Hello from the Fog and Flame
It has been a crazy week. The power went out on campus and they closed the university that afternoon. The temperatures have been in the mid 90s and it is humid. My air conditioners have been running continuously. In addition, the amount of work facing me right now seems insurmountable. I think I could do a 96 hour grading binge and I might be caught up, at least for the moment.
This morning there are two things on my mind. First, the Fog and Flame is a great place to come and it is a locally owned coffee shop. Last evening, some “probably intoxicated” person punched out one of the windows, creating a problem for the new owners. Now I am certain they have insurance or the building owner does, but why should they be responsible to manage the mess of a drunk, foolish, and probably angry person who does not know how to handle his alcohol. This is where I think “community service until infinity” should be adjudicated. Fortunately for the owners, I guess the person was caught, probably needs some stitches in his hand, and this will cost him some money. I think he should be required to go through an alcohol assessment, be required to do anger management classes (all at his own expense) and then be required to do some community service for the business. Those are my thoughts on breaking out a window at 11:30 at night,
The second has to do with President Obama’s address. While I had read something about President Obama’s speech about the Trayvon Martin case, I actually listened to his address this morning. How can we not be impressed with his measured and careful words? How can we not respect the argument he posited about the context of the case and what it means to wake up each morning in a society that claims equality, but does not honestly practice it? How can we not appreciate the way he noted that, in spite of the tragic events in Florida, we have made progress as a country? I am glad that I voted for such a principled and intelligent man, both times. Now, I know that some of my friends, and even people for whom I have a great deal of respect, will disagree with me, some even stridently. However, I also know that I do not wake up each morning as a black male. I do not know what it feels like to be stared at, judged by, and discounted because I have a different colored skin or because I speak differently.
Within the last month, I was in a public eating establishment in Bloomsburg and I listened to 4 elderly white men lament the president. There is a problem with my previous statement, they were probably not smart enough to use the word “lament” in a sentence and even worse they were racist and bigots. They spoke in a volume loud enough to be heard in most of the eating area and referred to our elected president using both the “F” word and the “N” word numerous times. I was actually stunned, in addition to being offended. I wondered two things: where the hell had I moved, and what year was it? Had I been time-warped into a pre-civil rights era? Unfortunately not . . . the experience demonstrates quite clearly the relevance and the truth in the President’s address.
Second semester, Julian Bond, the noted civil rights leader, spoke on campus. He spoke both eloquently and forcefully about how far we still need to move to create a truly equal society. I walked out of his address realizing that my own “cozen comfortableness” needed to be reconsidered. It is so easy for me as an older middle-aged white person to believe we have just made progress and there is not that much that needs to be continually questioned. This is certainly not the case.
Well as I must turn to my own grading and writing, those are the things I am considering outside the scope of my daily chores. On another front of my ever-scattered mind, I had the opportunity yesterday to catch up with two of my former students: one who has graduated and the other who has left Bloomsburg. In both cases, I was reminded of just how fortunate I am. I have been so blessed to have such wonderful people cross my path. I have been privileged to meet them and have the opportunity to both teach and learn from them. It is a great job I have.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Martin (Michael)