Irma

It’s all we’ve been hearing about for obvious and logical reasons, but still, it’s not every year that we’ve had thoughts and worries about what a hurricane could do to us here in Upstate South Carolina. Irma was just such a storm, though. For most of last week, we heard on local news that it might impact us significantly, that it might reach us still a hurricane — even a Category 2 hurricane — and not merely as a tropical storm or depression.

In the end, it turned to the west just a little, and the resulting path took it fairly far west of us. Or so it appeared on the map. What we got today — and are still getting to some degree — were sustained winds in the twenties and thirties with gusts up to fifty miles an hour.

My concern was which direction the wind would be blowing. It turned out that most of the day, it was blowing in the most stressful direction: east to west. From the back of our house, with several large trees, each of which with the ability to do significant damage should one fall. What we got was a bunch of leaves and small twigs in our carport and a renewed leak from an upstairs door that was poorly installed. In short, nothing major. And for that, we are very thankful.

As a precaution, though, school was cancelled today. We spent the day feeling a bit like Sally and her brother in Cat in the Hat. Our story might be renamed Puppy in the House, though, for it was especially hard on Clover. How does a Border Collie pup get her energy out when she’s afraid even to venture into the hard to relieve herself?

And how does the day end? With an announcement that, due to fallen trees on roads and extensive power outages, we have no school again tomorrow.

American Tune

Four years ago, I marveled at how some of these lines mirrored what I was feeling after a disappointing election. I still feel this way after the election in 2016, but for different reasons.

With an untried, inexperienced, president-elect of questionable integrity, surely these are, in many ways, America’s most uncertain hours, both for Republicans and Democrats.

Decision

The morning: the kids entertain themselves while I do some school work. They play school, help make mac and cheese, and watch a bit of television.

Afternoon, we head out to the backyard to swing and jump on the trampoline.

Evening, games.

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The rest of the country, most people thought it was possibly the end of the world if the opponent won.

Trump Versus Reality

Does Trump forget that everything is recorded nowadays and his characterization of an event can be compared with the event itself? I’m no fan of Obama, but the man handled himself excellently in this situation. A man was protesting. Obama defended his right to protest, and even took the crowd to task for booing him. Trump characterized this as screaming at the protester. Trump suggested that if he spoke to protesters in a similar way, the media would declare “he became unhinged.” I think he’s right: if Trump ever speaks respectfully to a protester instead of inciting violence against him, many would believe he was unhinged — because it would be so out of character for him.

How do we explain this? Either he lied or he has terrible trouble interpreting body language, tone of voice, and the linguistic content of an utterance. Or he takes his supporters for chumps and thinks, “Well, even if they do go back and check on this clip and see I’m making things up, I won’t lose supporters.” Of course, if he hasn’t lost a given supporter by now, he never will. He probably could, as he bragged, shoot someone and not lose a certain segment of his supporters.

Preconceptions

Every year, my students begin Romeo and Juliet with certain preconceptions, both about the play and about the character of Romeo. It’s a Shakespeare play, they reason. Shakespeare’s hard to read, noble and magnanimous and all that. He writes about noble ideas, noble dilemmas, high-minded philosophy. They don’t expect it when the play starts out and within a few lines, characters are saying things like this:

GREGORY

The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.

SAMPSON

‘Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I
have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the
maids, and cut off their heads.

GREGORY

The heads of the maids?

SAMPSON

Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads;
take it in what sense thou wilt.

GREGORY

They must take it in sense that feel it.

SAMPSON

Me they shall feel while I am able to stand: and
’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.

I take them through the text enough to get them to realize that these two characters, like Donald Trump, are fond of locker room talk that involves suggestions of sexual assault. (No, I don’t bring in the politics, but the thought crossed my mind to make the connection at least today.) I don’t point out to them what Sampson really means when he says, “Me they shall feel while I am able to stand,” but I suspect some of them get it.

Then there’s Romeo: He’s going to be a good guy, they reason, because the play is the most famous love story of all time, and the most famous love story of all time can’t possibly have anything other than the ideal man in it. So we begin reading and find this passage in response to Benvolio’s queries about what exactly is making Romeo’s days so long:

Well, in that hit you miss: she’ll not be hit
With Cupid’s arrow; she hath Dian’s wit;
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm’d,
From love’s weak childish bow she lives unharm’d.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold:
O, she is rich in beauty, only poor,
That when she dies with beauty dies her store.

“How has Romeo tried to win her?” I ask. We mark the text and make a list.

“She will not stay the siege of loving terms?” I ask, and the students figure it out.

“He’s used smooth words.”

“Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes?” I ask, and the students get it.

“He’s been making eyes at her.”

“Good. Finally, ‘Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold’?” Here they stumble.

“Money?”

“No — how do guys use gold to win girls?”

Finally, someone gets it: “Oh, jewelry!”

“Right!” Then the question — should I pursue the issue further? Should I lead them to see just exactly what Romeo’s saying here? Some years, I don’t. This year, I did.

“And what about the rest of the line?”

They look at each other quizzically.

“What do you think he means by ‘ope’?” I ask.

“Open?” a student suggests.

“Correct. Now, she will not ‘ope her lap to saint-seducing gold’?” I see in some of their eyes that they’ve got it, so I suggest what I suggest every year. “We’ll have to behave as adults in this unit and not giggle and be immature about some of the topics. So what’s he saying?”

They get it. They’re mildly shocked. The girls are a little angry and disappointed that this supposed hero of the greatest love story of all time is a fairly typical male and simply trying to get Rosaline in bed — to spread her legs, literally.

“Nothing ever changes,” one student observes.

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The Girl tonight hit on her own preconceptions and battled them mightily. Beans are nasty. She’s decided that already. Of course, at her age, I’d decided the same thing about a lot of things, most beans as well. But we have a rule in our house as Nana and Papa had when I was growing up: you have to try everything. In L’s case, it was about three bites of beans.

We jokingly took a picture with a time-stamp (that’s in fact illegible) to see how long it took her to eat them. Although she didn’t have to sit at the table the whole time, she had her final bite around ten minutes before bedtime.

I remember doing the same thing.

Nothing ever changes.

Saviors

One of the most disturbing things about Trump for me is his savior mentality: he often says things like “I’m the only one who can solve this problem” instead of something more expected from a presidential candidate, like “our party’s platform is the only thing that can solve this problem.” It seems he wants to create a cult of personality, something that frightens many of us.

But are his followers buying into it? A sign seems to answer the question.

trump

That seems to be a near-perfect rewording of a traditional Christian formulation: “Jesus, who gave up his role in heaven to be humiliated, ridiculed, and crucified to save the world.” It also echoes John 3.16 in a way.

It’s a frightening sign, to say the least.

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If we look closer at the implicit comparison, though, it becomes even more problematic. Jesus was ridiculed and humiliated because what he said went against the common thoughts of the time. He embraced those that society rejected, like the tax collector and the woman at the well. He taught unconditional love, and he was humble. Trump, on the other hand, rejects whoever angers him. He suggests punching people in the mouth, and he is anything but humble.

A false comparison, and a dangerous one, if I ever saw one.

Or perhaps it’s satire. It’s unlikely because I don’t see Trump smiling at a protester holding up a damning sign. Then again, he might not initially realize it’s satire.

Or perhaps it’s one of those meme-making sites that allows you to add your own message to a church billboard for an authentic-looking photograph.

Two of the three explanations don’t leave me gasping.