Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting It Right: Considering the State of the State

I did not listen to Governor Mike Pence's State of the State address earlier this week. I will likely now go back and revisit the session via recording. I received today a request from a member of my state library association to respond to a pending budget cut recommendation from the Governor's office that would remove access to a general research database known as INSPIRE. Here's what I had to say to my state senator and state representative:
As this legislative session kicks off in 2015, I have become aware that a budget proposal exists to cut the funding that provides statewide access to the resource INSPIRE. INSPIRE is a means of access to scholarly information for our public at-large, and serves not only public library constituencies but also those secondary school students and members of the voting and non-voting public who come to my institution's academic library for research assistance.

I work at the University of Notre Dame, and while we have a subscription to the same resource, because of our licensing terms, we are not able to provide access to the resource to members outside of our campus community. However, we are able to impact the successful study of students at both public and private schools who are conducting research into projects with roots in engineering and construction and historical impacts of economic events. Access to the statewide subscription to INSPIRE ensures that these students can continue their research in their classrooms or at home after the end their visit to our library.

I am happy to supply other examples that can help you make the case for preserving the budget to support this educational resource. I would ask that if [removal of reference to senator's name] you are looking for ideas on how to expend all or part of our state's budget surplus, you advocate for bolstering access to these and other educational tools, as well as providing for access to free and low cost health care for unemployed and underemployed men, women and children who are residents of the State of Indiana.

With Best regards,
I have received paper mailing surveys from both my senator and representative in the past weeks. They are, thankfully, interested in soliciting input as the legislative session has gotten under way. The survey is never worded clearly and never really seems to have enough room to respond in any given detail. This isn't the first time I've contacted the politicians who steer policy and laws to govern my life, but I'm at an age where I'm really starting to feel it.

I've been up in arms in the past few years about inconsistencies that disparage those who truly are in need. Who, for whatever reason are unable to bootstrap themselves out of hardship or poverty. Our state has little compassion when it comes to providing for these individuals. We [state leadership] are proudly hailing our budget surplus. Yet we have individuals who go without at the most fundamental needs, and who have little or no access to the services they need.

We need to identify the ways to get it right, justly and ethically so, within the State of Indiana. There is no one answer, but let's strip off the mantles of party allegiance at the state and national levels to remove the barriers to health, welfare and education that we can. No change will be overnight. It's all relative and all incremental. Yet, can we not do this?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reaction to microaggressions - family style

While reading a blog post on Vitae today, I linked to a new word for me: microaggression. I had not heard the term before, but parsing it in the context of the blog post written to address the need to talk about hard topics, those that give us all pause or raise our hackles, I knew it was a word I needed to learn.

Rather than hitting on a definition of what a microaggression is or is not, I was presented with examples of their occurrence within higher education. The context for which this most significantly applies to my life at present is in the personal or family realm. My second day of 2015 was ripped apart in the afternoon by a call I placed to my dad. I called to let him know I'd followed through on his request from our voicemail exchange to send my brother a text message about keeping the taps on during the hard subzero temperatures we're experiencing this week (they don't call one another for various reasons).

In exchange, I got an outright, typically playful, aggression, demanding to know "Where have you been?" The concern being he wasn't sure if I was OK and all. I explained I'd called the day before and  left a message, and he had done the same in return. I was a little on edge after this, but hoped to see the conversation through.

The conversation continued to go downhill. I was (micro aggressively) berated for not telling my step-sister and her partner that dad was old. He suggested I must have told them he is old because they were treating him that way. He's 72, by the way. I asked why he thought this and he said they were treating him as though he couldn't remember things. I asked him if he had memory problems. He denied, and then I asked him if he thought he was old. I got a circuitous response and again, grew a little more on edge. He's consumed by his mortality. I can't help him, and I feel helpless.

Finally, he asked about my other brother and his new/old girlfriend/fiancee. I said I hadn't heard from them. Again, why he doesn't call his son is outside my understanding. It's always somebody else's fault. Dad moved forward and made comments about whether we were in a fight or if my brother was still in the relationship. I shut down. I admitted I didn't know. Dad asked if I'd made them mad, or the girlfriend, like I did last time they were together. I shut down completely. "Are you there?"

I feel helpless. I know what the response will be if I openly discuss why my silence is there. I know what will happen to me if I continue to be silent. I'm thankful for the open discussion of the blog author, Felicia Harris, Ph. D. candidate, regarding social problems and microaggression. I know the drill for being able to talk about my reactions to others' comments or actions. I know to make it about me and my feelings, not an attack (or perceived as such) on another's part.

What I learned from Ms. Harris' post is that when I address the problem at hand, if the person is or is not responsive and willing to talk about the matter is beyond my control. Yes, I am sure I knew this before, but it feels revolutionary and exciting at this moment.  What I learned from the comments in the microaggression blog entry is that what someone 'intended' to say doesn't matter a lick. It's the *impact* of what was said that carries. Perhaps explaining this to my dad would be helpful. Perhaps not. I will add this to my considerations as I move forward this week. Wish me well. Wish me luck. Offer a prayer. All are good currency with me.