You can blame it on the season.

Here in Michigan, winter hangs tenaciously on, while spring tries to bat its way home. In the morning, you leave in your commuter parka. That afternoon, you walk out of work sweating with your coat flapping, jumbling around for your sunglasses that have plummeted somewhere to the bottom of your purse.

Up? Down? Usually, you can chart me by whether the sun’s shining, at least until the weather regularly tops 60º.  But not this year. This year, there are dark clouds overhead.

It might seem sunnier if I wasn’t a social media coordinator. I’m pretty sure, at this point, that it’s not good for me…or anyone to follow the trends and messaging so closely. This past weekend, our campus had an active shooter alert. When we got the all clear, it was a relief, but not the kind that makes you smile. Instead, I wondered if we’re ready, if there’s someone out there that will copycat something terrible, if the rumored popping balloons were a malicious prank to remove persons at the New Zealand shooting vigil.

It might seem sunnier if there wasn’t a threat of funding removal from libraries, and the arts, and public television. Did you know that PBS is the most trusted news outlet we have? Why do you suppose someone or some people would want to do away with that? Dale Carnegie (no saint) said of libraries:

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

It might seem sunnier if our ever-overreaching government would leave anything alone. [You should know there was incredible restraint exercised in keeping swear words from that sentence.] But we now have another false promise of loan forgiveness, which we have yet to fulfill, as the brain trust that is Washington DC considers limiting student borrowing for college education. Who is government to say how much someone can borrow? They forgave the banking industry for loaning homeowners too much money. Now we need restrictions on the ONE THING that has proven to increase life opportunity? There are darker days ahead.

You might see me as the harbinger of rain, a personal nimbus cloud of doom. If so, you might be interested to know that, along with my co-writer and beloved colleague, I lead a group of incoming first-year undergraduate students through a curriculum of digital citizenship. Over seven weeks, we offer online navigational tools for transitioning to college from high school. We talk about fake news, self care, and global responsibility. We talk about ‘netiquette’, a mash-up term for internet etiquette.

A majority of students participate. They engage in online discourse, even before they meet each other face-to-face, including setting standards for their interactions. At the onset, most reference the “Golden Rule” (Do unto others…), although some call down the “Threat of Grandma” (Do you want your grandmother to…). Usually some light is shed when we prepare and lead the course, as well as when we read their considered comments. We have not once had to arbitrate an argument between over 550 students in the last two years. And believe me, we read it all.

But the sky is falling. How does one hold students to a standard of kindness, while our acting president bashes a dead man? Refuses to see that his white nationalist commentary has impacted public opinion and behavior? Refutes his responsibility to provide not only military might but education, informed public news outlets, national parks, and ecological protection?

There are dark clouds overhead. The storm? Oh, it may blow over, but I doubt it. Already, we’re looking at national elections, while our Midwest states are drowning from the rains.

 

 

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