UW Struggle: Writing About Guns (The Cheesechurian Candidate)

QueenDiamonds
Don’t become The Cheesechurian Candidate!

As all nine readers of this blog know (Hi mom! Love you!), I recently wrote about my fears and objections about allowing concealed weapons into campus buildings in the UW System. Understanding exactly what I was getting into, I took in all of the reactions without offering responses of my own—basically, I allowed myself to be rhetorically captive.

Why? Because for people like me—especially in my professional life—social/new media is perilous on-the-job training. Like so many who completed their graduate work before the existence of Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress, a certain fluency and accountability is expected  when working in new(er) and emerging media. It’s complicated. It’s risky. People lose their jobs for missteps. My primary professional goal is to be a good teacher, and part of the job involves exposing myself to mistakes, failure, embarrassment, harassment, risk, etc, so that my students may be spared those missteps. Yes, I know the conventional wisdom is “learn from your mistakes,” and look, I’ve made more than I can count, but I have learned far more from the mistakes of others, especially teachers.

It is incredibly hard to find new ways to talk about things, to “reframe,” to find your way into words that produce that rare and meaningful change. So, what happened when I wrote openly and honestly about guns? Exactly what I expected (which is dispiriting). For those looking to wade into the same waters, maybe on a blog of one’s own, here are some observations that you are free to ignore:

The Civility Trap Continue reading “UW Struggle: Writing About Guns (The Cheesechurian Candidate)”

On that guy, Rep. Steineke

Click for Jim Steineke theme music:

Steineke
Rep. Jim Steineke

Writing about guns feels like a Herculean task, and I’ll certainly write a post in the future about what I’ve learned so far. Spoiler and big surprise: it will be about language and its failures.

That being said, during yesterday’s carpet bombing of negativity, threats, and personal attacks, one minor point bubbled to the surface in more than one location—that my reproducing the Twitter exchange between Representative Jim Steineke and me was somehow disrespectful and an attack. This perception couldn’t be more wrong—instead of wasting time detailing why this is so, I will simply just correct the error by apologizing. (It’s not that hard a thing to do.) I study language for a living. Trust me, I knew that in writing my post it would be nearly impossible to escape the right/left polarization that ensured anything I wrote about Rep. Steineke would connote as negative.

Here are some facts: Continue reading “On that guy, Rep. Steineke”

UW Struggle: Nostradamus in the House Edition

Coffee + Prophecy = Step Off
Coffee + Prophecy = Step Off

Look mofos, I don’t want to get all Nostradamus on you, but here’s me yesterday:

Of course, this points to the real driver here—consumerism. Bills like this, disguised as “gun rights” or “second amendment” initiatives, are really nothing more than product placement for a  specific business interest seeking expanded markets. Guns are no different than networked, smart devices in this respect—their content must be everywhere, all the time, or something is wrong. To that point, when the police on my campus came to speak to our department about what to do in an “active shooter situation,” they mocked me for choosing not to carry a smartphone. This is not the first time someone has equated that personal choice with gross negligence. But maybe now is the time to appeal for sponsorship and a raise. So, how about it Glock? If I get licensed to carry a weapon and choose your brand for my classroom, will you pay me to advertise? (emphasis provided by soothsayer)

Here is Speaker Robin Vos today on allowing concealed carry in campus buildings:

“The idea of allowing someone to carry a legally obtained weapon? Yeah, I have no problem with that, especially if they would limit it to people who’ve already been trained to do concealed carry,” he said.

He added: “I don’t have a problem with people carrying a smartphone or carrying anything else. It’s a tool. It’s who uses the tool and how they use it.” (emphasis, again, via soothsayer)

Newsflash: here’s the thing that happens when you decide to get blogaliscious about guns: a horde of disaffected white boys immediately try to get in your gums like they were gingivitis, dudesplaining your feelings and experience for you, telling you how wrong you are, and somewhere along the way pointing out that even remotely suggesting that someone would see guns in parallel with phones makes me a big pair of donkey nuts. “You’re so stupid! This is about freedom and stuff, not consumerism!”

Oh yeah? See above. How do you like the man in the blue turban now, bitches?

Crucial anecdote:

Speaking of tools…

I taught high school for a number of years, three of which were in an all-boys catholic school.  A well-meaning woman once had the unfortunate task of introducing me to a room full of teenage boys (I was stepping in to help with the production of the school newspaper).

The intro went as follows:

“This is Dr. Rybak. He is a tool. Use him.”

Thanks for listening.

 

UW Struggle: Guns and the TL;DR Edition

Beginning

I am afraid of guns. This is not a mild fear. Even if a police officer stands too closely I move away—I see the holstered gun and need to put space between us. I believe that handguns and automatic weapons are instruments of death and death only, thus they are evil. I do not use the word “evil” lightly, as I find evil in the world as real and tangible as guns themselves (I do have a bachelor’s degree in history, which too often doubled as the study of war and weapons).

But enough about my fears, right? What’s the point? Well, two legislators in Wisconsin are seeking sponsors for a bill to allow concealed weapons into college buildings and classrooms. This is where I work and make my living.  I will say this plainly: I cannot do my job if there are guns present in the classroom, concealed or not. I will save the usual trolls the energy of response (Well then get another job! What a pussy! Man up!) Will anyone care? Will anyone in the legislature stand up for me, particularly on the Republican side, when it is now that I, and employees and students who feel similarly, need you most? Will the people who rally for the objections of someone like Kim Davis rally for my conscientious objection to feeling threatened and scared in my workplace? This is not a rhetorical question.

Let me divert into the personal for a moment, as that is one thing I try to do in this blog—attach human faces and stories to issues that don’t get such treatment in writing that is strictly partisan bomb throwing.

People who were close to me have died because of gun violence. We’re talking cold murder and random shootings.

Many years ago a  friend of mine from high school, a math savant and lover of chess, was murdered in a robbery. He was a wonderful person with the sense of humor to match. (If he would have been armed, he might still be alive! See! It’s his fault!) He was indeed unarmed at the time of his death, but it wouldn’t have mattered. He was shot in the back of the head. He was driving a cab and was killed for what might have amounted to a few hundred dollars.

Not long after that, a former co-worker of mine was shot and killed in California. (We worked part-time jobs together in a local grocery store while beginning our college careers.) She was a vivacious, funny person, and we were two teenagers who flirted with each other and the idea of dating. I have a vivid memory of walking with her one day, outside of work, holding hands. With her being African-American and me being white, we drew a lot of looks (that was an incredibly uncommon sight in Buffalo at the time). Let’s just say that that short walk taught me more about race than any lecture I’ve ever heard; that lesson is secondary to how brilliant her smile was. Although she was in the military at the time of her death, she was also unarmed. It didn’t matter. She was sitting in a bar when someone in a car driving by fired randomly at the people standing in front. I guess bullets have unintended consequences. Continue reading “UW Struggle: Guns and the TL;DR Edition”