Selective empathy: a deeper dive

As if often the case with me, my recent meditation on the concept of “selective empathy” in the context of the 2020 election led me down a merry rabbit hole to learn more about the concept of selective empathy in general.

Hi, I’m Sherri and I like long walks on the beach, obsessively learning new things and brain science…

Now, I am in no way pretending to be an expert after reading a few online articles, but what I have read so far has me grappling with things in a way that is valuable to me. Like I can almost feel my brain expanding past some prior limitations and blind spots.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but also one I absolutely love.*

So here’s the provocative statement I’m mulling over tonight:

What if, by focusing on “empathy,” I’ve been barking up the wrong tree all this time?

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The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

Contextual set-up: aside from Shakespeare Project the Second, my 2020 reading has been deeply preoccupied with sociopolitical analysis—both anti-racist texts, and exposes of the Cheeto POTUS’s administration. This book doesn’t fit clearly in either of those sub-categories, but it’s definitely part of the same reading family that has been so front-and-center for me since I emerged from my first bout of “pandemic brain” and started actively reading again.

An screencap from MezzoSherri's Libby shelf, showing the thumbnail for Kamala Harris's book The Truths We Hold.
Thank you, Libby!

It wasn’t till I started writing this post that I realized The Truths We Hold is a campaign book.* But of course it is. Released about a week or two before Harris launched her Presidential campaign in January 2019, and with the flag-waving subtitle An American Journey, it has all the hallmarks of the genre.

And no shame on that. This sort of book has a long and respectable lineage, from JFK’s Profiles in Courage to Obama’s Audacity of Hope to Warren’s This Fight is Our Fight.** Good on Harris for writing her own, and I hope she continues to earn healthy royalty checks throughout the remainder of her long career in public service.

Still, I think I’m glad I read the memoir when I did rather than during the heat of the primaries.

Continue reading “The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris”

Going back to go forward

In other news, I’m wondering about going back to school.

Assorted art supplies (colored pencils, scissors, brushes, rulers, markers) in stainless steel buckets.
Just an elaborate ruse to feed my addiction to school supplies

Now, I’ve been in the education NPO business for a long darn time, so you could totally say that I don’t need more coursework or another degree to be successful.

And yet, I’ve been feeling more of a pull towards getting an Ed.D. during these last few months. As the policy piece of my work portfolio and my direct involvement in research & TA projects have all increased, I’ve been wondering about whether there’s benefit to me in having a stronger—or at least more organized—level of background knowledge about the education field.

There would certainly be some benefit to me, job-wise. And I wouldn’t have worked in this field so long if I didn’t care about it as much as I do. And I legitimately enjoy learning new things.

But still I wonder: what’s the gain for me here? What are my motivations? Can I trust myself?

Continue reading “Going back to go forward”

Because Words Matter to Me

I have struggled at times with how to refer to my status during these COVID days.

Working from home? That’s true, but it doesn’t even remotely carry the weight of all the social distancing protocols we’re trying to adhere to for safety. Homebound? That has a bit more of the “stay in the fucking house” energy that we’re living with. But it’s not a true name, since I am heading out of the house every 7-8 days or so on some quick essential errand.* Sheltering-in-place? That’s close to accurate, since Gov. Baker is certainly encouraging folks to stay home, and since my “work-at-home” status is indeed driven by the fact that our offices are closed. But there’s isn’t an actual honest-to-Gaia shelter in place order for MA, so that phrasing still isn’t entirely true.

woman isolation

For the most part, I keep coming back to the term “lockdown” as the closest useful analogue I can find to describe my and my family’s status during this particular wave of the pandemic.**

But the one thing I won’t be calling it? Quarantine.

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Earth Day 50 During COVID-19

(Should that “During” in the post title be capitalized or not? For once, I’m gonna let it go without looking up the right answer.)

So, it’s the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And it’s an interesting moment for Earth Day to be happening.

I mean, you’ve seen the before and after pictures right? BC and AL*?

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 8.57.26 PM

The cessation of travel and commuting and non-essential manufacturing has caused a undeniable drop in air pollution during these COVID days.

And you may have seen the memes in response to this all:

Humanity is the real virus!

Or,

What kind of asshole are you to wish death and destruction for your species? Capitalism is the real virus!!**

I’m going to pointedly ignore the foolishness of rhetoric that is based on denying the actual objective reality of SARS-CoV-2‘s existence as an honest-to-goodness real-and-true virus. Instead, I’m sufficiently intrigued by the apparent environmental benefits of this pandemic that I wanted to do a little bit of noodling around that.

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Closing a Loop

I’m in the mood to take a tiny break from COVID-specific diarizing. It’s like that line from Falsettos,

Let’s be scared together. Let’s pretend that nothing is awful.*

I’ll be back on topic tomorrow, but tonight I just feel like indulging the bookwormy part of my life.

bookworm 2 eyes

About 6 weeks ago—or was it a decade?—I said I’d dish up my new reading goals for 2020. And then I didn’t, because: heartbreak. Politics. Pandemic.

Absolutely understandable, but hey! Let’s take a little escapist side trip down reader’s lane tonight…

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The COVID Diaries

Yeah, about 10 days ago, I said I was gonna have a lot to say about COVID-19 and then I got quiet instead.

Part of that was my general sense of it being fruitless to post. You see, two Fridays ago, I was feeling super-frustrated. I don’t pretend to be a huge expert or anything, but I know enough about epidemiology that I was already clocked in (right around the start of March) to understand how serious this all was.

But I wasn’t seeing a similar awareness in my surroundings—not at the local, regional, or national level.

So I was feeling increasingly tense and stressed and frustrated at my Cassandra-like status and I was in the mood for a big ol’ superiority rant. I was probably gonna link to  every data scientist’s analysis I’d been reading* and yell and scream to the effect of:

Don’t you people get it!?!? This shit is REAL!

But right after my last post is when things began to sink in: locally, regionally, and federally.** And now here we are.

coronavirus-4937221_960_720

Continue reading “The COVID Diaries”