Saturday, November 12, 2016

Day 3: What My Voting Districts Look Like

When I went in to vote on Tuesday, my State and Local ballots were mostly familiar to me, but I had not done my due diligence for the State House Representative for my district. I had never hear his name. He was running unopposed. I did not cast a vote.

I went to work, then went home, but in the middle of the day I began thinking about why I hadn't seen the name of the person on the ballot. Where in the district did he hail? I located the district maps for both the State House and State Senate on the Indiana Government site. I was aghast at the district drawing for my Senate district. It was the strangest shape I'd ever seen. I'm in that odd pyramid shape at the top, center of the state. The largest city in the southeast corner of that block is Huntington, Indiana. The uppermost goes to the fringes of the City of Elkhart. The block spans sections of four counties. FOUR. The House District map is much more straightforward but still has its oddities in boundaries.

Indiana State Senate Minority Leader, Timothy Lelane (Democrat) is seeking to simplify the district boundaries through his committee work. I applaud this effort which the linked article extols as a bipartisan collaboration. While I don't believe that this will ensure the state becomes more likely to turn blue during elections, it will still go a long way to helping people understand who their candidates are. By having some modicum of regularity to the boundaries, it's likely more people who are 'like' their fellow district voters will be able to see their commonalities and talk more about issues that matter.

I engaged in fleeting thoughts of seeing what it would mean to run for this State Senate seat, and largely have dismissed the idea. I am not convinced that I could do the work and have the same lifestyle I have now related to family and work. Change would be inevitable. I look forward to sharing with my new State Senator and continuing State House Representative my views, which likely will vary from theirs. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Day Two and the work is hard

In following my commitment today, I engaged with family on Facebook. Family who posted one line comments that seemed to follow the pattern of seeking to end any dialogue. I opened my question machine and asked for explanation on two posts from family, and to stand up in a conversation that was clearly attacking students who are understandably having difficulty processing the election outcomes. My words worked hard to be clear that I myself didn't mean to antagonize, but rather I was seeking to understand more about the comment, what it truly meant and from where it was coming. And I let a couple of comments go.

The first exchange went well. It pulled some conversation with a cousin of my husband's that hadn't happened in a long time. And he even asked in detail how we were doing in our region of the US-- meaning us literally, my husband and I. A later request from me for clarification from an aunt on the east coast went unanswered. It was a post shared, with no individual commentary on it. I have no idea what her meaning was. Did she agree? Did she disagree? I'm seeing mixed "Likes" from her and it's getting cloudy. The third exchange in response to a friend's question on a post to his wall also went unanswered, I think. I posted my observations of the protests and grieving happening on campuses much like they are on the campus of My Place Of Work (MPOW). These students don't need to grow up. They need to be permitted to process what they're feeling and learn. Student protest is a form of learning. They are bringing their emotions and fears to public for support and conversation.

After a long day, I started letting things go. I didn't have the time or energy to respond responsibly, and so I stopped. I really stopped after seeing this post from the cousin first mentioned above, and it was captioned, "LOL" by the cousin:

I wanted to post and share with this cousin that the protests, and those expressing their anger, "hate" and other emotions only want to be understood. That it is all of our business to take a moment and hear what's going on. Then I wondered if he personally encountered anyone who was expressing anger and hate, or only was responding based on what is happening elsewhere, and is being shown in the media or through links in social media.

It's very different when hearing someone captured in media, popular, social or otherwise, who is expressing emotions versus hearing it face-to-face or knowing someone who has been attacked themselves or is part of an publicly marginalized population that has been singled out in some way during the presidential campaign season. Because many candidates were not held accountable for the details of their sweeping comments about immigration, gun control, pro-life positions, medical care plans, promisers for sweeping reforms of executive orders and other platform or positions, much room for interpretation was left. Let me say that again: MUCH ROOM FOR INTERPRETATION WAS LEFT. So for those who have heard the promises from both sides, I get there is real fear and uncertainty, and we need to respect the need to process those feelings. Please don't judge.

Through observation, in recent years I have come to understand that I am a chronic "gap-filler." What do I mean by that? I hear statements from people, media and read things in print and will use my personal experience and knowledge to fill in the gaps of what isn't presented to me. I make assumptions, and I believe I do so in an educated manner. Often, I AM WRONG. So, let me close the loop on the purpose of my year of blogging my engagement with election result fallout. I am committed to pushing myself to understand what is happening around me, and will do this through asking questions and resisting the urge to fill in gaps. Where I cannot ask questions or do not get a response, I seek to find the information to fill those gaps in my knowledge honestly, to check facts and to not assume I know what's going on around me. Yes, I'm a librarian. I should be doing this anyway. No one is perfect.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A new day and a new commitment

I went to sleep last night knowing that the world would be here when I woke up. I knew our nation would have chosen a new leader while I slept. It happened: I woke up and a new leader was chosen. The leader chosen wasn't the candidate I picked with my one vote, but in 72 days, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the leader of the United States of America. Michael Pence, current Governor of the State of Indiana will be his vice-President.

I was stunned and only half surprised this morning, based on the returns I was seeing last night. I don't know why so many people chose inexperience over experience. I know some of the things that have been said, but I really, truly don't understand the triggers that have already begun to divide my families and my friends. I plan to spend at least the next year coming to terms with this.

How will I learn? How will I seek to understand? How will I hear the responses and take them under advisement? How will I get past the urge to deny what I don't want to know? I must ask the question. If you know me, you know that this is my life's motto. I learned it as an undergraduate student from an extremely wise graduate student named Karen, with whom I've since lost contact, but Karen changed my life. I moved from feeling I had to be right and know all the answers to finally getting that I didn't know what anyone's response to a situation would be unless I asked. 

As my husband and I talked through the election results, and the possible outcomes that may emerge, I realized that having the conversation with others who assert their opinions will be key in moving this work in which I live back to one with a civic mindedness and modicum of civility. I committed this morning to asking the question whenever someone in the next year drops a statement that is intended to halt conversation or is less than founded in its evidence. It's what our fact-checkers attempted to do throughout this election campaign season, but were unable to communicate within and across party lines. No one is listening to one another.

My day was filled with meetings and commitments today at work. After a lovely breakfast from my husband, I drove to the city in which I work, filled the car's tank with gas (should I keep this up regularly just in case there is some sort of emergency?), dropped by the coffee shop for daily caffeine (should I be spending that money on fancy coffee when I have a coffee machine at home?), continued to the parking lot nearest my first and last meetings of the day. As I grabbed my backpack, purse and buttoned up my coat, I felt odd. I began thinking of all my friends and co-workers who I knew would be unsettled today. I thought about the guest speaker our leadership team was invited to hear today--she was away from her own family, her wife and daughter on this momentous day. And I thought about the email exchange I had with my committee colleague when I asked who would introduce the speaker. She responded no differently than usual, but before I could send my response to her, she wrote again to apologize for being crabby. She wasn't in the context of the message to me, but it told me how poorly she was feeling overall.

As I began meeting with colleagues who were gathering for the talk, it was clear they were exhausted, had been through the wringer. Most had stayed up for the results or couldn't sleep when they tried. This is the level of anxiety they experienced. I have never witnessed this in my lifetime and hope that I never do with respect to a national election again. My supervisor had been alternating between disbelief, anger and tears since learning of the results. The commitment I made was driving my message to others: It is okay. We need to keep the conversation going and challenge those who gloat, who boast, who drop the one-liners per the leader they had chosen for our great nation. My first validation came from a HuffPost I read this morning while in the coffee shop parking lot. I'm afraid it wasn't much use for others knowing that I had already shifted so quickly after a good night's sleep. But I have made up my mind it's what I can do.

I got a quick temperature check when Chris began her talk. It wasn't what she'd planned. It was going to keep touching on the matters at hand. It was, in retrospect raw, direct and everything I needed to hear. Chris spoke to the need she and her Task Force on the Future of Libraries had addressed in their report: We need to meet our constituencies in their context, whether local, national or global. Whether in our academic libraries or in our municipalities. Yes! This resonated. Someone I have grown to respect in my profession was speaking to me and about the way we need to handle the world in which we live.

During the conversation in the first talk, I was ready to ask questions and ready to seek understanding. My colleagues were also eager to talk. By the time I was able to enter into the conversation, I didn't ask the question I thought I would, but rather talked around it and asked about getting time and attention with our students and helping them with their information and digital literacy needs when the have no disposable time in their schedules. Chris suggested that we in the library continue to seek to provide the safe haven for students, to listen to them, and to understand their context. Her successes at her place of work have been showcased through engaging people with simple questions or open discussion topics. I believe we can do the same.

As the talks wrapped up, I said good-bye to Chris and she went to lunch with colleagues while I began my walk to the Library to take care of business and work the "Ask Us" desk for an hour. As I left the conference center I could hear student voices coming from across campus. I remembered seeing some information about a student protest that was cleared through proper channels, but I thought it had been the week before. As I continued toward the library, the voices grew more clear and stronger. These students were protesting outside of the large academic classroom buildings. I could hear variations on a litany: "We stand for..." followed by any of the following and more: the undocumented, LGBTQ rights, black rights, Latino rights,  and it went on. Many chants followed on cycle as a cantor raised her voice in leadership: Build bridges not walls!, Love Trumps Hate!, Notre Dame Against Hate!, Together! United! We'll never be divided!

As I approached their circle of protest and support for others, I saw some of my colleagues who had been at the meeting watching from outside the circle. This was the students' moment, and they were watching in support. Hugs were exchanged. I stood in solidarity. Watching. As I watched, I watched the faces and texted a dear friend who is out of the country with her husband on vacation. They were saddened to the extreme by the results. He is a documented worker in our country. He is unsettled. I did my best to reassure them of the beauty that was going on before my eyes. I did not share the thrown verbal dissension from some students. They are in the right to share their thoughts. I was saddened that they would not, could not or did not engage in a critical conversation, something that is part of the core curriculum at our university.

As I stood longer, I was joined by a postdoctoral fellow I know. She was as emotional as I was, and like me I could tell it had been coming in waves. As we stood and talked, we discussed the beauty of tenure status and being able to join in comfortably with the students. We talked about where the rest of the faculty were at this moment the students were raising voices. We worried about safety and security needs, and committed to standing with the students until they moved on. They did move on. It was literally a moving protest, and remained peaceful from what I can tell.

I chose not to take photos for the sake of the students' privacy, even though their fellow students were indeed taking pictures and video of the event. I am proud of the faculty who were joined in the circle with these students exercising their rights. I did overhear two students on the sidelines. They did not disparage, but they watched. Then one asked a question of another, "How can we be at the same Catholic university but have such different viewpoints?" I wanted to reach out and help by asking for more information. I wanted to hear what the division really was between him and the group in protest. I didn't. It wasn't the right moment despite my stated commitment. I later considered writing a letter to the editor of the student newspaper and posing the question there. I do believe that the library can lead the conversation, if we choose. I may continue that thread with our University Librarian tomorrow as I continue to process today's events.

As for me, the last 26 hours has been a whirlwind. I entered into this new place that I'm in through my church small group meeting last night. At this meeting we discussed the topic of the Holy Trinity, and how the trinity is a representation of community as well. So, what can I do to understand and engage with my community? How can I see opportunity to be a support within my community? And really, what community do I mean when I ask these questions? To get there, I think I have been given a great opportunity: to seek understanding of my community through seeking to understand those things that join us together and those that attempt to divide us.

Where context matters: Reading the substance behind the message

--Originally written July 2016--saved as draft; never posted --mh

MT 13:10-17
The disciples came and asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

“The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,

and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,

and their ears are hard of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes;

so that they might not look with their eyes,

and listen with their ears,

and understand with their heart and be converted—

and I would heal them.’

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”