Friday, June 12, 2020

Vistations and Dreams, June 12,2020

Red-headed woodpecker, 2020 Photo: P. Tonery

Beyond where I live, two  (invisible) pandemics  become visible.  Daily, I am distraught by what is happening. I wish for a cure, and know that a cure comes about when we care for each other.
I listen to the news, like three doses a day.  In between, I am outside working in our three gardens, or preparing reports, or courses, or writing to keep me centered and calm, because I feel overwhelmed by the hardships people are facing daily, in cities and small towns, across our country. Reports are saying the death toll from Covid-19 will reach 170,000 by October, 2020.  That number is staggering and frightening, knowing the cruel way this virus work. Equally, moving into 18th day of protest in some cities means "Enough is enough." Things have to change.  Things are changing. 

I had no idea, (truly) no idea, that the Army bases in the United States were named after Confederate Generals.  I was stunned by that revelation this week.  Why would the Army honor the Confederate Generals? It's a strange contradiction, seemingly supporting a Confederate mindset; and, it's been an "under-telling" narrative for years.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Barack Obama 

Maybe two weeks ago, I listened to the remarks of our preceding Presidents(Carter, Bush, Clinton, Obama) on our current situation (domestic and foreign), and I was struck by how poignant, pointed, and introspective their speeches were. It made me take a deep breath.   So much work ahead, and I am willing to work to make the necessary change.  Get out the vote.  Make our voices heard in November. Be ready.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In an eyeblink, or so it seems, it's June . . .

Happy Hour at the Feeder: Baltimore Orioles love the Grape Jelly. A Mock Wine Social. Photo P. Tonery

So much as happened since the start of the new year. Spring teaching semester was interrupted by Covid 19.  All of my courses were converted to online courses.  Thankfully, I use Blackboard in my face to face classes. My students at both St. John Fisher College and Suny Brockport were champs.  The  six classes well went.  The feedback I received from the students was so positive and encouraging.  They felt the course work maintained the same level of work as the face to face class.
I found my students to be  extremely focused and on task.  Their critical engagement  deepened in  their writing and discussion.  It was a boatload of work.  I literally spent 12-16 per day on my classes, either class lectures, or commenting on discussion boards, or grading papers and tests. It was an intense 7 and 8 weeks, respectively.

I think the shut down, due to the pandemic, is going to have all of us re-think how we work and where we working, and teaching may benefit from being reflective about what happened in this quick conversion and how we (teachers) delivered our materials to our students.

Now the Spring semester is over.  I feel for all the seniors, who experienced graduation in a Virtual way.  So many traditions were interrupted.  I'm wondering if some of these virtual experiences will be incorporated into the "traditions" when we able to resume the traditions. I hope so.  In any event, big shout out to all the graduates this year.

Besides the daily Covid 19 news, and watching the number of deaths rise in our country to a number that is hard for me to imagine,but when they do the memorials on the news, with pictures and narratives, my heart aches for the families and friends who have lost loved ones. The circumstance of being separated from their loved ones in their hour of passing.  The medical caregivers and first responders for their nonstop work ; for our state, New York, being a strong model for other states on being prepared.  I am equally impressed by the leaders(governors) in the state of Washington, Oregon, California.  I am happy to see Mayors in some states, especially Alabama, challenging the quick open of some southern states, who haven't seen a peak of Covid.

Now, with the recent horrific news of the murder of George Floyd, and the protests and violence that has ensued for nearly a week in so many cities, including my city, Rochester.NY. My heart is so heavy. Since 1991, nearly 30 years, after each incident of police violence against African Americans, I have reviewed by behavior as a teacher, friend, community partner.  I ask myself am I working, truly working to see social change.  Racism and prejudice is a serious blight in our country.  And, I believe my behavior demonstrates the power of "yes." I believe in affirmative action.  I see my students, person to person to person, and I help all of my students, on so many levels, but I think I have made learning communities in my classes, and students are friends with each other, out of class. It has a ripple effect, and I know the people who have intersected with me, have contributed to my life and ways of seeing, and I  know they pass it on. Since 1991, I have had the opportunity to teach over 10,000 students of all ages, 4-98.

When you look at the demographics of these protestors on the news,  we can see that all races are represented, all ages, and  these people are living a life where they respect each other and are fighting for equal rights and social justice.  Some are at the start of this life career, and some have been fighting their whole lives, trying to make our world, wherever it is in the United States of America, a kinder and safer world, and each of our communities will be the model for the next.

Basically, it's answering the question:  Do you see what's happening in your world?  Where can you make a difference?

Maybe it's time to screen the personalities of our  police. Police who demonstrate "bullying" or sadistic tendencies, with incidents, should not be allowed to continue on the force. We want to feel protected, not threatened.

Maybe, police shouldn't  have guns. Do the police need to draw a gun for a traffic infraction? Maybe there should be a limit on how an officer restrains a person in question. Maybe the gun can be  in car, but not used immediately.  The police need to have  body cams on.  If citizens are witnessing a serious injustice, they should have the right to stop the injustice in the moment, if police officers are using excessive force and not heeding the witnesses call to stop. I don't know exactly how you do that calmly and peacefully, but I wish it had happened in  George Floyd's arrest.  People were calling out to stop, even George. Why are they taking so long to charge the other three officers?  I find it so disconcerting.

On the Rochester NY news, Police Chief Singletary spoke eloquently to the crowd and us. I recognized him, and I knew by his body language and as an African American  he was heavy-hearted, but he had his hands open in his gesture, not closed fists, and I thought, here is a strong leader. Of course, the people, who were organizing the peaceful protest, were seen by others as an opportunity to create havoc and loot and destroy-- all of this has been happening in other cities too, but sadly, in areas where the small business owner is a person of color, and grocery stores that serve in these areas
have been destroyed, too. In Rochester, NY, many people came out to help with the first night's pillage, which was at least three days ago. Unrest continues.

Black Lives Matter.  This racism and prejudice has to stop.  Many of us believe this.  Please everyone, vote in the upcoming elections. Be present.  Talk,  person to person, widen your community circles to be more inclusive, even in our social distancing.  Make a difference.

Our leadership for the past three years has allowed hate rhetoric to be part of our daily lives.

In my creative writing classes, I tell my students this:

In 19th century literature the theme was:"The Good will be rewarded and the Bad will be punished."

In the 20th century, the theme was: Sometimes, the good don't get what they deserved. "

At the top of 21st century, I speculated that the current literature was addressing lying and getting away with it.  We are now entering our 3rd decade, and the literature is all about lies and deceits.

Irony of situation?  How close is our present day news to The Hunger Games?

Next post, will be dedicated to Farm life and writing and art-- where I do my best thinking about what is happening in our shared day to day.