A Week to Remember

  Hello from the diner,

The past week we have been told by numerous prognosticators that this was a historical week. Indeed, we have had two decisions that have revealed the change in our society and how publicly attitude about very significant issues can evolve. But what makes something historical? What makes someone evolve in their opinion? What creates a groundswell that causes something to paradigmatically shift? Usually it seems to take substantive time, and for those waiting, I am sure the passage of time seemed painstakingly slow. What does surprise me on one level, and yet again when thinking more carefully, causes no surprise, was the rapid change in position among politicians and others about the Confederate Battle Flag. Amazing that one event caused such a tremendous change in our collective response. This is merely my pondering, and I realize the following statement will be controversial, but could the focus on the symbol, which is complex, be a way to take away the focus on yet another act of violence that was committed using firearms? While I am certainly aware of the mixed use of events and the rhetorical strategy of misdirection (I wrote a dissertation on it), I too am amazed at how 50 years of what seems to be an inappropriate use of the “Stars and Bars” came to such a collective “oh my, what have we done.” in barely over a week. Maybe the fact that we live in a media-driven society (and I would include social-media-driven) and the fact that our current president is black and has spoken out more publically, in spite of the disdain on some, perhaps because collectively a large enough segment of people have said, “Wait! It is time to question more vehemently!” created this perfect storm of sorts. First, and probably to the shock of some of my more conservative friends, I am not saying that the flag of General Lee’s Army of Virginia should be stricken from our collective national consciousness. Second, I am not saying that we should not allow it to be flown in places like museums or on historical places where not having it there would be disingenuous. I also know these previous statements are open to debate, but the intent is to say there is still appropriateness when this is done as a historical issue and not as a way to further an agenda of white supremacy. I also know some will argue I am asking to have my proverbial cake and eat it too. What I am trying to say is there is complexity in this issue.

The killing of nine black persons merely having a Bible study by a 21 year old, who professes such hatred and bigotry, is certainly cause for us to question that history. It is cause for us to re-examine how it is that 150 years after a war to address equality we still have so much hatred and disrespect based on little more than a difference in melanin. As I have noted, more times than I wish I needed to, why is it that we fail to appreciate or even attempt to understand the other. Again, this past week, I have both read about, and experienced personally, what I would deem to be “an unethical use of power.” In the personal situation, a small group, whom I understand are appointed to oversee speciifc issues and a solicitor again whom I imagine is hired, decided something based on hypotheticals and a pretty blatant misreading of a criteria. This seems to have been done because of their disdain for a specific group of people and how they have taken it upon themselves to be gate keepers. It mattered not what I planned to do would not include this non-grata group of individuals.

Another big issue of last week was the Supreme Court and while considered to be a conservative court, especially with John Roberts as Chief Justice, they issued two rulings that affect the fabric of our national identity in a monumental manner. I was a little shocked that they ruled on behalf of the administration concerning the Affordable Care Act. I was stunned that the vote was 6-3. The language of opportunity and right is part of this discussion. The president has noted that this judgment of the. Kurt affirms that health insurance is the right of all Americans. I am, again to the shock of my conservative friends, not totally comfortable with the use of the term “right” in this instance. I need to do more thinking or hear a better argument to convince me this is a right. I understand that was not the issue at hand in the cases before the court, but the use of that term following the decision is troubling to me. I will continue to ponder. The decision about marriage,which would have been the decision I thought might have been more likely to be beyond the 5-4 vote wasn’t. Yet, it did pass. Amazing what the roles of church and state still cause in this country. It is also interesting what people say about church and state and separation, but there is nothing in the constitution that uses that phrase. I am always amazed by what people pull out of context and see as some kernel of truth upon which they base way too much of their philosophy. I am dismayed at what I believe is the shallow way that most people consider so many of the complex issues that are part of our societal fabric at this point. How did we become such a society that is willing to merely hear things and not listen, to accept things and not ponder, to fail to question things as the truth, regardless of however ludicrous it may seem? Perhaps it was because I was in the service as a 17 year old. Perhaps it is because I have always been the person to question most everything. The way in which things are decided and the power of the United States Supreme Court awes me. While politically the three branches of government were meant to be a checks and balances system, it seem that the power of the president to appoint that justice is probably the most important thing a president does. Certainly the Senate in its ability to approve or reject that nomination is also powerful. The fact that a particular justice might be on the court for decades and the tenor of the court is so influenced by the specific make up its members that it boggles my head. What an amazingly powerful position. I do not remember paying as close attention to the final decisions of the court in the way I have this year in my entire life.

It is now been sweet and I have not finished my blog posting. It was the first week of teaching and, therefore, even thought I have not been writing blogs, I have been reading them. My students have begun their own blogs and I thin they are working pretty diligently to get things accomplished. As is the case in my life, more often than not, something comes along and makes what I thought would be a reasonable project a bit more difficult. I have found out that the properties back in WI and the lot lines what were thought to be and what actually exists on the deeds does not match up quite as expected. In fact, there are some significant issues. More work to do this summer.

In the meanwhile we are upto the July 4th weekend. I am going to Gettysburg today with Rachael and tomorrow I am having a sort of holiday/birthday cookout with my Dominican family. I also want to catch up on the other things I need to get finished up. The end of the summer will be here before we know it. I am still waiting on the building project. Hopefully something’s will shake out in the coming week. I need to do some other shopping today and as it always seems to happen, I have misplaced one of my wallets again. I think I have an idea, but that search will have to happen today also. I am thinking about my friend, Peter, today also. As I noted in a previous blog, the 4th of July growing up was spent with the Goedes at the Ike’s Club. I have a college colleague who has lamented the loss of these sort of family events. I think they still occur, but as our families seem more fragmented and separated, the idea of family reunions and such might be more the exception than the rule. While I am inclined to agree that the lost of the family unit like we grew up with has a consequence, I am not sure it is the root of all the evils we are facing. I am willing to say its effect is far-reaching however.

If my students read all of this, they might wonder if I too am going to write something relevant to class. Yesterday I asked them to consider this phrase (more accurately, a sentence): “the machine is us/ing us.” This is the title of a short video that was created by the Kansas State cultural anthropologist, Michael Wesch. Technology permeates and controls our life, and I am not merely talking about our hand-held devices. I am talking about our daily basics that we take for granted.: water, electricity, heat, transportation, and those other utilities that we called necessities long before FB called itself a social utility. Yet, the predominance of hand-held, data-rich, and seemingly unlimited-access phones, pads, and tablets have changed how we access, view, and comprehend the world as well as how we understand ourselves. What made this week different, a week to remember? For me it was people, places, and things, but the majority of it was discovered on my iPad.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

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