Nerd's Eye View mk III

My glasses! My glasses! I can't see without my glasses!

Cowardice: more investigation

Rather than post at length about the cowardice of others, I’m going to ask myself a question: am I a coward? If you’ve been following along closely, I asked myself that question after murder of George Floyd and the subsequent street protests. I did actually take to the streets after that, cautiously venturing out for the first time since the Muslim ban protests of 2017, but that hasn’t really answered my question. After all, I was being extremely cautious, returning before the curfew time that was imposed on the city, or taking part in “family friendly” protests where the likelihood of state sponsored violence was diminished by the presence of lots of little white children. So was I still a coward?

I subsequently listened to this episode of the Code Switch podcast episode (Why now, White People?) which, while it didn’t address my question directly, did give me something to think about. The title refers to why, with the overabundance of extrajudicial and summary execution of black people in America, have White People chosen this time as the time they would take to the streets. There is no pat answer, but there are several lines they follow, and one of them that interested me was the concept of “permission”. White people, by virtue of the sheer numbers of people participating, feel like they have permission to care about this. This made me irate, until I started thinking about it in terms of myself. Maybe it’s not simple cowardice, rather it’s my natural desire to not rock the boat, to conciliate. So I wait till I have permission to be angry, to protest, to speak up – or perhaps a certainty that I am not overreacting. This desire for confirmation/validation of my actions runs pretty deep and may undercut my ability to simply act. I don’t know where it comes from, whether it’s inherent to my personality, or part of my coping mechanism to deal with the white supremacist millieus that I have lived in. Where it came from, it has put the brakes on desire to act on issues that I care about for a long time. Now that I know this, what do I do?

The World As It Is

If you’re listening to the news or walking the streets or (God help you) listening to What Sucks This Week, you know what’s going on out there. The extrajudicial murders, the protests, the hidden conspiracies; it’s all enough to make a man give up on life. What’s left of our hope for the future, when all the signs point to disaster, and our fellows seem indifferent?

I didn’t mean for this to be as morose as it started. I had a story in my head, about what it means to be alive at this time, in my own time. I am not old, but too old to really throw myself into demonstrations, to the expressions of public rage that this situation warrants. It’s a young man’s game, I tell myself, which adds to the feeling that I am a coward. I am in some ways not different from the men (as they overwhelmingly are) who spit conspiracy theories, and gin up rage in the young foot soldiers of the right. Posting memes, tweeting and retweeting, but are they on the front lines? No, they (we?) let the young folks duke it out in the streets, as we sit on our couches.

But, I tell myself, I have a kid. Do I leave my wife with her while I gallavant around town? Do want to let someone else fight for my freedom? Or my kid’s, or my wife’s? Am I a coward?

Grinding My Teeth: Expert Opinions

(Disclaimer: This post came to me from a dream last night, but I think it might actually make some sense.)

I grind my teeth.

This is quite inconvenient, and has come up relatively recently in my life, increasing in incidence after I had a child. After all isn’t this what dad’s do? Worry to distraction and keep it all inside? After all it’s what my dad did.

That’s right! My own Dad grinds his teeth, and has for years. He’s mostly easy going, to the point of almost downright carelessness, so when I first noticed the tooth grinding it was a surprise to me. I remember it most clearly from my 20’s, when I would visit the family home from graduate school. Dad would be sitting and reading in his chair, jaw working away at some problem. In fact, as I think of it, I also recall it from my teens! I feel bad, now, for not asking to him about it, but then that is the lot of fathers I suppose.

I suspect that a lot of it came from work at the time. Dad was working in the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs during my teens, mostly after the coup which resulted in a military government, which ended up driven by a fundamentalist, kleptocratic Islamist party (go here for a little more info). This government differed from previous ones in that it initially sidelined all the career civil servants, and then began packing ministries with its own (unqualified and corrupt) operatives. In this environment my father stuck around and tried to do what any career civil servant would do: to serve the interests of the nation and it’s people as best he could. To that end he continued to file reports, advise and speak – but no one listened, and occasionally they would do the exact opposite, to the detriment of the Sudanese people. This Sisyphean task took its toll and, eventually, he left the service of his country. While life afterward was frustrating, it was not as bad as it had been, to some extent because he was not watching his colleagues being purged, and not being ignored.

I feel like this parallel well with the current state of affairs in the US response to the corona virus pandemic. Dr Fauci of NAID is emblematic of what many other civil servants and experts of various kinds are going through. They are being ignored at best, and being discredited at worst. Character assassination, if not actual threats of death, are being used to attempt to silence them and bury the inconvenient truths they are speaking. These people are civil servants or scientists who have, by and large, eschewed the material rewards of the private sector to do something for the common good. What’s most concerning about this is that it implies that many of their fellow citizens do not believe in this common good, or that anyone would work towards it. Or worse, they may not care about the common good at all, inasmuch as it might require them to do anything whatsoever. Paradoxically, these people equate not caring about the whole with being somehow patriotic or superior to everyone else. How does this track? While Americans in the 30’s and 40’s made their sacrifices for what the common good seemed to be at the time, Americans now seem to believe that only the most symbolic of gestures are sufficient – and even those should be done by “someone else” (cf. unnecessary flyovers by military craft to thank first responders who would have rather had access to better PPE, a coherent national strategy and, perhaps, that erstwhile patriots actually use masks and engage in social distancing).

Time Dilation

In quarantine, time seems to travel more quickly and more slowly by every measure. The minutes slow to a crawl, the hours leap wildly back and forth, and the days slip by as your beard grows out of control. This time dilation effect seems to be getting more pronounced the longer we’re under lockdown. It has made Ramadan this year more difficult, along with the removal of the social aspects which made it more bearable.

Additionally, the timey-wimey stuff is really wreaking havoc on my patience. As I spend the same/more/who knows time teaching kindergarten, I am running out of stamina. Who can keep this going indefinitely? Even teachers get the summer off, but the concept of “summer” (or “off” for that matter) seem so alien at this point that it’s got me spiraling.

So where does it all end? Is there such a thing as an end? Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Dad’s special day

It’s my birthday and I’m happily confined to my bedroom. I know! I am also surprised! I am laying in bed listening to music, nodding off occasionally. This is bliss. I was allowed to sleep in, I got a fun little home made hat, and lots of kisses.

It reminds me of an old bit from Bill Cosby, Himself (with deep apologies considering the revelations about his behavior). It starts with him making breakfast for his kids, and ends with him being sent to his room, which is where he wanted to be in the first place. Now that makes so much more sense!

I need to apologize to my Dad for all the times I gave him a hard time for his Sunday nod off. Dad, you were right.

Earth Returning?

Not really, but what is happening during the lock down is that I am forced to look at the same things over and over again in my house until I really see them. So it appears that our heretofore presumably sterile back yard is actually teeming with life, and not just pests and vermin either! As the weather has warmed up in the last few days, I am noticing large, happy bumblebees, and one notably iridescent dragonfly. The real treat, though, has been the pair of hummingbirds that frequent the Meyer lemon tree (I also just discovered that little tidbit).

They come out in the mornings and later afternoon, zipping around the garden, and then up to the pines right behind the property. They have feuds occasionally with the crows that live in the neighborhood, and chase them around (which is an odd sight, considering the size difference). I’m just surprised they don’t come down into the garden to have at the camellia or the rose busy. That would seem to be a really easy target, no?

The First Watershed

We’ve reached the first watershed in this quarantine. Rather, we probably reached it a week or two ago but I’ve been in denial. That watershed is when social media is no longer satisfying at all. I mean it wasn’t that satisfying to begin with, the empty calories have been very unsatisfying and I started the year swearing off FB for several weeks (a month and a half?). I managed to do a good job, replacing the constant checking with reading, which I need to do more of anyway.

Then, of course, this pandemic happened. And the time in quarantine had to be filled with something. And that something ended up being Snapbook, Faceitter, and their ilk. It’s maddening of course, to slide back into the morass of other peoples’ opinions, and the maddening, anxiety making exposure to the unfiltered news feed.

So.

So I need to stop. Like, today. Right now. Right after I check one more time.

The Morning After

In this case, it’s the morning after the weekend which was a the weekend after week 4 (5? 12? 456?) of quarantine. Nothing is different (except for a new LEGO starter kit, which was a genius move on my part to get the Tiny Rhino busy. Other than that it’s a mug of tea, in one of several mugs that are in the rotation, and preparation for what we call Baba School.

Another week stretches before us, with no prospects beyond extreme grocery shopping, some puzzling, and arguments. At least the weather looks nice.

This may have been the worst time to decide to revive the blog.

Starting Over

I lost everything. So I am starting over. Here. With you. With this. At the worst stretch in the last hundred years for everything except starting a self-indulgent little blog about my life.

I should probably mention that the everything I lost was the old version of this blog (mkII, if you will). Other than that I’ve been pretty fortunate.