Sometime in May 2018, a bunch of tenured professors will convene at my university to decide if I deserve tenure. This blog is about my reflections along the way.
Tragic deaths are just that. Tragic. When someone dies suddenly, tragically, it is incomprehensible; there is ache for meaning.
Yesterday, I watched Heather Heyer’s mother give her daughter’s eulogy. She spoke with conviction about her relationship with her daughter, what her daughter stood for, and how to make meaning from tragedy. It is worth watching, even for those too young to understand what is currently happening. — Speak up. Be heard.
I like movies, but not over and over again. Or old ones, for that matter. Watching a familiar actor at a much younger age simply reminds me that life is short. But sometimes I pick a movie without looking at the year: The Secret Life of Bees. The movie lingered with me for days, especially the images of the South in the early 1960s.
A few days later, as I was looking at my bookshelf, I spotted my very old copy of Black Like Me. I read the book in high school and it lingers like a few others (To Kill a Mockingbird, On the Beach, Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies). I read a few pages and put the book back on the shelf.
That same week, I flipped through the HBO documentaries, and landed upon 4 Little Girls. Another old movie (1997), also about the Civil Rights Movement.
In early August, I was in Atlanta for an academic conference. So I took a few hours to visit The Center for Civil and Human Rights (museum), which included an exhibit on the American Civil Rights Movement.
And yesterday, by chance, I turned on the TV to see Trump’s (historical) news conference in real time.
I now listen to Joan Baez’s “Birmingham Sunday” frequently. Listen.
Transcript from Trump’s press briefing today. Worth a peak. A day that will be remembered for a long time.
Early Saturday (late Friday) Josh Freed wrote about his Trump addiction in the Montreal Gazette. Saved at last; time to draw my eyes away from the headlines. And then Trump surprised all over again, with a Charlottesville narrative that was simply unbelievable. “… on many sides,” he said. Sides of what? Unknown.
A few years back, I took a course in qualitative methods with about 20 others. During one particular session, we all sat around a very large table and were asked to close our eyes. The professor then placed a dozen items on the table – statues, books, artwork, knickknacks, etc… We opened our eyes and were asked to record what we saw. Thinking the exercise was about observation techniques, we got busy quick, doodling, scribbling, creating systematic diagrams. When we were done, she had us change positions, eyes half-closed. We scrambled a bit, politely pushing our way to another seat far away from the first. And then we gasped.
It turned out that many of the objects looked different from the other side of the table. And in some cases, certain items previously invisible suddenly appeared. Truth.
When Comey recalled his nine meetings with Trump yesterday, whether you believed him or not, what likely mattered to Comey is that he was telling his truth. When he explained why he took notes after many of the meetings, he pointed to three factors: the context, the content and the nature of the person. And as a CNN commentator commented, life happens in context. It makes little sense to focus on one word, or one sentence, because stuff is said before and stuff is said after.
So Comey told his truth. Which some believe and others don’t. Because truth is so personal, created over a lifetime, but never really defined. We cannot hold it in our hands. It just hangs in the air, changing shape as things are said and done, ignoring contradictions, gobbling up new ideas, spitting out those that taste bad. And when one person’s truth challenges another, it’s messy, confusing, and sometimes painful. Because oftentimes we are sitting at opposite ends of the table, and it takes a lot of effort to stand up and change seats.
It takes 21 days to create a new habit (or replace an old one). 21 days. Three weeks. I wanted to write a blog entry every day. But as I neared Day 21, I froze. I do actually write every day, but not always here. I write long-winded emails about ice being the gold currency of the local ringuette organization, or lists of family rules that start with “Hang up your towels.” I can write text messages in paragraph form, capitals, periods, semi-colons and all. And I write pages and pages of research, throughout the day… in my head, and sometimes dictate my writing out loud while driving.
So as I worked my way through today’s morning, wondering how I failed to blog every day, I decided to google the evidence. And learned that the 21-day rule is not much of a rule at all, but a manipulation of research results on a somewhat similar but not exact phenomenon. Off the hook.
And then I thought about other habits that take only days to manifest. Comey. I am hooked. Comey is testifying tomorrow. It’s in my calendar. I have put aside all other work, all other family commitments. I will be glued to my screen, and glued to the unfollowtrump twitter account. It’s a habit I cannot break.
I remember where I was the day that the Challenger blew up, where I was standing – the table, the position of the tv in the McGill library, where I was positioned around that table. I remember exactly where I was when I read a magazine article about MRI machines in the early 80s and thought, “I should buy stock in that” (I never did). I remember sitting in a restaurant with hubby, when a friend rushed in to meet us, blurting out, “Princess Di was killed in a car crash.” I remember shooing soccer players off the field during a lightening storm, and a parent scooping up her daughter while yelling out the window, “Michael Jackson has died.” And I remember delivering 30 newspapers that reported the death of my favourite actor, Peter Sellers.
And I remember precisely the moment that I learned that Comey had been fired. Within seconds, my Comey habit was formed.