Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why yes, it has been years

But there's been an election and with that panic attacks and general terror.

So, how to move forward.  First, I need to work to listen and pay attention to the people who understand how things really work.

Presidents don't have all the much power.  Advisors to presidents don't have that much power.  Rhetoric is just that, rhetoric, and while someone can be a despicable person it doesn't mean much of anything regarding what they'll do in office.  Someone with no experience may, in fact, see some opportunities to do things that haven't been taken advantage of because of an unwillingness to burn bridges.  And, despite lacking experience, his party wants his time in office to be a time of success and flourishing because they want to continue to be able to have their agenda be at the forefront.  And since he's a loose cannon (or at least presented himself that way), who knows what sort of negotiating power that gives him.

Nazis aren't going to take over even if the President is listening to them because Congress, Supreme Court, the 95%+ of the population who oppose that sort of behavior.

But, the fact of the matter is that I can't really control him (my efforts at mind control on people closer to me have been unsuccessful so I doubt more effort is going to work with him).  So, I have been emailing and calling my representatives.  I'm doubtful that this will have much impact beyond adding to the number of people calling and emailing (and I think quantity probably does have an impact).  And, when my representatives are in town I will show up and ask them questions face to face.

More pressingly is what I'm going to do day to day.  I really do believe that what has happened is a consequence of decades of not listening to people and instead everyone being confident in the truth of their own beliefs.  This isn't to say that those beliefs are mistaken but that if all we do is focus on how correct we are we may miss some important things about other people's experiences.

I think that many people are dissatisfied with their lives.  And that being dissatisfied they want, at minimum, for their dissatisfaction to be acknowledged and for it to be acknowledged that their lives being the way they are, economically, socially, probably isn't their fault.  We've  I'd done a horrible job of listening to this.

Given the dissatisfaction and then adding to this feeling ignored or, even worse, passed over because of a focus on issues of racism, gay rights, trans rights, etc (all of which are important and ought to be addressed) people are going to, understandably I think, be resentful of those who have gotten the attention and those who have been doing the ignoring.

I've long said that I think that everyone wants, fundamentally, to be heard, understood and cared about based on who they really are.  I don't think I've done a good job at playing my part in this.

It seems like everyone has been so intent on proving that they are right that we've stopped even listening to what other folks are saying assuming that we already know what they are doing to say.

so, what am I going to do to make things better?  I need to rethink my courses, a constant, so that they are doing what I want them to be doing.  Of course this means I need to get clear on what I want them to be doing.  I also need to be really intentional about what I'm communicating to others in terms of my willingness to listen to all.  And, of course, I need to not just say that I want to listen to all, I need to reach out and really ask and listen.

I recently purchased a Black Lives Matter sweatshirt because I do believe that Black Lives Matter.  But, I also believe that gay lives matter, trans lives matter, poor lives matter, conservative lives matter, brown lives matter, red lives matter, etc.  I don't like "All Lives Matter" because that seem antagonistic to Black Lives Matter.  But, that aside, now I worry about wearing the sweatshirt.  I know that it will mean that I'm viewed as an ally to many (and I am their ally) but it will also be interpreted by many as meaning that I don't want to listen to them, that their story doesn't matter to me and that I think Black lives mean more than their lives.  Now, of course, in a nice intellectual conversation I could note that this isn't what it means, but how can I get to that conversation if someone sees the sweatshirt and draws all sorts of conclusions?  Why aren't I wearing a sweatshirt that says "Poor Lives Matter"?  or one of the other variations?  So, I'm probably not going to wear the sweatshirt, or if I do, it'll be because I take it somewhere to have a list of x lives matter put on the back of it.  I suppose one take away here is that sweatshirts may be poor conversation starters but they certainly communicate ideologies even if what is communicated isn't what is intended.

I think lots of folks deserve allies.  When I think of the values of the US that I think are important it isn't merely individual rights and freedom, equally important to me is hospitality — welcoming the stranger and doing our best to make them feel at home.  I need to work on being more hospitable to people who might assume that I am not interested in their lives being good lives.  Yes, I'm rambling, but since no one is going to read this, I'm not terribly concerned.

I am going to return here regularly to work out my thoughts about what I need to be doing and what I'm going to do in terms of my everyday behavior and my courses.


Anonymous said...

I'm reading this! But nevertheless, feel free to ramble. This is your canvas, after all.

Sincerely, one of your admiring former students (over 5 years ago).

Each time a woman stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
--RFK (paraphrased)

Alex Timm said...

I'm reading this as well! It looks as if you have a former student following.