Friday, September 18, 2020

Covid diary Sept 18

  The west is burning. For a few days earlier this week the sky here, all these states and miles away, was a weird haze. I think I was coughing. But I’ve had sinus allergy stuff since March. Hard to say if the smoke in the sky from the other side of the country has made things worse. Hard to say it hasn’t. Consumed with this pandemic and constantly battling the lies of T., climate catastrophe has fallen from the headlines. Regulations and policies to combat the crisis have been reversed, deleted, destroyed. Recognition of how the changing climate is hurting the world’s most vulnerable the fastest. Like covid, inequity is an accelerant, fuel on the fire already burning, has been burning. T. is an accelerant, but not the cause. And when he’s gone—hopefully right out of office and directly into jail—the root causes of climate catastrophe and the unnecessary extent of the death and damage caused by covid won’t go away. We (American history, contemporary society, post WWII Republicans, unchecked capitalism etc. etc.) created T. and the racist culture that exalts him. 

Ibrim Kendi says education isn’t necessarily the solution (or lack of education necessarily the problem): 

“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course … the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there. 


“We can understand this very simply with slavery. I’m enslaving people because I want to make money. Abolitionists are resisting me, so I’m going to convince Americans that these people should be enslaved because they’re black, and then people will start believing those ideas: that these people are so barbaric, that they need to be enslaved, or that they are so childlike that they need to be enslaved.” 

But the failings in our educational systems have contributed. People who haven’t learned better—through formal education or through personal relationships and first-hand experiential learning—are especially susceptible to being convinced of the stories that perpetuate racial inferiority, the stories manufactured to justify the behavior/policies/practices of racial oppression and inequality. T. is doing this right now in the stories he tells—amplified by the world of right- wing media—about law and order and the largely peaceful BLM protests, in his new patriotic education plan, etc. His followers are ignorant and hateful but they also want to hold on to their own white power, socially at least, even if they don’t have any economic power. The owners of big oil and non-renewable everything corporations convinced us all for years to worship the causes of our own destruction. Powerful messaging indeed, profiting billions for a few while we all have helped the burning right along. Turns out even recycling has mostly been a lie, created by the plastic-makers, to keep us all in line. And we fell for it even when we should have known better. 

Though, like Frederick Douglass personally knowing and feeling the violent effects of slavery and his learning to read and write the historical, structural, economic racism that fueled the system—and armed with this knowledge working to dismantle that system—we need better history taught in schools, more critical literacies. People of all races and colors and backgrounds can learn how to dismantle ignorance and policies, and many have and continue to learn and act, even if some forever Trumpers are just a newly labeled group of the same old leaders and followers violently holding on to their white privilege and power—those who have the money convincing those who don’t to pretend they have power even if their only power is hate.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Covid diary Sept 15

 Two years ago today we went to a large pet adoption event in the parking lot at the Detroit zoo and adopted Marci. We walked around the whole place checking out all of the shelter dogs, and she was among the last who caught our attention, at the end of our first circle around, sitting quietly in her cage. After meeting a few other dogs, we got her story, got her out of the cage, and then adopted her and brought her home. And now it’s like she’s never not been here.


Right now she’s laying on the chair by the open front window of my office. I don’t know why she only discovered this chair a few days ago, but lately she regularly settles in there while I’m at the computer. She’s grown used to us being home and around all day long, or taking her in the car on short and long trips, and tends to stay close and pay attention whenever I’m moving around the house or somehow slip outside without her. If we’re going to spend any considerable time away, I think, we’re going to have to work up to it so she doesn’t have a serious panic attack and totally freak out.


Also today the grad students are on strike. It's now into the second week. Some Ann Arbor lecturers and TT faculty are striking with them too and even some from Dearborn and Flint. Many RAs have also walked out of the dorms, demanding more testing and safer conditions. And now dining workers and other groups on campus are joining in and ramping up the pressure. It’s true, we’re in a global pandemic that no one has ever had to navigate before. And so maybe leaders don’t entirely know the best ways to proceed. But the U. is the wealthiest public U. and has top-world experts in every field. There have been many conversations and information from all kinds of public health and other experts. There is no reason for the U. to be doing as poor a job as it is doing in terms of subjecting students, faculty, staff, and the community to the spread of this virus. And it hardly included any of them in reopening plans and conversations. The administration, in fact, tried to hide a report from its own committee that warned that it was dangerous to reopen to the extent planned, and that it was unethical to do so and put people in danger. Add to all that the racial justice demands and problematic history of policing on campus. Grad students are demanding police reform in funding and practice. And if all of this ever ends, those graduating grad students will enter a world radically changed and with likely fewer job opportunities, students in the dorms will go out into the local community and go back to their families and many will bring the virus, since their age group is known to silently spread if not actually contract the virus, and the world will not return exactly to how it was.


The clouds have filled in the sky like a haze. It was beautiful and clear sun earlier in the day. These good-weather September days are hard to come by and won’t last long. A bit of evening sun though glows through onto the neighbor’s bright orange and pink wildflowers which seem nostalgic for a summer they’ve barely known. The neighbor told me they pulled out old, mostly weeds, from those only somewhat contained beds in the front yard, and then threw in some wildflower mix bags of seeds. Our own fall flowers have also filled in in the front yard, but I can’t see them from here outside and under my front window. After to much dryness, the daisies are blooming again. A huge spread of deep red mums is just starting to turn into flowers from the buds. And large sedums dominate the front beds and mix with assertively spread black-eyed Susans along the driveway. Lots of other continuing summer and early fall colors, including goldenrods and other spindly spreaders have popped out all over the neighborhood.


Flowers are like taking a break. Sometimes I try to focus on them hard. To see a yard full all at once. Take in the patches and layers. The way textures and shapes fill in the outside spaces. Earlier in the summer, walking with my aunt, she told me her neighborhood didn’t have a lot of peonies, maybe because they grow a bit large and wild, that in that Ann Arbor neighborhood the yards are more neat more tidy. Our Ypsi yards, some of them, are kind of wild. Less delineation between species and types. More openness to falling out of boundaries or expectations. I think Ann Arbor used to be more like this, maybe parts of it still are. Maybe yard art can be a creative lesson, in paying attention, in cultivating beauty.