to come together as humans. I am not against individual rights, but I believe societal needs for safety and survival rise above anything other option, including President Trump. It is a time we could, and should, reach out to the other and care for them as the true depth of our humanity can do.  . . .  It is early Monday morning, the infamous 420 date. It was 11 years ago on a Monday, and the same date I interviewed for the position I am currently in here at Bloomsburg. A decade plus one of changes professionally, personally, and now societally. I wonder how the time has created a difference for me. Last Friday, the owner of an establishment where I lived in Menomonie and I had a chat. The restaurant is no longer open, and we noted how fortunate that is for them in this time. As we often did late in the evening, we chatted about the world and about what we see. While the conversation was insightful, reflective, and enjoyable (as was characteristic), the most important thing I heard was how a friendship developed during those late night conversations endured. What meant more than anything was a statement (and I am paraphrasing) that noted I was just a person who cared about others and tried to do the right thing, but often got mistreated for my kind treatment of others. As I have noted before, my philosophy in life is pretty simple: if I make other’s lives more meaningful, I make my own life more meaningful. I am certainly not a paragon of virtue or someone I would encourage others to emulate, but I do think my personal philosophy might have some value at this time. We would could only work to make the rest of the world more meaningful. Perhaps there would be little need to point fingers at anyone. Instead our hands would be used for more productive things like lifting the other up. Eleven years ago, I came to Bloomsburg hoping to begin a new chapter of my life because of some of the hurt or mistreatment that occurred in a previous position. Because of a Wisconsin colleague, who is also a Bloom colleague I was fortunate enough to land on my feet. I created some profound differences and new paths. The move to a new department was a blessing and continues to be so. The move from Menomonie was traumatic for a neighbor who was a parent to me. The move was a difficulty for another and the changes were the beginning of what is now an incredible teaching career and being a phenomenal mother. A move to Pennsylvania brought me back to some familiar territory, but also created new opportunities that have allowed me to be in Europe numerous times and experience a part of the world that is now part of who I am. That world and others have allowed me to experience first hand the importance of the other in ways I did not anticipate. It it the other we need to consider now. It is the other we need to reach out and care for as so many first responders, small business people, and my colleagues are doing daily. I wish you safety and health in these uncertain times. The video is a bit of a jump, but it is too often we go about things in a roundabout manner. Perhaps we need to be more succinct. Perhaps more than ever, it is time to care about the other. 

Thank you as always for reading. 

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.

One thought on “When Pointing Fingers . . . Perhaps Only at Ourselves

  1. I heard yesterday that higher education will be profoundly effected by this shutdown. In other words many colleges particularly small private colleges will not re-open. In my situation funding of criminal defense will take a big hit. Once the justice system re-opens we will be so far behind in providing speedy justice that it will take not months, but years to catch up. The economic crisis to come will definitely effect you and me and millions of Americans. A 1930’s style depression is not out of the realm of possibility. The America we will live in will be determined in the next few months. It’s a balance issue.

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