Reaping and Sowing

Hello at the end of Winter Break and Winter Term,

I am home and my mind is flying filled with thoughts of no particular order, for no specific reason, and with such randomness and speed that sleep, at least presently, is unlikely. How does this happen? Why does it happen? And what comes from it? All questions without answers. It was a good day overall; I accomplished more than I expected, and all in spite of a trip to Philly’s airport. And before turning in, or going to my room, I even diced potatoes and have them boiled for the beginning of potato soup, which is on the menu tomorrow. I saw people that matter and spent time with two incredible people, those whom I was with in Ecuador 10 days ago; they are now here. They both give me a sense of hope. Marco y Andrea, este pequeño párrafo es para ustedes dos. Gracias por honrar mi hogar con tu presencia. Disfruté mucho nuestro día juntos en Guayaquil, y estoy muy feliz de que hayamos hablado sobre su viaje pendiente aquí a Bloomsburg. Como les dije antes, es un honor recibirlos a ambos en mi casa. Estoy entusiasmado con las conversaciones que podríamos tener, y espero que el tiempo que pasen aquí, en las próximas semanas y meses, sea productivo, memorable y tal vez, un cambio de vida.

Last night in an effort to be ready for today, and in spite of working diligently this past week as well, there is a feeling I have a foot in two worlds; I got up at 1:00 a.m, and I worked until about 5:15. Then I went to sleep for an hour and a half – and then I was back at it. I was in my office at 8:00, have met with a dozen different students today, and there will be more tomorrow. There is one last three hour class tonight and then the main part of the day is done. Office hours over the next couple of days, and the sort of tweaking housekeeping that I am prone to manage for my sense of being on track. I do feel more prepared and focused this semester than I have for a while, and it is a nice space to be in. Sometimes it is safe being here in my office, hiding to some extent on the hill here in Bloomsburg. It is easy to seem like the rest of the world is out there, and there is little that can penetrate this world at 400 East Second. However, I know better, and that dream is certainly not true. When I listened to my students today, it is hard to not wonder what all the things they are trying to manage are as they begin another semester. Do they have their books? Do they have the finances? Do they have food? Do they have support from their family or friends? I understand this more than they might believe. When I was first at Iowa State, I had no idea how to manage what I was doing. I had a GI Bill, but that did not really teach me anything. This is not to undervalue what that check did, but there was so much more to what I needed to understand.

And then in the spirit of what I noted at the outset, I find myself wondering why a 72 year old man would choose to kill 10 people on the Eve of perhaps the most important day of the year for Asian people? I think about the issue of tanks and whether or not the Ukrainian people (or their military) will receive what is honestly needed to manage their situation with Vladimir Putin? It seems each day, there is another decision or counter-decision. And yet when I think of the consequence for the Russian people, I cannot help by think of the family I care for so much who are there in Russia, and how their daughter is like my own. We have chatted recently, and there is much to worry about. What have we sown in our world in the last century since the end of the First World War? It seems we could be characterized as egocentric, arrogant, and parochial in so many ways. Certainly, the country I call home is both a beacon for hope, and a country that imposes its will on others, through either military assistance or financial manipulation, often under the misguided notion that we have some corner on moralism or faith. Our quest for, and our belief in our spirit of self-determination too often has led us into a path of selfish individualism. I read an article recently on the concept of Christian Nationalism. This philosophy is an abomination of what a life of faithfulness is truly about.

While I was not an Elvis fan by any stretch of the imagination, I remember the day he passed as I was headed to Kansas City with my sister-in-law, her friend, and her three children. This was shortly after my brother had passed. We heard the news on the radio as we drove south on Interstate 35 from Ames. Some years later, I remember watching Dallas as a student in seminary, and being enthralled with Priscilla Presley and her beauty. Yet again, while I do not regularly use Elvis as someone I listen to, I remember a video that I saw with Elvis and his daughter, who now has been the latest of tragic losses for that family, where they remastered and dubbed them as if they were singing together. The first time I heard it I was amazed by the brilliant way they intertwined their voices so effortlessly, but when I saw the video I was stunned even more. Using Elvis’s well-known song “In the Ghetto,” the harmonies created are haunting, but the images are heart breaking. Why? Because they have pushed us to see how the society we have created, a society that seems even more divided than every, has a dark and tragic side that seems to be part of what we have sowed because of our obsession with our rights. The video was released to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Elvis’s passing (Elvis Australia). The proceeds were used for transitional housing, and it was filmed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (Elvis Australia). It would be one of three songs that would be recorded, but it is the most profound of the three, at least for me. The lyrics are about a child growing up in Chicago, which still suffers from some of the most profound violence of any American city. Over 3,000 people were wounded in gun violence in Chicago through the first 10 months of 2022, and those totals were actually down 20% from the previous two years. That is staggering. Most 600 people died in gun violence during the same ten months. Again, I am not against gun ownership, or more accurately, I am not anti-Second Amendment, but what in the world? And that is one city. When a six year old (and I realize he has difficulties) can get to a gun on the shelf and take it to school, and shoot his teacher, I am at a loss. I know all the arguments on both sides. Enough!! How did we become so cavalier in our response to gun violence? I am sorry, but this has to stop. I have some incredibly important people to me who will argue the 2nd Amendment side, and I know their rationale, but more guns in more hands does not equal less violence. You cannot convince me that this is what will happen. We are reaping what we have sown . . . the right to own a gun with inadequate control, be it background checks, mental health issues, red flag laws, and whatever else you want to add to this list. The consequence is two fold: more dead bodies and hand-wringing about how does it happen. Yes, I have heard it more times than I have fingers and toes,”It’s the people and not the gun.” The problem with that is still the gun. If the person did not have such ready access to the gun, perhaps a few more people would be alive. This is not a rocket science question or understanding for me.

As I write on the next morning, the news notes that a person used a registered gun, and did not have any red flags. This raises for me the question that I believe our 2nd Amendment is really asking: do you want a gun or do you need a gun? When guns and violence with guns is so prevalent, it is not surprising that more people want a gun to protect themselves, but what is not asked is why do we believe resorting to guns is the answer? This week I asked my students in their writing for their introduction to one of my classes what is their biggest fear in the world? The great majority of them noted safety and gun violence. That is, in part, the impetus for this post. When the majority of my 19-22 year olds believe the most fearful thing in the world is begin the victim of gun violence, what does that say? Who have we become? What have we become? In 24 days there have been over 2,000 gun violence injuries, and there have been 1,200 killings (and that does not include suicides, which are even higher) (Gun Violence Archive). That is incredible. There is so much more one could write, but who will listen? Does it matter? Have we become incredibly numb? Perhaps. I leave you with the video that stunned me the first time I watched it. It still does. It is an incredible commentary on who and what we are. What have we sown?

Thanks for reading, and I am willing to listen to other’s thoughts. I will buy the coffee.

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.

4 thoughts on “Reaping and Sowing

  1. Dr Martin,

    As I read your blog “Reaping and Sowing”, I cant help but appreciate the considerations you have for students, especially at the start of a new semester. With all the violence in the world, I can see your concerns. After the Iowa murders recently, students love to see that concern from professors.

    Bringing the focus to your question, do we need guns or want guns? As someone gets more and more successful in life they become targeted. Someone doesn’t have to be controversial to become a target and jealousy and greed can brew from people watching. When people are jealous they are willing to do anything to get what another person has.

    Our 2nd amendment is what separates the United States from other countries and why people recognize us as free. The second amendment gives people the authority to protect themselves and over throw the government if needed. Guns are meant for the purpose of need but has turned into a want and desire for some.

    The desire to want guns has drastically raised gun violence in America. We stand in a position as a country to need them now. A criminal will have a gun illegally and a man/woman cant legally protect themselves.

    I believe guns are something wanted by an individual up until a certain point of success, then are necessary. I appreciate this perspective of yours and think it applies to an older society, not modern times

  2. Dr. Martin,

    You have asked some every interesting questions in your blog, my favorite being “Have we become numb?” I believe that as a society we are slow becoming desensitized by the horrors on our TV screens. Whether it is police brutality, school shootings, or home break ins, these terrible crimes are becoming normal in our day to day lives. I was a very sheltered child growing up. My parents did their best to shield me from caffeine, drugs, and the tragedies happening in our every day world. I am not sure their attempts have worked well, sense I am now a caffeine addict, but now that I am older and exposed to media all day long I cannot help but see a major spike in violence and aggression.

    The more tragic the crimes get, it shocks us for a moment but we are off to a different tragedy by morning. I cannot help but wonder if this world will ever change or if this is how our society is stuck in a downward spiral of violence and destruction. I am terrified for what lies ahead for our society. My father talks about a WWIII in this life time, and honestly, I think he is not wrong to think that. How much more can we take before we end up fighting another gruesome battle on a front that will lead us towards hundreds of trillions of dollars in debt and millions of lives lost. My question to you Dr. Martin, is how many more catastrophes can we take before we break?

  3. Dr. Martin,

    Reading this blog brought me a sense of interest and intrigue. The U.S. is very encouraging and open about the use of firearms in America. The who preach the second amendment are usually those who do understand why it was implemented or when it was. The constitution is able to be changed and new amendments can be added to help enact a possible change. New laws or amendments should be brought up to combat this deadly epidemic. Day by day it seems to be getting worse. I hear news of mass shootings almost everyday or someone being killed because of a gun. Me as a gun owner and frequent gun user for hunting. It is truly tragic that people want to hurt others by shooting. The way I see it is while guns are fun they are truly unnecessary for the greater population especially assault style weapons should not be sold or if you want to sell them you need a special license to sell and to own this type of weaponry. Safety from children is another important factor making sure your firearm is away from children and stored in a safe location can negate some gun related incidents from occurring. Prayers that incidents like these come to end eventually.

  4. Gun violence has become the definition of America. When asking people from other countries, mass shootings are often the first thing discussed in relation to the country. I have had friends from Europe ask me how often I have experienced gun violence or “scares,” and if the country is safe or not. I tell them the truth, of course. The truth that I have not been directly impacted by gun violence. I have not been in a shooting, no one close to me has been in a shooting.

    Of course, there’s everything else. For a while during my time in high school, school shootings seemed to happen monthly. I was 16, 17, 18 coming home to seeing pictures of dead kids on TV my age or younger. I woke up to messages from friends asking if I was going to class because someone threatened the school again. Are lockdown drills, evacuations due to threats, and the stories on the news not directly impacting all of us? How long can we live like this, where we are constantly concerned for our well being, or for the lives of our loved ones? If something changes, by some miracle, and we do not have to live in fear every time we go to Walmart, how will our mental health react?

    I don’t have the answers, and I honestly do not think I ever will have the answers. I think I’ve been at the point “enough,” for years. I remember coming home from fifth grade to seeing my grandma sobbing in front of the TV because Sandy Hook just happened. It was enough then, but dead children were not enough for people in power. There, of course, have been hundreds more since Sandy Hook. Those extra hundreds or thousands of bodies are still not enough for the the decision makers. We must endure in this reality, no matter the horror. Or, something could change.

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