So what’s it all mean? The election certainly didn’t go the way I expected. I never, ever, would have thought we’d elect a man so thoroughly repugnant. Although the word “values” is more often than not a coded word for intolerance and misogyny, I am grateful for those basic lessons instilled in me by my parents. A good chunk of how I live my life now comes from the Boy Scout Law: a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. I have my problems with the Boy Scouts as an organization, but I can’t fault that Law. It’s a group of abstract nouns that help me gauge the general quality of my life and how my life effects those around me. I don’t know about our next president. He scares me. His rhetoric scares me. His fascist tendencies and authoritarianism scare me. But I’m powerless tonight over anything but my own actions. So I’m coming to this blank page to see if I can chart a path. Words are, after all, my trade. Tomorrow, I’m going to get up, tell my daughter and my wife that I love them, go to yoga, go to work, come home and make dinner for my family, go be with my tribe at my normal Wednesday night gathering, and ask myself what I can do to make the world a better place. In short, I’m going to try to live by many of those Law tenants. I so want to hide my head in the sand for a while. I so want to just go about things as if nothing has changed. But the only antidote is action. I don’t know what that action is yet. I don’t know what it is that I can do in my community to help this ugly haze dissipate, but I know it involves being with my community. I know it involves the work I do teaching. I know it involves the people I know at yoga, in my town, in my recovery groups. I know it means I need to read even more. I know it involves more learning. I know it involves work, physical and mental and emotional. I know it involves discovering a deeper awareness of all things relating to social justice. I know it involves kindness and love in all directions. When I was watching the election results, I called one person on the television a “pile of shit.” My daughter was in the room. As soon as it left my mouth, I knew how awful it was that she had to hear me say those words. How had I become that guy? The guy that calls other human beings such vile names? That sort of thinking or speaking cannot be the answer. I’m going to need to be better than that. Love in all directions. It sounds phony and hippyish, butI can’t see any other way through. Hey, I’m a fifty year old white guy. Things probably won’t change too much for me, at least not right away. At least not if the new president doesn’t nuke something in his first 100 days. I’ll probably lose a lot of that retirement money I’ve been socking away. The economy will probably keep going just enough that I can keep my job. But it’s not me that I’m worried about. I’m worried for my daughter—our daughters—and for anyone with dark skin or anyone who came here hoping to find a better life but might not be here legally yet. Hell, I’m worried about a lot of stuff. But I was worried about a lot of other stuff last week, and worrying didn’t help anything then either. I’ll have to work on an antidote to worry, too. It’s going to be a tough four years. I know I’m rambling. It’s late. I’m tired. I’m trying to fight off despair. So forgive me this late-night missive. The sun’s going to come up in a handful of hours. And I’m going to get up with it and see if I can get busy doing the things that need to be done.
I’ve been on the organizing committee for the new union at my school. It’s the first time I’ve ever done such a thing. We won the union vote last night. 70% of the lecturers voted for the union. Of those who voted, 86% voted for the union. The final vote was 141-23. I wrote the members of the committee a letter and I thought I’d repost it below the photo. Hello Organizers,
It was something watching those stacks of votes pile up last night, wasn’t it?
I’ve never been involved in anything like this before. I’ve always believed in the idea of unions and supported them in the abstract, but I’ve never been in a situation where I could be a part of one, let alone be a small part of organizing such a thing. When Nancy caught me last summer after yoga and bought me a popsicle to keep me from running away while she asked me to come to the next OC meeting, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. Even after I came to the meeting and decided to join, I wasn’t quite sure. It just felt like the right choice to make. In fact, it was undeniably the right choice to make, but that wasn’t clear at the time. So much of the organizing campaign was about learning how things work. Every meeting I went to–even when I left feeling more flummoxed (yes, flummoxed–I had to sneak that word in here) than when I went in–was a learning experience. There were times that I felt I didn’t have much to add to our conversations, because I had to learn the way things were. This union campaign wasn’t me supporting the notion of unions in the abstract, it was me figuring out what collective action meant in the concrete.
What it turns out to mean is simply this: people. For fifteen years, I’ve been in my little English Department bubble. I come in, I teach, I go home. I park in the same place, I teach in the same rooms. I know the English department lecturers, mostly, but I don’t think I knew any lecturers outside of my department at all. All those emails about the lecturer council, social events, and campus activities–all of those sailed right past me because I was in the bubble. That’s such a strange thing to admit–because it’s not how I live the rest of my life. The rest of my life feels full of people, contacts, community. But not my work. At work, I was mostly isolated from about 90% of the people who have the same job I have. That strikes me as sort of sad, so I’m glad it is something that is being rectified.
I’ve never felt more apart of the UNH world than I do today–as I did last night watching the vote count. This organizing process will now rank among the most important experiences of my life. And although I’ve sat back a bit this semester in terms of my activities, I wanted to acknowledge how awesome it has been to be a part of this–to meet all of you, to witness Emilie’s fiery spirit, Israel’s ocean of knowledge, Sarah’s steady leadership, Kira and Christopher’s organizing passion, and everyone else too–the way our group of wildly different, incredibly smart, talented individuals came together to make this happen (and by “this”–I mean steamrolling our opponent). I know it’s not over and I know I have a lot to learn still, but I’m glad to be on the trip, glad to know all of you. I know that together we can make a difference.
And a special thanks to Nancy who got my attention the only way that could have possibly worked: with frozen juice on a stick. Without her reaching out to me, I’d still be in that bubble. Walt Whitman wrote that “All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses”–and I look forward to moving onward and outward with you all.