Saturday, June 20, 2020

Quarantine, Week 14: Which Day Is it?

This was the week when I kept asking myself: what day is it?  For some reason, I felt a bit more discombobulated than the previous thirteen weeks or so.  Given that I had much going on this week--a variety of meetings and activities--getting the dates wrong would have been more consequential this week.  I managed not to screw anything up, at least anything big, but it was a strange feeling.

To be clear, it is not just me.  Mrs. Spew asked me about next week's meetings (she is overly nervous about how much noise she makes while I am zooming).  I mentioned recording the anniversary edition of BattleRhythm.  That's right--it will be one year!  Anyhow, she asked "is it now weekly?" as she thought I had taped this past week.  Nope, time flies strangely in a pandemic. 

It was a bad week for Canada, an awful week for the United States, and a busy week for me.

Canada didn't get the UN Security Council seat it had been lobbying for since Trudeau got elected.  And that was part of the problem--these things take about a decade and competing with two very respected countries--Ireland and Norway--made it hard to win.  I had predicted long ago that this was not going to work out well for Canada.  I get many predictions wrong, but that one I nailed.  It was not Canada's seat to lose despite how it portrayed.  Given that this was a focal point of a relatively unfocused foreign policy, I am joining others urging the government to do a foreign policy review so that people in government have new signposts to guide their work.  Most folks are skeptical this will happen. 

The US?  On the bright side, Stephen Miller's efforts to get Trump to have a racist rally on Juneteenth has given much energy to making that day a national holiday.  Ooops.  On the dark side, we see the pandemic gaining strength in the south and southwest, despite the supposed effects of warm weather on the disease (Dr. Trump sucks at being a doctor).  There will be more unnecessary deaths this summer, especially given how Trump is politicizing mask-wearing.  He basically has said that those wearing masks are doing it to signal anti-Trump-ness, which means his cultist supporters will go along, spreading the disease further and further.   And, yes, the week ended with the worst Attorney General, Bill Barr, doing his best to eliminate Federal Attorneys General who are doing their jobs well.  That news along with people now getting access to the full Mueller Report are making it abundantly clear that Barr is Trump's lawyer and not fulfilling his role as Attorney General. 

For me, this was a week figuring out how to amplify and ally better.  The CDSN released a statement regarding Black Lives Matter with a new scholarship opportunity (more details to come out this summer) for undergraduate students who are Black, Indigenous, or of Colour in Canada and a promise to do better.  The network was started in part to address the lack of diversity and inclusion in Canada's defence and security community.  We have done a better job on gender and language than on race or other identities that often leave people excluded.  The challenge is that there are fewer organizations dedicated towards improving diversity in the security community in Canada than in the US. 

So, when one of those American organizations, Diversity in National Security Network, asked me to amplify a Black scholar in the US on Juneteenth on twitter as part of a larger effort to match Black scholars with folks who have decent sized twitter followings, I agreed to do so.  Yesterday, I tweeted out the stuff that Muhammad Fraser-Rahim gave me, and I asked him some questions.  It led to a dialogue as well as more people for me to follow as several Black scholars and national security practitioners liked/retweeted the tweets, which led me to twitter accounts that were knew to me.  I don't know if my efforts to amplify Muhammad led to him having more followers, but it did lead to me following more people.  A few years ago, there was a twitter discussion about how homogeneous most people's feeds are, so I started trying to do a better job of following on twitter people who are not white straight males.  So, yesterday helped out greatly in that effort.

I was honored to be asked to help out.  It is strange to be called an ally as most of what I do involves no risk to me, little cost, and generally falls into the category of "just being decent."  Anytime anyone refers to me as an ally, I feel squishy.  Mostly because I don't think I have done much, although posting about sexism in the academy and the like is something.  Maybe partly because my work on alliances reminds me that not all allies are all that reliable.  The past few weeks of Black Lives Matter protests remind me that we have not done enough for those who have been marginalized by existing power structures, so as I enter the last third or so of my career and the part where I probably have more power, I will aim to do better.  Which in practical terms meant spending this week setting up meetings next week to discuss how the CDSN and other organizations in Canada can do a better job of including those who have generally been left out.

Pete and his cidery
Mrs Spew and I by the old mill street post-picnic
Flying Canoe swag plus CR's
As a change of pace from the drumbeat of pandemic news and of racism in the US and Canada, Mrs. Spew and I got out of Ottawa for the first time since ... March 13th.  We drove to Spencerville, the home of the Flying Canoe Cider Company.  Pete and Melissa, the owners and purveyors of cider, lived across the street from us until their ambitions got too big.  Now, they live in a small town in a big house that happens to have a cidery attached to it.  So, we went down to grab some cider (it is available in liquor stores and grocery stores in Ottawa as well as many bars), some Flying Canoe Swag, and some excellent cinnamon rolls from a place across the street.  We then ate some fine Italian sandwiches made by another place across the street while sitting near the Mill and a stream.  It was not much of a holiday, but it was definitely different from the previous thirteen weeks.  We may explore more small towns near Ottawa over the summer--I have spotted one with a pie place that is calling out to me. 

Tonight, this week will end with a UCSD wake for Neil Englehart.  It will be quite sad, of course, as we reflect on a great guy who was taken too soon.  However, I am looking forward to seeing all the folks from my time in San Diego.  When I look back on my life, grad school, often seen as the most painful part of one's life, is one of the highlights.  I was really happy and it was not just because San Diego is a wonderful place to live.  It was mostly because of the people--not just that they were smart and smart but sweet and silly and generous.  They made me a better person by the examples they set, and we had a hell of a lot of fun. 

So, tonight will be a mixture of sad and sweet.  And it will remind me and it should remind everyone to reach out and be in contact with those who made an impact on our lives because you never know when it won't be possible to do so.  This pandemic should make it abundantly clear that death, as they say, is unbeaten, that time passes all too quickly, and that we need connection.  Social distancing is, yes, the wrong phrase, as we need to be physically apart now but we have never needed to be connected to be people than now.  Maybe that is why I have become a zoom cruise director.  Or maybe this extrovert is just thirsty for companionship.  All I know for certain is that folks need to reach out and connect even if it does not get them the UN Security Council seat they have craved.

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