John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Readjusting to My Country: It Has Been An Adjustment

John Gardner
President

When I last blogged it was from overseas in Australia and New Zealand. As a footnote to a recent blog in which I compared how petty was my loss of favorite gentleman’s hat compared to the terrible losses of the wonderful people of Christ Church where we had visited and left three hours before the earthquake: Delta Airlines found my hat and has sent it back to me. How I wish New Zealanders lives could be put back together so easily.

I returned on the 23rd and have found my readjustment a challenge. And not because of jet lag which I didn’t experience at all. But because of all the stimuli which have jarred my sensibilities upon return, and how contrasting they are to what I experienced in the two English speaking countries I visited, which like ours, are former British colonies.

So now that I am back, I am reacclimating to automobile drivers blowing their horns. And to seeing lots of armed police officers. And to living in a very dangerous country. And to having to hassle with health insurers who are doing everything they can not to pay claims—human organizations which exist to promote a particular human good, profits for investors and high salaries for senior executives, and whose business is only incidentally health insurance for US citizens.

And readjusting to a national legislature which is less homogenous every year and hence finds it harder and harder to see the world the same way and find common ground.

And to a highly argumentative, adversarial political culture, where things have degenerated almost to an unprecedented state of affairs in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. I am glad my children are no longer small. How would I hold up our leaders to them as examplars for civility.

And to Congressional hearings attacking an American minority (Muslim Americans) by asserting its threat to all things American, said hearings being chaired by a Representative which the The New York Times reported on 3-9-11 was a champion for the terrorist outlawed group, the Irish Republican Army in 1982 and who went so far as to condone collateral damage to civilians.

And to one state legislature (New Hampshire) introducing legislation to deny the franchise to college students while criticizing them for being “liberal” because “they vote their feelings and lack real life experience”.

I am glad to be back, truly I am. I love my country. I love my freedom to think and write as I please. I love my occupation helping colleges and universities to help students. I love the small mountain town where I live. Of course, I love my family. I love the opportunities my free enterprise system gives me if only I have good ideas, initiative, and the ability to follow through. I love that I have the franchise. I am thankful for the strides we have made during my lifetime towards social justice for all.

But it is a bit jarring to reenter and become reintroduced to what is going on in America as we know it in 2011.

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