A Day in Infamy

Stop Writing

Good morning on Monday of Finals Week,

I am quite sure for graduating seniors this last set of undergraduate finals has a very different feel to them than the first semester freshmen who are experiencing the week for the first time. I remember attempting to take finals after by brother passed away the previous week. It was a terrible experience. Of course, the fact that I had not been a stellar student in the weeks before did not help. I also remember when I had 23 credits one semester and had 9 hours of finals back-to-back (Greek, German, and Latin). That was not a stellar day either.

It seems that each generation has those moments in their lives that some event occurs and they will remember where they were. It is hard to believe that my freshmen students were only 5 years old when 911 occurred. While they probably remember something about the day, they did not understand the significance of it, or at least in a larger picture. I do remember November 22, 1963 even though I was only 8 years old. I know my father, who would be 99 years old remembered Pearl Harbor as did any person alive that fateful day in 1941. It is, of course, the basis of the title for this blog. I think while I remember President Kennedy’s assassination and I remember clearly the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and  Robert Kennedy  (I was in what is now called middle school), the 8th of December 1980 was another one of those moments for me. I was a sophomore at Dana College and an impromptu humanities event (Hum Event as we called them) was held because John Lennon has been shot and killed outside his Dakota Apartment Building in NYC. Like every kid of the 60s, I remember the British Invasion and the Beatles were part of our musical DNA at that time. I think what I remember more about Lennon was his break from the group and his solo career and his outspoken and, at least what seemed to a Midwest Iowa kid, his outlandish behavior. Today I think he would be considered tame though I do believe he would still stand up and speak out against injustice and corporate greed, which again seems a bit oxymoronic because his money was made through the corporate music industry.

These past days I have been pondering the violence that has seemed to permeate everything we do. I have been listening to NPR, which, for those of you who know me, is not surprising. I have listened to a reoccurring theme in a number of commercials that say something to the effect of “if you see something out of the ordinary speak up”. This theme is to respond to the violence that seems to be present in every place and part of our society: the streets, the schools, the malls, the churches, add whatever comes to mind). While I am well aware that guns do not kill people, but it is the person using it and most of the other 2nd Amendment right arguments, I have a significant problem with the simple fact that I believe this culture of the “constitutional right” to own a gun seems too often to find its way into the debate, arguing that is why we should not limit ownership of type of weapon, the capacity of the magazine, or anything that seems to say “you can’t . . . “. As a former Marine (notice I did not say ex-Marine), I know all too well what an armor-piercing round can do to an ammo can let alone a human being. I know the accuracy of an M14 or an M16 or a 45 caliber pistol. I have fired them all and quite well.

While I know this will be controversial to some, it is merely my opinion. Simply put, I do not believe the average person has need of a firearm of any sort. Again, I did not say anything about their right to own it, but why do most people need it? I also know the issue of protection and that if lawful people cannot have guns then only the crooks have them. First, of all that argument is crap. Law abiding people do have guns and the crooks still have them and the consequence is simply that more people have guns. As a college professor, I am glad, at least for the moment, students are not allowed to have a carry and conceal option in a Pennsylvania classroom. That is not to say I am worried about being a target, but again, I do not believe that carry and conceal is a sensible law for the average person. Why in God’s name do you need to be packing a pistol as you walk down the street? It is kind of like angry drunks. I bartended long enough to put up with what I call “asshole drunks” and in a college town there is way too many cases of alcohol + testosterone = dumbass. You can substitute estrogen for testosterone in the previous equation too. Angry drunks do not need to be drunk to be a jerk. They already have that skill; alcohol merely raises their jerk-ability quotient exponentially. So it is with people and guns, it seems that many times guns are used in anger. I do not need to cite figures here. I am merely speaking from common sense. I grew up with an uncle who had an arsenal in his house, but he taught me to respect firearms at a young age. While I never questioned his right to own a gun, I never felt the need to own one myself and after seeing what happened with weapons as a Marine, I had even less desire to have a gun. While again, I understand some people might have a desire to own a firearm, I think the question of why they want it is important. For what reason do you think you want a firearm? For what reason do you think you need a firearm? Those are very different questions. The issue of wanting something is generally bases on a desire or a wish, or maybe as a way to prove something. The issue of needing something is that there is a belief that one’s life is missing something of importance or necessity without it. The 2nd Amendment is not a reason to justify either of these positions; the only thing the 2nd Amendment does is allow either the want or need to be legalized. I have spent a good portion of my life in rural areas and where I now live they actually cancel the public school on the first day of deer hunting season. I remember how stunned I was by that the first time I lived in this state. They said it was safer so school buses did not get shot at. Really? You cannot tell that it is big and yellow? Sometimes, the stupidity of people boggles my mind. I guess I am a bit more simple that I would like to admit. Or maybe things merely need to make sense and most people do not. That leaves me in a quandary. What I do know is when I was in grade school  or middle school or high school, we did not worry about people having guns in the hallways or lunchrooms or any place like that. A fight between two trying to prove their masculinity after school was about the extent of the violence. We did not have to worry about armed guards or whether teachers needed guns. Am I merely showing my age? No, I think we are talking about something more fundamental. We are talking about respect for one another. Last night I actually appreciated something I heard LeBron James say after a game. When talking about the societal issue of violence, he noted it was a human issue. I could not agree more. I do not care about your gender, your race, your ethnicity or any other variable. What I want to know is can you be respectful? Can you treat people with decency? I have brought this issue up in other contexts in this blog. When you fail to treat other people, any person, with a sense of decency, the consequence is a poorer, sadder society. We do have a duty to the society in which we live to treat people decently. I am well aware that some argue against any sense of this and demonstrate that through their actions. I fundamentally disagree with them. I understand that is a choice also, and that is free will, but to think we have no duty, no co-requirement or any other synonym that shows an interdependence would mean there is no societal sense of decency or justice. It seems that is perhaps why some of the idiocy that has become more commonplace is happening. If we have no sense of moral or legal responsibility, if we can do as we please and merely say it is who we are, the consequence is what we have: a society of mistrust, a society of greed, a society of violence. When enough people think they have no reason to consider how their actions affect the other, I am afraid we will find out what anarchy truly is. I believe it is this very attitude that creates situations like those that have covered our headlines of late. When enough individual claim free will gives them Carte Blanche to do as they please, I fear we will see more acts of complete selfishness.

Well, I am in the middle of grading and the initiative is long and arduous. I am always amazed on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to the grading and what students have actually done with the opportunity to come to the university. It is much like the issue of wants and needs. Some believe they need to be here (and I understand that concept). It astounds me when they believe that, but then do not take advantage of the opportunity to do the work and excel, that is not potential that is discipline. There are those who merely want to be here and their reasoning could be based on a variety of things. However, I am afraid that I consider their philosophical justification a bit more dubious. All-in-all, what I know is the next days I will evaluate and assess and, at the end, I will assign a grade that I believe has been earned. I do not enjoy this part of the semester, but it is a necessary evil. I know that some have done the work they need to do and that finals are merely review. I also know that some of them are trying to make up for 14 weeks of slacking (or at least some slacking in there). For those individuals, the week is brutal and taxing. Even if you have done your work, you care and you do stress. I know this is the case. For some of them, grades will be their day of infamy. That is a reality check. As I finish up the semester, it has been eventful. While there were hopes and dreams for each person, the reality of where the semester ends is always a bit unexpected. While I think I have done pretty strong work in the classroom, my grading and timeliness has not been up to par. I think the other battle I am fighting has taken its toll, but that is my reality. Today, in spite of water and doing what I should, my body hurts. In spite of that, I have a lot to manage and there is no respite, so I will keep going. I am hoping that I might catch up with some people I have in good faith helped out and have somehow not followed through. I am realizing that I believe the best in people too often.

This is not a complaint; it is merely the reality that I am experiencing. I am so blessed to be here. I am hoping to continue to be so. In the meanwhile, it is back to reading and grading.

Thanks for reading as always,

Dr. Martin

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