I cry when I watch the evening news, no matter how hard I try to be stoic. Everyone is dealing with such angst. The leadership is sorely lacking, the climate is fighting back against centuries of human exploitation, and incidents of racial and other kinds of injustice are manifest. No one is passing through this time unscathed.
Yet, every day there is also something to appreciate or even celebrate. Most of my students have stuck with me and are wrapping up a semester of learning they can be truly proud of. I am so proud of them. They have supported me and each other in ways that matter, not just for today, but for all the days to come. Quite a few students are expressing their eagerness for the Spring 2021 semester. They will emerge brighter and better from this. My colleagues from departments all over campus have found ways to support each other. It goes so much further than just doing their jobs.
People across the nation and the world have thought creatively about how we can connect across the borders the Pandemic has built. This semester, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Deborah Blum, visited my class and presented lots of images that didn’t make it into her book, The Poisoner’s Handbook. My students enjoyed the reading and being able to ask the author questions. In other classes we connected with scholars working on fascinating projects that serendipitously fit with our course materials. My partner shared his extensive knowledge of Native American women’s pottery making, and we received special access to a documentary about Haudenosaunee women in our Native American Women’s History course. We connected across the internet in ways that I hope we can modify in positive ways when we get to a post-Pandemic world.
I have had amazing opportunities to expand my own horizons as well. I have been learning the Lenape language online with a Munsee teacher living in Canada with students from around the nation and as far away as Australia. I remotely created a museum exhibit, Zoomed into a colleague’s class at the University of Rhode Island, and presented at institutions in Utah and in several New York State sites. I have been involved with documentaries and panel presentations and programs with lots of interesting people. And I continue to listen in on numerous presentations on fascinating topics–the African American community displaced by the building of Central Park in New York City, pioneer women’s lives during westward expansion, and fighting slavery and racial injustice–generated by experts from across the United States and outside its borders. I have even attended virtual cooking classes and exercise classes!
The human spirit cannot be quenched: we are unstoppable. We do what we have to do and then some. This does not in any way diminish the terrible tragedies so many people are facing right now and for which I cannot stop grieving. But it does assure me we are going to be okay — we are going to get through this and come out the better when it is over.