Attempting to understand what appears to be absurdity, but perhaps isn’t

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Hello from my getting home after a long . . .

I am not sure if it has been a long couple days, a long month, a long campaign, or seeming to be perhaps a long life. That is my perception of both the election, the campaign, and certainly what will be a terrific amount of prognostication from every corner of the country, if not the world. I actually walked into my bathroom about 7:45 last evening and noted specifically to look at the time when my thought was that Donald Trump was going to become the President-elect. I had said throughout the campaign, even in the primaries that he was not as stupid as people wanted to claim or believe. While I believed the actions of Mr. Trump to be embarrassing and shocking, perhaps I am not as typical in my thoughts as I might have imagined. While I thought his disparaging comments towards too many would have had a cummulatice consequence, that was not the case. That in an of itself speaks volumes about the present atmosphere in our country. I am dismayed, unsurprised by the atmosphere, which is even worse, and as we are two days into the transition watching things I have never witnessed following a presidential election. Certainly I have seen pain and sadness when one’s candidate loses, but I do not remember seeing or reading about such vitriol and protesting (and some that has become a sort of rioting) after the election of a candidate. Then again, I know we have never witnessed the sort of offensiveness or unseemliness in a campaign as we have just witnessed. My niece or great-niece, I cannot remember which noted that the media certainly has a role to play (and I might argue a significant one) in how the campaign unfolded. There are so many ways to consider this, but this is only one blog, so I cannot got into it all. (I am adding to this post on Saturday, now four days out.) I do believe there are more reasons than any one attempt to characterize the rationale for one side’s victory or the other’s defeat. While I am a life-long Democrat, I am fiscally conservative. While I believe in helping the other, I do not believe in free handouts. One of my more conservative friends have noted things about the protesting/rioting (and I do believe there is a difference). I do not have a problem with peaceful protest. I do have a problem with rioting or with destruction of another’s property merely because someone is angry. There are two things I would like to note, but then I will be quiet. I believe it is paramount that we come together as a country and listen – not merely hear the other as some kind of noise, but truly listen – to what our equally valuable citizens have to say. Again, I grew up in NW Iowa. I grew up in what is considered to be rural America and not every farmer or small town person or white person is red-neck, uneducated, and racist. On the other hand not every metropolitan black, Latino, or Muslim is anti-white or an illegal or terrorist. How did we get to the point that we seem to go there before we think or listen, and then think again? The second thing is this: when considering the candidates, I must admit in retrospect that there was a sort of coronation of Secretary Clinton as the only possible standard bearer of the Democratic party after she left the State Department. I feel some of this because of the Wikileaks and the hacking of the DNC or the DSCC as well as the response to Senator Sanders. Arguments made about how the campaign was managed have more credibility that some might want to think. Second, if we are to examine Mr. Trump’s rhetorical strategy in his addressing the issues of race, religion, economic inequality, immigration, gender, and you can probably add to the list, what is evident in light of the result is this, and while I say this with a significant amount of chagrin, and particularly in light of his comment in the last 24 hours (I won), one has to either call him a genius or despicable, or both. It was certainly a winning strategy in that he tapped into the anger of a great number of our fellow citizens. From where all that anger comes is certainly open to discussion and will be the fodder for a great number of pieces, scholarship, and a number of other responses. Second, it can be considered despicable because it appears to have created an even greater divide in our country (or, at the very least, exposed it for what it is). I am the soon to be elderly (and some already say older) white man, but I am educated. I do not consider myself to be an elitist, but that does not mean that others might not see me as such. We understand people for where they are when we meet them and we too seldom take the time to see the more complete or complex picture. The consequence for that lack painted a very different picture, but perhaps a more accurate one of who we are as Americans. The paintbrush of the American electorate is complex, but November 8th we created a picture of ourselves that has our entire civilization shaking their collective heads. Do we know who were are? Our popular vote painted on picture, but our electoral college created a different one. Regardless of where you stand, the final result says something both powerful and conflicted. How will we move forward. It begins with each person from both sides listening to the other. Perhaps that is what we might learn most importantly. It is not merely Hillary Clinton’s job to quell the protest, nor is it Donald Trump’s. It is ours as Americans. The protest is palpable. Rioting or damaging property out of anger is not the answer, and if you did not vote and you are out there rioting (again I see a difference), STOP IT!

(I am back to what has been written previously) However, as I wrote yesterday, it was the 241st Anniversary of the Marine Corps and as I write today it is Veterans’ Day. Both of these things are important to me for a variety of reasons. My adoptive father served in WWII and after my birth father passed I found out that he had been in the Marines as I was. As I noted in my Facebook post, I was a scrawny 17th year old who left my home in Sioux City for my first plane ride to MCRD in San Diego in June of 1973. I think my last posting has my boot camp picture, which illustrates clearly I was still growing into my ears. Sad, but true. For some it was absurd that this squirrely 17 year old boy believed he could make it in the Marines. As some of you know, I did not make weight when I first went in and had to go eat a lot of bakery food and drink water to make the minimum guidelines for weight. I wish I still had that problem. Difficult to accept what age and metabolic change does. It was also the 533rd anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther yesterday. As I sit in my office this morning, I remember so clearly yet my trip to East Germany in 1985 and to many of the Luther places. I remember my trip to Buchenwald, which was where Bonhoeffer, the eventual subject of my dissertation, was incarcerated before his move to Flossenbürg where he was hanged. I remember listening to a lecture about Luther as the first Lutheran socialist. It was actually a pretty brilliant lecture, particularly in light of some of the more disturbing and racist things Luther wrote at the end of his life. Finally yesterday was the 41 anniversary of the sinking of the ore ship the Edmund Fitzgerald, during a November winter storm on Lake Superior. It is interesting to me how this one date has such a varied significance in my life. Today it is 98 years ago, almost a century that Armistice was signed in Versailles, a treaty that would actually led to the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, and eventually create the Holocaust. Again, it is absurd to believe that one person could lead such a cultured country toward the extermination of a particular ethnicity. but it happened. (I am back to writing on Saturday, November 12th.) I have been enamored with the German culture since I first got out of the service and my pastor’s family had come to NW Iowa from Germany. Their decision to continue speaking German on certain days of the week started a love affair with other languages and cultures that continues to this day. In some ways it led to my becoming a Lutheran pastor, to my dissertation and my continued study of this amazing country. The Germans also had a significant event in their 20th century history on November 8th (1923). It is worth considering.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with one of my dearest friends who I have known since I was barely in school. It was a blessing to speak with her and hear her thoughts. Partly because it allowed me to commiserate the week, but she was more liberal and open that I had actually realized. It also helped me understand that we make such assumptions about the other, even those we have known for decades. She noted she was probably the only person of her family who voted for the Democratic and she claims to be Independent, which I do not doubt. I am pretty sure that I am the only one in my family to vote for Secretary Clinton. None of them have said anything to me this week, but then again, I have not said anything to them either. I also realize this is contrary to the other things I have noted earlier in my posting. Part of that is I do not merely want to have a superficial and quick conversation They are too important to me. It was such a breath of Fresh Aire (pun intended for those understand it) to speak with her. I am increasingly cognizant of the magnitude those times in my life meant (and still mean to me) when we have had the opportunity to share time from sitting on a dock the summer of 1984 to dancing at Grandpas or The Jockey Club in the late 70s or early 80s, from chats on the phone to visits during the increasingly infrequent times I have been back to my hometown over the years. Amazing how one of the first recollections of my childhood has provided such a sense of comfort and care. In the conversation yesterday I was surprised to see how similar our philosophical bents are. This is actually a good example of the very disconnect that I address when considering the Presidential election of the past week. It is my narrow-minded elitism that I want to believe I do not have. While I have always known her to be thoughtful and considerate, I have not always given her credit for being as philosophical in her approach as she is. Part of that might be her faith background, part of that is because we have never really discussed things as we did this week. What I have always known about her is her pure and caring spirit, her unequalled love for her son and her family, and her amazing beauty and grace. What a joy to learn more about my life-long friend and sort of soul-mate.

If I return to things I still need to get done, it seems there are more things being added than subtracted, and I am not sure that will change anytime soon. It is where we are in the semester: between a strike, an unparalleled election process, and four preps, the semester is kicking me. I must also admit a good part of it is I am getting older. It is also in that I have been struggling a bit again with my health. This is the consequence of a couple of things. Managing my health, which is always an issue, and then finding that I am allergic to cats, which I did not know. It is amazing how that exposure affects my breathing, swallowing, my eyesight and a tightness in my chest that is different than anything I have ever felt. It has been a difficult time because I am committed to helping my friend,  but trying to figure out the logistics is becoming more perplexing, more indecipherable. Certainly some things have been accomplished, but progress seems to be slow; yet, I am more aware of why that is than some might think. There are so many demons that one must confront and about which one must be honest . . . and while we would like to believe that honesty is something we should just reasonably do, perhaps nothing is farther from the truth. It is so difficult, taking more of a herculean effort that one might expect. It is because honesty requires accountability, something that scares us. While there is much more I could write, I want to get this out and then move to the next thing on the list. It has been an interesting week, and it seems that will not change soon, either in Bloomsburg or in the wider state, country or world. As I finish this post, a couple more days have passed and today would be my sister’s 60th birthday if she were alive, so this is a shout out to her. She did have an incredibly giving heart and she was an even more tremendously intelligent person. Happy 60th Kris. I wish you were still here and we had talked more. She was an enormous fan of Anne Murray, so I offer this video for her in remembrance of her birthday.

 

 

Thanks to everyone else for reading.

Michael (aka: Dr. Martin)

Wishing for Something Better

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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

 

 

A Week of Learning for the Professor

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Good Saturday afternoon,

For those who are wondering about this graphic or picture, I think by the end of the post you will understand it more, but I offer this graphic shout out to all who walked, picketed, shouted, or offered support to the cause of higher education this past week. Since my last post, life has been a whirl-wind of events, requirements, obligations and emotions. As I begin to write this I have been working on my courses because of some required revision and an obligation to following through on what is required because of the events of this past week. When I posted the last time, we were forty-eight hours from the first possible faculty strike in the 30+ year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE); it is now about a week later, the weekend following my Monday post and on the other side of a forty-eight+ hour strike where the 5,500 faculty left their classes to stand up for the quality of education we so strive to maintain in our classrooms. Monday and Tuesday were sort of a blur as I prepared for what turned out to be the inevitable. I spent more time preparing and grading so that if Wednesday turned out as it did, I was prepared and I had done as much for my students as possible. Because there had never been a strike, most of the questions asked from others, or even my own self-pondering, were/was answered by the simple three word phrase my mother so detested if she asked questions, “I don’t know.” There was no template; there was no recipe card; and there were too many variables over which I had no control.

So Tuesday night I spent the last hours in my office tidying up, much like what you do before you go on vacation so you come home to a clean house. I also did the things I could to make sure that someone could not come in an easily take over my classes. I made sure to not do anything that would have gone against the admonishments and warnings from our provost. I went into my office one last time about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to make sure that I had everything I needed for about 10 days. Again, because I had neither an inkling nor an idea what to expect. I was up by 3:30  and I was nervous. Even though I had a better idea than many what was in place, as a member of both the Public Relations Committee and the Mobilization Committee, I still had little idea what to expect in terms of support on the campus or from the students. We had some indication of wide-spread support because the strike authorization vote that was above 93%, but it is one thing to vote, it is another thing to walk out and have no paycheck and no health insurance. We had also created a strike/picket line sign up with more than 2,000 slots to fill and they were all filled. These things seem to bode well for the chance of wide-spread support among colleagues, but there were other constituencies to consider, the most important being students and their parents. Would they realize our actions were about more than us wanting a raise or no change in our health insurance? The jury was still out on that one. There was the other audience for which there little doubt there would be no convincing or “winning,” if I can use that term, the local 30-second crowd. There is a long history of disenchantment between some of the local people and those “elitists” on the hill (that is the actual term that is regularly used). There is a bit of irony when largest employer of the county brings about 11.00 back into the community for every 1.00 earned. Bloomsburg would not really be much of the only town in Pennsylvania without those of us who work for the university, but also live within the community.

I experienced this disenchantment when a local member of the community named Rob referred to me as an “over-educated asshole” the morning the strike was to begin. When I let him know I was one of those educated assholes who would be striking, he told me “to get the fuck away from him.” Sorry if you are offended by this language, but I am merely repeating the exact quality of his discourse. Long-story-short of our communicative interaction was I did not back down and he got a bit exasperated. I must admit I was also, but I could manage it a bit better than he. What was interesting was Thursday, the following morning, I had breakfast at the diner and Jessica, the owner, asked if I had been involved in a verbal altercation at Dunkin’ Donut the previous morning early. I was stunned. She told me a local came in and noted that someone got in his face when he started smarting off. I should note that the owner and I spoke a second time and he, Bad Hombre, did admit that I spoke passionately, but not crudely. She said she knew it had to be me. What I learned in that moment was simple: there was more of my father in me than I might have realized. I had never stood up so vehemently for the union cause in my life. I had never found myself in a place to stand up for principle and be confronted by such an inappropriately-stated-disdain for what I am so passionate (my teaching). This “somewhat” closed-minded person not only had little idea what I do daily or weekly, he stated in his profanity-laced foolishness that he did not give a shit. Ultimately, it was the tone, his attempt to bully me, and his blatant disrespect that created such a comeback from me, one that not even I expected. I was reminded of what my older brother once told me about the laid-back man I knew as my father. He said on the job or when it was about his union membership, we was a very different person. I guess I have that piece in me also.

Wednesday was an astounding day. As we arrived at Carver Hall to begin picketing that first morning by 5:30 a.m., we were greeted by about 20 students, including two students from my Foundations course, Sam and Eric, to whom I offer this shout-out for coming out so early to support us. I walked at three of the 5 locations that first day and walked from 5:30 in the morning until about noon and then from 2:30-6:00 p.m. The entire day was a bit surreal because of the amazing support we received from so many people. To say that I am gratified and humbled by our amazing students does not come close to what I am feeling within me even today as I am trying to find some sense of normalcy. There were students, signs, bull-horns, chants, a band, drums, the campus radio station, honking horns, music, and a sense of camaraderie that I have never felt on the campus, and perhaps not in my entire life. Throughout that day there were so many people in front of Carver Hall and the energy was infectious.  Thursday I was asked to come in early again, but this time to take a post at the construction site on campus. Four of us stood under the ominous clouds waiting to see what would happen. The foreman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and for the United Brotherhood of Operating Engineers took the time to speak with us and ask questions about our reason for striking. By 9:00 a.m. that morning pretty much all unionized trades unions had pulled their workers off the site. What a wonderful demonstration of support and union solidarity for us. As I noted in my last posting, my father was correct about the importance of union brothers and sisters standing together. I saw it in action and I hope you are proud of the stance we took this past week, Dad. Thursday was a long day,  but again between colleagues, phenomenal student support and knowing that 13 other universities were also standing strong, we soldiered on whatever the circumstance might be. Throughout the day more pizza, donuts, sandwiches and coffee continued to flow in reminding us of the support that was present for us. Wednesday’s student band and Thursday’s choir and the deaf students on campus, who were told they did not have the right to signing or an interpreter by Disability Services on campus because they had not given 24 hour notice, when they themselves were not given 24 hour notice of the hastily organized meetings on Wednesday by administration, were out in force and their collective voices were deafening. It was fabulous and we are grateful to the local news station, WBRE, for covering their story. By Friday we knew there was more rain coming, but it did nothing to deter our resolve to stand once again. I should note that Kristin Baver, the local reporter for the Press Enterprise, worked tirelessly to cover the changing story from early morning until we ended our picketing around 6:00 or so in the evening. Also on Thursday, more construction workers left the job, and now, in retrospect, there was more going on behind the scenes than we realized. Mid-morning Friday, a group of Bloomsburg students and a couple of faculty boarded a school bus for the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. We were met by colleagues from Shippensburg and Millersville as well as the amazing APSCUF staff. Bloomsburg students wer3e undeterred by the rain and they were outside the Dixon Center chanting loudly and continuously for their education. Once the rain opened with torrents, they went inside and requested an audience with Chancellor Brogan, himself. What they found out was there were two attorney’s ahead of them. Again, in retrospect, it appears, particularly because of what a student overheard, these attorneys were from the State System’s negotiating team and the end was in sight. There are a number of student to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for their unswerving support. I was fortunate to get to know one in particular who took the time to drive around early in the morning in her little bug to deliver sustenance and a smile. She is small, but mighty. It might be easy to under-estimate her because she is a bit shy, but she is passionate and keenly aware of what is just and right. She also understands why it is so. She knows who she is and I am blessed to know her. As we returned to Bloom from Harrisburg, she spoke about returning on Monday in a business suit to meet with the Chancellor in person. She realized that rhetorically she needed to be taken seriously. Not your typical student. She reminds me of another student who has become such an important part of my life since returning from Poland last year. She sat with me today as I finished this blog. She is a phenomenal student and brilliant young person also. We returned to Bloom and arrived about an hour before we would hear that we had a new tentative contract. There is so much I could say about the three days more descriptively, but what I learned is solidarity and being honest about what matters makes a difference. I learned that standing in solidarity for something bigger than one’s self  matters and makes a difference. I learned once again that people who think about and believe in the value of education, both professors and students, can make a positive difference in the face of what seems to be pretty daunting odds. I learned that some things take more time than I wish they did and that a Governor’s support makes an unbelievable difference. To my former colleagues in Wisconsin, it is such a difference. Indeed, the professor learned a great deal this week. I need to give a shout out also to the wonderful owners and family of the Bloomsburg Diner. They have been more supportive than words will ever explain. I am honored to call the entire family, friends. Thanks John, Jessica, Amara, Luke, Ariel, and Lexi.

Today is the 23rd of October, so I actually am working on this for a second day. In 1988, on this day, and it was a Sunday, I was ordained as a Lutheran pastor at my little Lutheran Church in Sioux City Iowa. At that time, I believed I would spend the rest of my life as a parish pastor, and perhaps eventually a professor in a seminary. Well one of the two plans came to be, sort of. I did not expect to be a writing professor or the director of a digital rhetoric and professional writing program. There is an irony in location also because that first parish was in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, only about and hour and 20 minutes away. When I left the state in 1992 I did not believe I would ever come back. It is now the place I have lived the longest since I graduated from high school. That day, after my ordination service, I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened to me that I had to lie down and sleep. It seems like more than a lifetime ago that all of that happened. That twenty-eight years seems a century ago. I was so much more idealistic then. I believed so much more in the goodness of people. I believed that when one was helped or provided help, people were grateful and would respond in kind. While I am still a giver, I know all too well that people will take advantage of your graciousness. That has been a difficult lesson, but the professor continues to learn. As the day continues, I have a number of things to accomplish, but it is manageable. I sit and write with a sense of gratitude for what has been accomplished and for all the people who made a difference this past week and even, yes, in the past 28 years since I was in a different role.

It is back to work and thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin
Present Professor and Former Pastor
Proud Faculty Member of Bloomsburg University
Proud Member of APSCUF

Honoring my Father

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Hello after a day in Harrisburg,

While the state capitol of Pennsylvania is certainly different than most capitol cities I have wandered around, I enjoy it as the political junkie I am and because of the faculty union of which I am proud to be a member. It has been a sort of change for me because, in spite of growing up in a union family ~my father was a strong and adamant supporter of the union movement in the United States and a member of @IBEW231, I understood the reasons for labor unions, but I had a relatively benign attitude. There were times when I struggled to understand his commitment to this labor movement. I remember while in high school, there was a pretty violent strike in my town between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) packing plant, which was the largest beef meat packing plant in the country at the time. This included brick throwing, fire bombing and other serious harassment. I remember asking him why supporting the union and standing up was such an important thing. He was passionate about those who would have crossed a picket line. I had never really witnessed an angry tone, but it was clearly there in what he had to say at that time.

What I know now, some 43 years later was that he had a reason to stand up for the fairness and appropriateness of a contract and what it meant to be treated with equity and fairness. While I certainly understand that there are two sides to every argument, and there are certainly two positions from which to begin when viewing this argument about our teaching contract (or perhaps there are five -the state system, who desire to be known as the SS, the faculty, including both permanent and adjunct, the students, including current, future, and former, parents of said students, and tax payers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). I am sort of stunned by some of what is happening, but that is because I still believe in logic and the collective good will of people. This is no longer unfettered idealism, but the simple believe that when people sit and speak appropriately and respectfully, things can be accomplished. However, I guess you need to begin from a place where there is some logic for that to happen. When I look at all of the pieces of our current labor situation, there are certainly some illogical pieces. This is why my father was so unwavering about the need for union protection. When management has power, the purse strings, and sees everything in terms of the bottom-line, there is an unequitable situation from the outset. I have been accused of having a problem with authority in the past, and those of you who have read this blog know that has been a statement that I have noted more than once. However, as I have continued to age, what I realize is that I have a problem with the abuse of power. This is what is happening in our current situation, that abuse and what seems to be an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, as is easily argued. Today as I sit and write this, we are actually 10 days from going on strike and there have been no negotiation for the last 10 days, and none currently scheduled for at least four more. Yet administrators have received their yearly raises. All of this is while the faculty have worked for almost 16 months without a current contract. The state system negotiating team has refused to come to the table during the last 10 days. Yet we have a Chancellor who is willing to readily take his $8,000.00+ raise, and when asked by students about that raise this past week, standing face-to-face with these students, had little he could provide in response, but in a FB live meeting with students claims to be working diligently to avoid a strike.

This is the same Chancellor who has done work within the Florida system to create a business model of education. On the surface it seems to be a good plan, but when little is done to promote faculty leadership or support advancement in building that enhances life in the classroom, there is an issue. He is a 5th grade teacher who, from all the research I have done, has done little or no teaching since he became an administrator and has never been in the college classroom as an actual professor. Yet, he seems to be able to understand what it means to be a college professor. The foolishness of such a possibility is unconscionable. It is stunning to me that he can in good conscious argue some of the things he has about our work or our classrooms. Again, I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, but for him to fail to ask the state legislature for any additional money, especially when we were gutted by the previous administration, is beyond wrong. I did not know that I could be so passionate about all  of this, but I am infuriated by the smugness with which he faced us this past week. There as so much more I wanted to say, but I wanted to be appropriate and professional as I stood in front of the Board of Governors, the Chancellor, the University Presidents, and my own provost. I will say that I have a significant amount of respect for those offices, and in the case of my two administrators, in spite of being turned down for sabbatical this past week, I still believe in their integrity. I know that some of my colleagues will shake their heads by my stating this, but I will try to stand up and yet be respectful. I would like to believe that is age and a sense of growing wisdom. I will say that the sabbatical rejection was a bit of a shock and a sort of kick in the teeth, but there are certainly worse things. To the President’s credit, he has asked me to sit up and appointment with him, and, for that, I am grateful. . . .

It is a week later and I am just getting back to this I had not saved it on my tablet and I did not want to begin again. I am in Jim Thorpe and grading, which I have been doing for about the last 5-6 hours, but I need to let the other computer charge a bit, so I am back to the blog, and, as is usually the case, that might be a good think to clear my head out before I get to the next task. I should note that we are now four days from a strike and there is little progress in our negotiations. I should also note  that both sides have declared a moratorium on commenting about the effectiveness or where they are in the process as of later today. This was because there was little accomplished in yesterday’s negotiations, and in the 16 day hiatus since the last bargaining, the state merely returned with the same offer we had turned down. I will leave up to you as a reader to ascertain what such a move might indicate. I will admit that I am concerned in ways I have never been because of the ominous tone of a system and their seeming total disregard for students. I cannot imagine how the very university president, of whom I spoke appreciatively, can be a major player in this position. If it is merely because he does not need to worry about the consequences because he is going to retire, I would be deeply disappointed.

This past week it seems that every day brings out something in our political landscape that can only create more disillusionment and a pondering that is summed up by the acronym of “what the French toast?” I have said more than once this past week that it causes me embarrassment to be an American. I find myself agreeing with people on both sides of the aisle at time. However as I noted in a Facebook posting earlier this today, yesterday, or I have no clue as it seems that everything is crashing in at once.  The New York Times has some amazing columnists and op/ed writers. Their ability to get to the core of a situation and say some of the things most are thinking, but seem incapable of verbalizing, or writing, astounds me. In two different pieces today, For my colleagues, friends, former students, and present students who struggle with Hillary Clinton, I can understand some of that struggle, but the issue is more complex than you might know without some serious consideration. Amy Chozick has an outstanding piece in today’s NYT laying out some of this as well as any piece I have read. In another article, Ezra Klein, writing for Vox, does a fantastic job of asking what the consequences of ignoring the stories about Donald Trump say about us as a nation. I should note that both pieces are implicated related and worth your consideration. If you have an Apply phone you can find them easily on your news feed.

This coming week it will be difficult for a number of reasons. There is the issue of a potential labor action and what the consequence of actually having that a reality does to all involved. Yet, there is a time to stand up, this is what my father told me back in high school when I questioned the labor situation as noted in the early part of this post. There is standing up for something more important than myself. This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with someone I have taken to task more than once in this blog. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. James Sachetti at the Fog and Flame. He agreed to an invitation to have coffee and I must say that my understanding and perception of him has been wrong. That is not to say that we do not see some important things in the same way, but my conversation and interaction with him was completely cordial and enjoyable. He was attentive to what I shared and willing to share his viewpoint and his background. I walked away from that hour-plus conversation with a  respect and appreciation that has been before missing. While I will not agree with everything he might write, nor will he with me, I can say that I respect and appreciate his position in ways I would not have imagined before our meeting. I am grateful that he took the time. It is another place where I believe I have made my father proud. He often said, “Speak to the person rather than about them.” He, as usual, was (and continues to be) correct. On another front, I will be standing up for myself in a manner that is hard for me. I am generally a giving and generous person, but too many have taken advantage of that generosity. It is time for me to stand up and ask them to be accountable. That is difficult, but it needs to be done.

As we move toward Wednesday, I am uncertain of what will occur. As we move toward an election, I am unsure of what will occur, and even when we have spoken at the ballot box, I am unsure what will happen. We have become a nation of whiners, of selfish and self-centered idiots. We fail to think critically and analyze thoroughly. We are content to allow others to think for us. The consequence has been devastating. Those with money and power have taken over our country and the average person seems powerless to make a difference. We have abdicated our responsibility because of our unwillingness to think. We have allowed those like the recently retired CEO of Wells Fargo to make decisions that affect so many of the common folk while they line their own pockets. This is just one example of how the powerful screw the other 99%. In spite of my background as a former Lutheran pastor, I am more universalist than some might find comfortable, but there is something to be said for respecting others and living a tolerant lifestyle. I do not think this is a far reach from the Biblical words that admonish us to love God with our heart and soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. And on that note, I think there is enough to ponder for this posting. If you are reading this or found it because of a tag or handle, please share it to those who stand up for quality education in this Commonwealth.

To all who take the time to read my thoughts, please know I am grateful. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me so well.

Your grateful son,

Michael

 

 

 

Wondering how . . . 

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Hello on a Sunday evening where I am working to organize my jumbled thoughts (life, existence, viewpoints or),

I can only try to begin comprehending he array of thoughts, concerns, and yes, perhaps, degree of fear that might overwhelm me unless I take some time to think about it and compose some of those thoughts in this blog. I am a bit shocked because, certainly within my memory, for the first time in my life I might be more pessimistic than optimistic. Lydia would be shocked (or maybe happy that she had converted me from the optimistic she seemed to have such disdain for upon occasion). When she would ask me, “Michael, how are you”(In her Austrian accent)? I would generally answer, “No complaints.” Her retort would be, “That’s disgusting! You are too happy!” I told her that I was brought into her life to balance out that cynicism. She would scowl and hit me. I miss that give and take to this day. I wonder what she would think about Donald? I am sure she would have opinions. Just when I think I cannot be further amazed by the unpredictability of this election year, a week like this one in the immediate past occurs and I know that certainly truth (or whatever you want to call it) is stranger than fiction. Between the United States Congress wanting to blame President Obama for not explaining the consequences of their own bill to them, to the revelation that Donald Trump claimed to lose almost a $1,000,000,000.00 (that is one billion) in a year. How can you lose that much money and still claim to be an astute business person? From the fallout of the debates and 3:00 a.m. Twitter rants to the misogynistic comments that seem to just keep coming from both the candidate and his surrogates, I can only wonder how??

As I write this blog, it is now the 2nd of October and the potential for a strike among the 5,500 faculty in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is relatively high. I should note that the administration of PASSHE has asked that they no longer be referred to as PASSHE, but they want to be known as the State System. What might taking the word “Education” out of your title signify? Should we be concerned? I think so.  One might have to agree that with the way they have gone about negotiations referring to them as the SS might be apropos. I have written a significant editorial in The Voice, the student paper, this past week. While it is similar to what I have written before, but it is specifically pointed toward students and parents. If you would like to read it, please go to http://buvoice.com. As you are considering what is penned, here are some other facts to consider: Pennsylvania, in spite of having a 14 university system as well as Penn State, Temple and Pitt, three other universities who also receive state appropriations, ranks 47th in the country in terms of how much money they spend on higher education. Yes, you read that correctly: 47th. In addition, for students or parents who continuously seem to pay more, I would also note that Penn State, Temple and Pitt, as three schools, receive an amount approximately equal to the appropriatation as the 14 state schools who are PASSHE counterparts. And yet . . .  our esteemed leader, the former Lt. Governor to Jeb Bush, Chancellor Frank Brogan asked for no additional money during almost 6 hours of hearings before the State Senate Budget Committee. That unfortunate lack seemed to also be present when asked about the faculty might claim to represent. After being asked how much we worked, he had to ask his supporting staff at those hearings. Then when told he had to add the 5 hours of office hours he was asked if we only worked 17 hours a week for our six figure salary (which is also inaccurate and something the local paper loves to use), he did nothing to dispel such a ridiculous notion. That is in spite of the fact that each faculty member is required to send in a report each semester telling the State Legislature how much we work. Does all of this sound absurd to you? It should, but that is the current atmosphere of negotiations with our State System (SS). While they want to impose a number of significant changes to how we would be allowed to teach in our classrooms, they seem to have little sense of the consequences of those requests. They want the unfettered ability  to move me from department to department and location to location at will. Hmmmm? How is that going to work for a chemistry or a math student as I try to exlain carbon bonding or reverse functions? If you think that sounds ludicrous, the President of Bloomsburg University already tried to put an Anthropology faculty person in the Math, Computer Science and Statistics Department this fall. It did not actually come to pass because, at least currently, we can reject such a move, but even the attempt is beyond egregious. Note the word “unfettered” earlier. That does not allow for rejection in the future. Again, I am left to wonder how we got to this point? 

As I have spoken ito groups of students or other, it is apparent that many parents, many towns peopl, and even our own students, have little real understanding of what is at stake. The changes in teaching proposed by the SS will gut the credibility of a PASSHE degree. It will leave students under-prepared and left to wonder why they are caught between the proverbial “rock and hard spot” in their future positions or why they are under-compensated in spite the significant invest of  (approximate for in-state, but substantively more for the out-of-state) 100K they spent on their degree. They have been cheated. They have been stolen from by a bunch of bureaucrats and legislators who somehow believe that higher education is not worth investing in. That credit by tuition keeps them from “lingering in the smorgasbord of classes” to closely paraphrase Chancellor Brogan (March 2016) . What the hell are they thinking? This coming Thursday, I will be in front of the Board of Governors of the System arguing they need to rethink how they are handling this negotiation.we are 16 days from striking and they have refused offers to meet this coming week. 

While my main objections have to do with what they are doing to my classroom, the passion of my argument is also related to what they have done to us financially. I do need to be honest about that piece, but I also want to explain why. In the 8 years (and I am in my eighth year) I have been teaching in the system I have lost 4 steps. That affects my yearly salary; it affects my pension; it affects my morale. Again, I am trying to be as genuine as I can about that. My health insurance is certainly an amazing plan, and I know that. However, we have, like every other part of the country had to give things back (our co-pays increased by 100% in the last contract and our raises were 0, 1,1, and 2 percent), and we will again. I know this. Yet, the other state unions were not asked to give back what they are asking of us. They did not have deductibles added to their plans to my knowledge. They were offered a 7 1/2 percent raise over 4 years with 3 steps included. We were offered that raise only if we will willing to give 70 million dollars in cuts back from the outset. So the 159 million figure the state provided a week ago is a bald faced lie. Otherwise we were offered a total of 1% over four years with one step in the final year of the contract. Again, I am willing to pay more to a degree, and, as noted, I know it is coming, but the people who are asking us to swallow all of this got 3% raises this past year. As a specific example, I appreciate Dr. Soltz, our president. Furthermore, I do not begrudge him his salary, but his raises over the past three years equal about 23%. Or as another example, the governor of the State of Pennsylvania makes $187,000 a year (which I think ranks in the upper third of top state executives) and he does not even take his salary because he has done well as a business person. The Chancellor makes almost $346,000.000 after his over $8,000.00 raise this year. I am pretty sure he was more than willing to take that raise as he has negotiated against us. Again, I do not begrudge what people make, but do not ask me to give up so much when you, yourself, are unwilling to do so. It is about fairness; it is about being equitable. It is an abuse of power to do what they are doing, but then again, such an unfathomable example of this greed can be found in the standard bearer of the Republican party. He brags that he is too smart to pay taxes and then claims that companies that go abroad to do the same are slime balls. As the day has proceeded, the news continues to reveal how he uses the tax code in ways the average person cannot, but then he claims to be on our side? Would he be willing to help the little person do what he does? Does anyone see a disconnect here? He claims that he can be nastier than Secretary Clinton because she has used his own words against him? For the first time in my memory (contrary to things like the Swift Boat issue or even George W Bush’s service record, where people went digging on both sides), no digging is needed to demonstrate the risible reality of the @realDonaldTrump. I am completely stunned as I consider the depth to which we have fallen as a society. Again, I am left to wonder how?

This past week, fortunately, and probably to Lydia.s chagrin, I have been reminded of something a bit more positive. It is related to Congress, but focusing on the President. What I have continued to realize about President Obama is that is perhaps the most principled president i have experienced in my life. As a small person, one from the 50s and 60s, I might have believed that person to be President Kennedy, but what we have learned since about his personal life is more problematic than former President Clinton. I will say that while I appreciate President Clinton’s acumen and ability to make complex political issues understandable, I do not appreciate the digressions that created such problems for his time in office. Yet, other presidencies also seemed to have some significant human struggle. President Ford had family issues in the White House: President Nixon had to resign. Some of the children of former presidents certainly have had issues. The Obamas have had more scrutiny that perhaps any presidency in history, merely because of the social media atmosphere of our present world, but scandal has not been cluttering our headlines; they are an amazing family. Their daughters have grown up in the spotlight, but they are elegant and poised from what I can see. Michele Obama would be an amazing president in her own right. She is articulate, brilliant and also principled. As a first family, I believe they have set the “gold standard” of what we should expect from the occupants of the White House. I am still stunned at the Congress and the degree of obstructionism and racism that permeates both our legislators and the American public. I say this as the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant male. This morning, I was in the diner for breakfast and heard about a situation where the youngest daughter of the owners stood up for her older sister when her sibling was being mistreated. She said to the rude guest or customer, or just plain dumbass, “That is my sister and you cannot disrespect her.” Good for you Lexi!! Where did we lose what seems to be all sense of decorum necessary for any society to survive? Where did we become such a society of Malcontents? What I know is that I am willing to treat others with the respect I would hope to deserve myself. What I have finally learned to do is to stick up for myself. I have learned what many have told me for so long . . . . if you not do it, nobody else will. It is so true.

So to whomever might read this, as the days are ticking down and a Chancellor is more content to spin on Facebook than negotiate,  I am hoping is that students will stand up for what is fair. If they do not, what is coming will be hurtful for everyone. If you are reading this and a student, CALL THE CHANCELLOR. If you are reading this and a student, CALL YOUR PARENTS with the real facts. If you are a student or an alumnus of the PASSHE system realize the consequence of these proposals and what they do to the value of the degree you already have. This is not  what happens to those still studying, it affects the entire system, the state, and the alumni. Speak out loud and strong. Tell the SS, as they want to be called, to change course and be fair and equitable in what they are doing to your classrooms. I will not back down. I will stand up for the integrity of what I do and the education I believe my students deserve.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

@realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, @FLOTUS, @BloomsburgAPSCUF, @APSCUF,

 

Slowing Down

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Good early morning,

It is barely 4:00 a.m. And I have been awake a bit more than an hour. In the past couple of weeks I have been in bed more times than I can remember before 8:30 at night. It does mean that I wake up earlier than I might wish, but that is perhaps the schedule I need to adopt. What I am realizing – and I should note that I started this before a birthday this weekend – that I am slowing down. I am not sure I like that reality, but it is a reality that I must come to terms with. I think it started long before the last few weeks or even months, but I have tried to fight it, with little success. I am told I do not look my age, and I am sure that more will contend that I have never acted my age. That is probably more true and sometimes more of a detriment than I might care to admit. I think that has always been an issue for me. I am not sure the reason for that, though I do have theories.

This past seven years, I have fought with health things that are a consequence of the Crohn’s and those things have take their toll on me more than I would like to admit. The main consequence of Crohn’s for me has been an issue of hydration. I was battling this long before drugs like Humira or Remicade were available, so I did the 5AZA treatment of corticosteroids, sulfasalazine, and in large dosages. This began thirty years ago. It is hard to believe it has been that long since the first surgery. I had fought it for two years before that and now I know that I was probably born with it. Now it is 9 major surgeries later and more same day procedures that I can even count. In spite of all of that I have seemed to manage, certainly with ups and downs, but I have been able to hold onto my jobs and, in spite of other complications, it seems like my body figures out how to compensate and I keep plugging along. What I am trying to figure out is whether or not I am slowing down because of the cumulative effective of all of this or is it merely I am honestly aging. I certainly do not like to admit the aging part for the most part, but then again, I am blessed to have made it this far, particularly when I consider the rocky beginning that characterized my infancy.  I have to admit this morning as I was working on all the things I must do to manage the consequences of 9 surgeries, I wondered what it would be like to have a normal body once again. I wondered if the infamous genie did exist and told me I could have one wish, I think the wish would be to have a complete body and all my insides on my inside again. I cannot even remember what it was like to not have pain or have to manage the difference that that first surgery (which was actually the second and third) when I was the pastor in Leighton and traveled all the way to Arizona. I remember the consequences of that surgery and how it affected me and how my wife at the time reacted. As I have noted before, one of my friends (an astute English scholar) noted, I have gone from a colon, to a semi-colon, to a run-on sentence to a fragment. I still struggle to understand the why, but what I do know is that even now, I must be attentive to many things most people take for granted: water intake, salt intake, digestion, portions, to name a few. There are theories as to why someone contracts the various forms of an IBD. It is certainly an issue of a malfunctioning immune system; in addition, it is also more likely to strike someone who had a premature birth. It seems I cover both of those categories.

The consequence of the last twenty-five years has been difficult. What are the results for my identity? It affects my feelings toward my body because I am no longer whole, literally and figuratively. In the course of the 25+ years I have had extreme pain, unbelievable weight loss, and trips in and out of hospitals to the point that surgery is no big deal. I merely see it as another speed bump to manage. Through the years of prednisone, sulfur-based antibiotics, twice daily enemas, and every imaginable test possible to my altered GI tract, I have felt like the guinea pig or the specimen under the microscope; I have been both held up as a poster child for managing the disease through serious complications and told by an ex-spouse that she was tired of being married to a wimp. More often than not, I tried to hide my malady, afraid to speak out about it because I was ashamed and embarrassed. Somehow it did not seem “man-ly” to have to run to the bathroom or let someone know that I had a “bag on my side.” Indeed, when I stand in the mirror or the shower, this appliance is there to remind me of my limitations; it is there as a reminder that I will never be physically or functionally “normal”. We are not supposed to talk about things like this in polite company, but it has so affected my identity. It is interesting that I had hid this more than I could imagine most of the time. What I have realized is that through my hiding of myself, I have lost myself; I have eluded language, the very thing I study, to ignore my body. As Martin Buber once said, “the body does not use speech, yet it begets it” (qtd Frank 1995). Yet, most often personal narratives and stories are used to recover from illness, what happens in cases where there is no recovery? What happens when the illness steals me from myself? Who am I then? How can I get myself back? These are questions pondered in the consideration of this paper. What has occurred on some level is the dysregulation between the private and the public self; perhaps not all that different from a mental illness, trying to understand what is appropriate to share, and thereby, creating a more accurate self portrait is a constant struggle (Wisdom et al, 2008). Again, much like those who suffer mental illness, there is a dichotomous process in what I reveal to most and what I know as a constant companion. As someone who had the ileostomy twice as a temporary escort, those experiences prepared me for the permanency which occurred in October of 1997. Yet, if I had an opportunity to change that because of some medical breakthrough, I would be at the front of the line. Even as the words are written, I find it hard to imagine what life would be like without the ileostomy.

It astounds me as I write to realize how much of my life is controlled by this 4×4 wafer and 10” pouch. The struggle to be seen as more than someone with a serious illness confronts me emotionally more than most know. Another former grad school colleague once told me, “Michael, for everything you have been through, you should look like roadkill.” She smiled, and I merely said, “Thanks, Leslie; I think that’s a compliment.” Ironically it is the telling of the stories that some of the damage both emotionally and physically is repaired. It is in the telling of the stories of where one has been that they might begin to see the possibilities of where they might go (Frank 1995). Yet our society view of intestines or any other issue that has to do with our intestinal function has been required to remain behind closed doors. We can talk about cancer and all sorts of other personal things, but it seems that even yet whenever I bring up my diagnosis and life-long struggle with Crohn’s, invariably, there is someone in the room that knows someone or there is someone in the room who is struggling with this. What will it take for it to be less than being immodest or inappropriate? What will it take for it to be something more than spoken of in hushed voices. How will it be that I can ever see my own self as a complete person? I guess I have reasons to believe that I have slowed down, but more importantly, I have not quit. It is perhaps in telling this story here more completely that again I can fight this menace more confidently that it seems I have lately. People respond to our stories, through the stories we tell or illustrate, we begin to understand ourselves; we create an identity, and others begin to identify us. Those stories do not simply describe the self, they become the self. It is necessary for us to tell stories and understand the implications of the stories if we are to begin to repair what wreckage the illness has caused (Frank 1995). Illness can create a lack of agency for us as human beings. During the times my Crohns was particularly active, my life felt out of control; it was structured by the regiment of medication and the frequent trips to the bathroom. Looking back, I was living this wreckage of which Frank speaks. There was no alignment; there was no story because much like a person who is mentally ill, I merely existed. If I were to try to tell the story then, I am not sure there would have been coherence. I am able to tell it now because it is a distant memory; instead of being embarrassed, or angry, the very writing of this has helped me come to terms with my altered state. As a person with a PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, I understand the power of words. We use words to persuade and identify; we use words to understand and make sense of our lives and our experiences. So why is it that for 23 or 24 years of my illness I worked as hard as I could to hide my disease, coming out, only when it was safe or required, or when it was to my advantage? Perhaps because I had not or could not manage the chaos this disease has created. Perhaps because I could not get those experiences of rejection by those from whom I most needed acceptance in my altered state; I reasoned if the people who supposedly loved me and knew me the best could not accept me, how could others?

Indeed, the wound of rejection was much more difficult to heal than any incision. As I look back, it was Dennis Clark, the professor from Arizona State who first visited me, that showed me I could be more than a person who was afflicted; it was the nursing students who I lectured in one of my previous teaching positions and their genuine and thoughtful questions, who helped me understand that I was more than an appliance; it is in the beginning of telling that I become connected to the past, but moving toward the quest for a future; as a former Lutheran pastor, and of Northern European descent, the role of testimony is not as established as in some other religious traditions, but the role of testimony is significant; it allows for a pedagogy of suffering as Frank calls it. This is not an opportunity to wallow in the sadness of my fate, but rather deals with the reality of my life in an honest and forthright way. It is the beginning of a new narrative of restitution (Carless), a narrative that replaces the narrative of chaos or the narrative of pain and rejection. Perhaps it is time to slow down and pay closer attention to my body, but that is difficult for  me because I feel like I am not doing my other jobs as well or as completely as I should. The consequence of this slowing down, or refusing as it might be, has also had consequences. Some things have gotten completed and for that I am happy. Other things, not so much, and for those things I feel more like a failure than people might know. One of the things I heard from a high school friend over the weekend was that I always had a smile on my face. It is amazing to know that because there was such difficulty in my household. I think it was that I was happy to be out of that chaos and stress. I was happy to be where I felt valued and cared for. Over the weekend I spend significant time responding to all the people who were kind enough to remember my birthday. I also slept more than I regularly do. Two people for whom I have a lot of respect and trust pushed me again on slowing down. While I hate to admit it, I am afraid I must do so. Perhaps I can get other things done finally and with less stress. I have never been one to quit or give up, and slowing down seems to be quitting or giving up, but perhaps I need to rethink that.

As always, I am grateful that you read this. I know that the last blog had almost two hundred views in a day. That amazed me. I merely try to get myself and others to think.

Dr. Martin

 

 

 

My Response to Faculty Vilification

Stop Writing

Good morning from my office,

I got home at 1:15 this morning and it is before 8:00 and I have been up since 5:30. I was at the diner this morning working the morning crowd to support the faculty of the university who are being confronted with perhaps the most egregious set of proposals in the history of the PASSHE system. As is the case locally, the editor of the paper, who is an alum of the very university and faculty he regularly attacks, has written his usual misrepresentation of the facts (I call it this because he includes only what serves his purpose) and called the faculty on the proverbial carpet yet again. This is the same person who regularly posts all of our salaries with little explanation behind them each year in the paper.

While the coverage in the Press Enterprise have been a little more even-handed, even those articles leave out a number of important points. Is it because of incompetent writing or not knowing how to ask the questions? I am unsure and I want to give a particular reporter the benefit of the doubt because I believe them to be sincere. However, after an editorial yesterday in the local paper, which was ludicrous at best, I have decided to respond. I am pretty sure the paper will not run the entire response because they will tell me it is over their word limit. It is probably impossible to make it to that limit because this editorial was unconscionable in so many ways. Therefore, I offer a copy of what I have written. I have also posted in on my Facebook page and sent it to the Raging Chicken Press.

Dear Bloomsburg University student, towns-person, and the “esteemed” editor of the Press Enterprise,

Indeed, you have heard much about a possible strike by the faculty of the fourteen PASSHE schools of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; you have received emails from Chancellor Brogan’s office assuring you that the System and the Board of Governors are bargaining in good faith to reach a fair and equitable contract; and you have once again heard from the editor of this newspaper that we are merely fear mongering and pretending to sacrifice your education (9/14/2016). Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case in the seven years I have taught here, Mr. Sachetti delights in vilifying the faculty of the university, the very university from where he received his degree. His reasons for doing this and the enormous energy he regularly spends to disparage this university and its faculty baffle me, but that is a topic for another time. Suffice it to say, someone must have hurt his feelings tremendously for him to champion such disdain so routinely.

What he fails to note in his editorial is that the primary reason your faculty, your fellow citizens of this town, have chosen to stand up for a more evenhanded contract is precisely because of you, the student. Some of the major sticking points, contrary to his assertion, are not about health care or salary; those points of contention are about the changes they want to make to the collective bargaining agreement, all 249 of them (yes, you read that correctly), and how those changes affect your education. Let me offer just three of those changes we believe to be most egregious and worth our not accepting their proposal. We will hold out because of what it would do to the quality and credibility of the degree you would receive from Bloomsburg or any of the other PASSHE institutions.

As has been the case in each of the last two or three proposals, they want adjunct faculty to increase their teaching to five sections with more preparatory for different classes added also. All of this with no pay increase, thereby cutting their salaries 20 percent. As important is it would create two-tiers of education within departments because of the increased work load in preparing for classes and grading assignments. The system rationale is they do not have as much to do as tenure track faculty, so it should be easy. What they do not say is that most of those faculty are working to finish their doctoral degrees and are looking for other positions where they have a sense of security because currently as an adjunct, they have no job security. Additionally, it takes away from the quality of instruction and is pedagogically unsound. Second, the administration wants the unfettered ability to move us from department to department and location to location at will. As a tenured faculty, hired specifically to create a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program that is now one of the most comprehensive on the East coast, I work hard to support that program as well as teaching four sections a semester. However, you do not want me teaching your Principles of Accounting class or Organic Chemistry class because I do not know enough to provide a substantive learning experience for future CPAs or M.D.s. I, in fact, would feel guilty because I could not do an adequate job, and we should never be simply adequate. In addition, I do not want to drive to East Stroudsburg twice a week to teach a course there. I did not get four degrees to be a substitute teacher, moved around by the whims of those not in the classroom. Students, parents, and certainly future employers need to ask how my instruction in those classes would compromise the quality of the education for which a student (or their parent) has paid good money? Third, the system wants to allow people with no Masters or Doctoral degree to be the instructor of record for a class. I am quite sure you will not pay less tuition for that section than if your PhD-degreed professor is teaching. More significantly, what does this do to the credibility of your degree? How does that provide you the foundation you will need to be successful in your career, and 90% of PASSHE students stay in the Commonwealth so what does that do to the credibility of the workforce for the future?

Those are only three of the proposals that we are fighting against. This has nothing to do with salary or benefits so the majority of Mr. Sachetti’s recent editorial is moot. While he has tossed out figures and claimed a number of things about our intent and what we make, he has misspoken (and that is not surprising). He claims we only work 30 weeks a year, but he fails to mention that we work throughout the summer to publish or we go to conferences to stay current in our scholarship, a requirement if we want to become tenured or promoted. He fails to mention the incredible number of hours we spend outside the classroom advising, supporting undergraduate research, traveling abroad with students, without being paid a faculty wage during the Christmas break, or the amount of time spent each break preparing for the next semester

I do understand that I make a reasonable salary (and he will provide that for you in his yearly chart), but he does not mention that I have four degrees and fourteen years of higher education. He does not mention that I have been teaching college for the last 20 years. He does not mention that the money faculty pour back into this town daily, weekly, and yearly, make a significant difference in what is available here for each and every one of us. I have read his hateful and reproachful commentary on us for seven years and enough is enough. The real story is that the faculty of this university and the faculty across the thirteen other schools want a system that demonstrates a commitment to quality education and does not merely give it lip-service. We desire a fair and equitable contract that illustrates that we work and live in this Commonwealth, a contract that recognizes we have worked 33 months of the last 60 without a current contract, we continued to come to work every day, in spite of losing four steps. We have bargained in good faith and we have stood up for the integrity of providing an education that both our students and the people of this state deserve. I might note that I am still in my office as I write this and it is 11:22 p.m. and I have been on campus since 7:00 a.m. this morning. So while I certainly do not want to strike, I will. So how dare he??!!

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Martin
Asst. Professor of English
Director of the Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing Program
APSCUF Member
#APSCUF, @RCPress

If you are a parent of a student or a student it is time to stand up and let the chancellor or the local university president know that what they are proposing is unacceptable. Notice, I have said nothing about the health care or benefits. I care first and foremost about the quality of education we provide and the integrity I hold as an educator. If you have questions, please contact me and I will be glad to provide more information. I should also note that for some reason, the copied article has paragraphs in it when I am drafting, but somehow they do not show up in the post. I am working with this and trying to figure it out. I apologize.

Sincerely,

Dr. Martin