AND THE THUNDER ROLLED

“It contributes greatly towards a man’s moral and intellectual health, to be brought into habits of companionship with individuals unlike himself, who care little for his pursuits, and whose sphere and abilities he must go out of himself to appreciate.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“IT SEEMS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE, but there was once a time when human beings did not feel the need to share their every waking moment with hundreds of millions, even billions, of complete and utter strangers. If one went to a shopping mall to purchase an article of clothing, one did not post minute-by-minute details on a social networking site; and if one made a fool of oneself at a party, one did not leave a photographic record of the sorry episode in a digital scrapbook that would survive for all eternity. But now, in the era of lost inhibition, it seemed no detail of life was too mundane or humiliating to share. In the online age, it was more important to live out loud than to live with dignity. Internet followers were more treasured than flesh-and-blood friends, for they held the illusive promise of celebrity, even immortality. Were Descartes alive today, he might have written: I tweet, therefore I am.”
Daniel Silva, The Heist

 

When I was growing up, I embraced the rebel without a clue mentality with a zeal born out of a natural affinity – some might argue that I’ve never let it go. My parents were cut from the disciplinarian cloth and as a result, there was plenty to rebel against. They told me not to stay out too late. I pushed curfew every weekend. Don’t drink or smoke pot translated to engaging in both. Rules about driving too fast and wearing seat belts, also ignored. At one point my father was inspired to declare, “I could say Pepsi and you’d respond Coke just because I said Pepsi.”

“Well coke is better,” was my smart-ass reply a clear indicator of my outlook.

I doubt my experience was unique. For generations, children have rebelled against the demands of their parents and parents have responded by doubling down on the rules while ignoring the potential consequences. By the time I left home at age 19, my parents and I were barely speaking. The littlest comment could inspire a fully inflated conflagration, consequences be damned. We both felt we were right, and little consideration was given past that. Being right was perceived as victory and as a result, took precedence over all else.

Time has taught me that on some things my parents were right, on others not so much. I have come to realize that at their core, all their rules were designed with the intent of protecting me and keeping me safe. What I’ve also come to realize is that the consequence tied to “being right” can be just as detrimental as the issues at hand. During the 10 years before my father passed away, we barely spoke and I seldom visited. Today, nary a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him. Maybe we shouldn’t have been as focused on who was right, and instead focused on each other. Now, it’s too late and that opportunity is forever gone.

America has always been a little like a teenager itself. Our national identity is forged in not following the rules. Had we followed the rules we’d still be governed by England. The quality of life we enjoy has been made possible in large part because of an unwillingness to adhere to the status quo and pay homage to the rules. Immigrants have come to this country and enriched our quality of life, and themselves because they were unwilling to follow the rules in their countries of origin. For better or worse, America has always had a high concentration of rebels, some without clues, but also many who possessed a greater grasp then they were initially given credit.

History is complex, and narratives can be twisted to tell virtually any tale you want. Washington can be both a military genius and a buffoon who only got the job as Commander-in-Chief of a fledging nation because he was the tallest man in the room and wore a self-made military outfit to every meeting. Jefferson can be both a noble visionary and the father of a child produced through the rape of a slave girl. The men and women who settled the American West can be both romantics in search of a greater level of individual freedom and simultaneously be co-conspirators in mass genocide. The one common trait among all of them is an unwillingness to live within the so-called “rules”.

For better, or for worse, America is a country that does not widely accept blind adherence. Which is what makes the current debate about the wearing of masks so confusing to me.

Please don’t take this as an argument against wearing masks, the data is in, and we all need to be wearing masks in order to slow the spread of the virus. Now I don’t agree with the codifying of the action, but we’ll get to that in a minute. But I gotta ask, why is anybody surprised that all Americans aren’t embracing the wearing of masks? I can’t even get my dog to listen to me, let alone my children, yet there are people that believe that others will comply solely based on their say-so and efforts to publicly shame.

Try this experience sometime. Walk outside and call your neighbor a dumb ass. Now go back tomorrow and ask him to help change a tire on your car or contribute to a local fundraiser. How’d that work out for you? I suspect not so good, yet all across America that exactly what people are doing daily.

My social media pages are populated with posts from people shocked by the number of folks who have not embraced the new tenets. They assume that all of those not donning masks or populating bars are either ignorant or malicious. As if all human behavior could be reduced to such simplistic terms. In response to this lack of blind adherence, a corp of self-appointed enforcers has sprung forth. A favorite activity of these folks is perusing public gatherings and counting the number of people not in compliance, reporting them back to the faithful via social media. Once reported, pearls are clutched and more pronouncements are made on complete and utter strangers.

Those working as self-appointed corona police consistently tout the importance of data. Ironically, I don’t believe that there is any data that supports public shaming and demanded adherence as producing anything but resentment and resistance. If you’ve ever engaged in an intervention for an addict, you know exactly of whence I speak.

Humans, since they crawled out of caves, have made safety assessments based on the data available and their individual needs. They adjusted their behavior in a manner that they personally felt provided for not just their survival but also their ability to live to the fullest. Often times survival relied on collective action – declaration of war, mass immunization, quarantine. None of these calls for collective action have ever been universally accepted.

Every war ever fought, no matter how noble the cause, has come without its dissenters and those who refuse to participate. Even when it was clear that unless we all came together destruction was assured, there were those that refused to sign up. At times their decisions were proven correct, at other times, the results were nearly disastrous.

I’m not assigning any noble intentions to those who refuse to wear masks, but I would argue that they are owed the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they do have medical considerations that make things problematic, they don’t owe me any explanation any more than the person who takes their security animal on an airplane or a compulsive germaphobe owes me for their behavior. I assume that the same information available to me is readily available to others and that they too have a god given ability to make decisions based on their individual circumstances.

Yes, the mandating of the wearing masks infringes on individual choice and the enactment of legislation facilitates the future removal of other individual choices in the same manner that mask legislation was facilitated by seat belt laws, smoking laws, and laws enacted in the wake of 911. I would argue that present circumstances necessitate the need for masking, but that doesn’t mean that individual concerns should be unilaterally dismissed. Why not just acknowledge the point and move on?

Yes, elected officials excusing mass gatherings for protests while deriding social gatherings of the same size undermines the communication of the severity of the pandemic. I am not arguing that protests are the major contributor to the growth in corona cases, but to argue they have no impact defies logic. Championing one while vilifying the other opens the door to a perception of a politically motivated message. Why not just acknowledge that and move on?

This weekend I worked at a party that was attended by conservatives. Here’s a news flash for my democratic friends, none of them had tails nor horns growing out of their head. They were far from ignorant – all college-educated and most being dentists, IT managers, and business owners – they just had a different opinion on the best strategy for fighting the current situation than the majority of democrats. But every one of them was well aware of how they were being publicly portrayed and rightfully felt defensive about it to varying degrees.

Last week I worked at a party that was attended primarily by liberals. Here’s a news flash for my republican friends, none of them had tails nor horns growing out of their head. They were far from ignorant – all college-educated and most being CEOs, teachers, and business owners – they just had a different opinion on the best strategy for fighting the current situation than the majority of republicans. But every one of them was well aware of how they were being publicly portrayed and rightfully felt defensive about it to varying degrees.

Right now, collectively, we are focused on survival and the returning of OUR lives back to their former state. The mask meme that bothers me the most is the one that proclaims that the wearer does so out of concern for others. That’s not 100% true, it’s primarily out of concern that others don’t get sick and infect others so that our individual lives can return to their previous state. It’s rooted in an “I know best and you need to adhere mentality.” It fails to acknowledge that there are unintended costs involved with navigating the current pandemic and that those costs are born heavier by some more than others.

If you currently employed then you have no idea around the calculations that go into the necessitated risks and modifications that are required in order to continue to provide food and shelter for your family. Facing that required risk may mean that you downplay some of the risks in order to mentally prepare to face others.

If you are someone who has unfortunately lost a close friend or relative to the virus, you are understandably hypersensitive to the required precautions. That doesn’t mean you are living in fear or robbing people of their rights.

If you don’t own a small business, you don’t understand the amount of sweat and sacrifice that went into creating that business. Watching it die while not doing everything possible to save it is akin to watching a loved one die, or in some instances your very self. It’s not something to be dismissed and sloughed off. Not every business owner is swimming in cash nor a robber baron. The majority of them are just like you and me, trying to navigate a place in the world they can occupy with a degree of happiness and sanity.

You may be someone experiencing especially heighten anxiety due to the pandemic. As a result, you are quick-tempered and often angry or you become weepy at the drop of the hat. You may pretend that you are unaffected or you may become hyper-vigilant. Each of us reacts to stress in a different manner and should be extended grace in this traumatic time.

The current pandemic is rife with uncertainty. Nobody can predict the outcome, nor the final cost. Sure we can create models that can predict possible outcomes but none of them are infallible.

What we can predict is what will happen if we continue to vilify each other and focus on being right over our shared humanity. 50% of America is not going away. Nor 40% or even 30%. We have to find a means to live together and co-exist. Because if we stop the virus but fail to acknowledge each other, we will only succeed in completing the destruction wrought by the virus.

I loved my parents dearly, that didn’t stop me from disregarding their words and rebelling against them. Both of us being unwilling to compromise led to resentment which led to division. Divisions that breed resentments. Resentments that my father and I were never able to overcome and as a result valuable time was forfeited. I would hate to see history repeat itself on a grander scale. It wouldn’t be good for any of us.

This country has already been torn asunder by one civil war, it can ill afford a second.

QUICK HITS

Today marks the beginning of the week of July 6th. Expectations are that MNPS will release it’s school re-entry plan this week. Those who expected it to arrive today are likely going to be disappointed. Indications are that it will come towards the end of the week. Whenever it arrives, won’t be soon enough.

Twenty-Five years ago the state of New Jersey took over control of the Newark School District. The change precipitated some improvements but today the district is smaller, 38K kids, due to a proliferation of charter schools that educate one-third of the city’s schoolchildren. In 2018 the state restored limited control back to the elected school board who hired local product Roger Leon to be superintendent. Leon produced more positive results. This week the full transition to local board control becomes complete. Today is a historic day with much cause for celebration but not one without concerns. Per Leon, “I’m worried about how this system recovers,” he said, “not from COVID-19 — but from the state-operated school district.” A warning we should all heed.

There is a great article in today’s Tennessean about Possip founder Shandi Dowell. Dowell is the first woman in Tennessee to raise a million dollars for a tech start-up. MNPS has utilized Possip to survey district families in regard to a return school. The results are very illuminating, especially when broken down by schools, and I encourage you to fully explore them. (POSSIP Survey Results)

MNPS’s English Learners Registration Centers will open Monday, July 6, by appointment only. If families speak a language other than English at home, they can call 615-259-8608 or email ELReg@mnps.org to make an appointment.

Raise your hand if you knew that the American Revolution began amidst a pandemic. It’s true. According to a National Geographic article, a smallpox epidemic struck shortly after America declared independence. Luckily Washington proved as adept at handling the virus as he did the British. And now you know the rest of the story.

POLL RESULTS

Time now to look at the results from the weekend polls.

The first question was, do you favor pushing back the start of school until after Labor Day? 63% of you said absolutely, with another 19% indicated support albeit with reluctance. Only 13% voiced opposition. Here are the write-in votes,

A delay is necessary, but maybe two to three weeks. 1
Def. pushed back. 1
Would it matter really 1
Will it make any difference? Drag feet until then 1
I would support remote learning until then

Question 2 asked who should be ultimately responsible for the opening of schools. The answer on this one was pretty clear, 75% of you responded that it should be the school board in consultation with the health department and the Mayor’s office. Another 14% answered that it should be Dr. Battle. None of you thought it should be Mayor Cooper or the Scarlett Foundation. So the obvious question here is why they are the two loudest voices in the conversation? A close second would be why are there no school board members on any of the committees organized to strategize over the opening of schools? Furthermore, why are there not more teachers on the committees or a separate committee just made up of educators? Here are the write-ins,

MNPS Employees 1
Magic 8 Ball 1
Whoever decides needs to talk to the people in the trenches to see what ’s feasi 1
Battle and board together 1
The actual people who work in actual schools 1
Battle and Board

The last question attempted to gauge your confidence in MNPS having a quality distance learning plan. 38% indicated a dearth of faith, while 21% believed that initially, it would prove inadequate but that teachers would improve it once they got a hold of it. Nobody expressed absolute faith. I find that troubling and speaks to larger issues within the district. Here are the write-ins,

None for many class offerings such as Related Arts, science labs, etc 1
Williams and Petty are a joke 1
Bahahahaha 1
Overpaid leadership has massively failed us 1
None

That’s it for today if you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy.

If you so desire to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.



Categories: Education

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