Class Conclusion Fall 2016

[Editor’s Note—I have kept this final letter of the 2016 fall semester to my students mostly intact as I sent it to them today, so my readers may taste a little of what it is like to teach college classes in this American climate, and specifically how I have handled it at the conclusion of this recent semester, in which we shared together the debacle of this American election.—SG]

Hello class. I have graded your final papers and posted the finished calculation of your final grades in BlackBoard, under My Grades. Use the following scale to determine your final grade this semester:

Grading Scale

1,000-967 points—A+

966-934 points—A

933-901 points—A-

900-867 points—B+

866-834 points—B

833-801 points—B-

800-767 points—C+

766-734 points—C

733-701 points—C-

700-667 points—D+

666-634 points—D

633-601 points—D-

600 points and below—F

I was very pleased with the effort students placed in their Final Essays, and it was a genuine pleasure to read through this sample of papers from the class. I can say with confidence that my students have earned their passing grade by proving their writing proficiency. Thank you for your participation and effort during this difficult semester…

…and I call it a difficult semester because it should indeed be described by that very adjective. We experienced the most volatile Presidential election cycle of our lifetimes. I incorporated the election into the content of my pedagogy and curriculum this past year-and-a-half, and I have come to understand the ramifications and difficulties of bringing up politics in a college composition course regularly. It’s a tough stream to navigate, and there is quite a bit of risk involved, from a teaching perspective…

…So, I’d like students to write for me a short response about the class, and specifically whether you appreciated or devalued my political analysis this past semester. In Journal Ten, I’d like students to write me a short essay in which you evaluate the class. Please feel free to use criteria such as my lectures, the textbook, the major assignments, the journals, the discussion boards, the peer reviews, the multiple films watched in class, my policies, my professionalism, or more; however, I am genuinely curious about my students’ opinions about all the Trump/Clinton discussions I moderated during the semester. I’d like to know if I crossed any lines, from your perspective.

Journal Ten is available in Blackboard to write this class evaluation, and you’ll earn the final ten points (which may move some of you up one grade level). Submissions for Journal Ten (or any previous journal) must be in to me before Sunday night, as I will be submitting grades on Monday morning.

Regarding this past election, you may have noticed that I mostly avoided the topic of Trump as President after the Library Excursion and Thanksgiving. This was partly out of necessity for the curriculum, but also partly out of uncertainty of what to say. There’s a lot to break down about the results of this past election. My plan was to write a grandiose letter to my students encapsulating my reaction to the election, but there’s just too much to say…

…So, I’d like to share a compilation of lyrics from the choruses of three songs that express fully my feelings about the election of Donald Trump…and ultimately therein, the last lesson I’d like to communicate to my students. The first stanza comes from Metallica’s new album’s title song, “HardWired…to Self-Destruct;” the second comes from the immortal David Bowie’s “Hang on to Yourself;” and the third is from MUSE’s “Revolt”:

Gone insane

We’re so fucked

Shit outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct

 

So come on, come on

We’ve really got a good thing going

Come on, come on, if you think we’re gonna make it

You better hang on to yourself

 

You’ve got strength

You’ve got soul

You’ve felt pain

You’ve felt love

You can grow, you can grow

You can make this world what you want

 

You can revolt

You can revolt

You can revolt

 

One final bit of commentary regarding the aforementioned concept of revolt. I’d suggest examining Trump’s recent Tweet aimed at an Indiana union representative, who made the mistake of correcting Trump’s numbers:  Spend more time working-less time talking.

 

Trump’s dead wrong here. It’s a lot harder to talk or write than it is to go back to doing what you’re told to do by foolish authoritarians looking to make riches off the backs of the working class.

 

To my students, I offer the most important lesson from this composition course: Please talk more…and talk back frequently at those who presume to claim authority because they very simply found their positions of authority by manipulation, happenstance, or fallacy. It’s just as difficult a job to speak up in American society as it is to work in a factory, serve in the military, or raise a family.

 

Talking back to authority is the American way, not whatever-the-hell Trump suggests to the American People.  He’s bamboozled some of the electorate, but I’d gamble that it will not be long before he messes up big time, to the point where even his supporters cannot deny his ineptitude. (I may be wrong on this last point, only because his voters have been surprisingly stubborn and willfully petulant about ignoring Trump’s obvious flaws.)

 

There are too many fools in positions of authority in this country to risk not speaking up or talking back.

 

So, talk and write more. Never be silent, cowered, or complacent…

 

…especially with this incoming President…

 

…especially in this country, your country, America.

 

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

To Hell With This Journalistic Fast…

I love you all because I WANT to love my American neighbor, but I NEED to remind myself constantly about my American neighbor’s tendency to gravitate toward the way things used to be…and I’m not sure the way things used to be is the best way to go. We’ll all have to see together, but I’ll be damned if I don’t personally watch these next four years like an American eagle on the hunt, to pick the best potential metaphor…

Let me remind America about its tendencies: We suck about how old, white men dictate all the laws, aggrievedly weighted toward the historical needs of old, white men, and we totally suck about how Americans collectively dismiss the rights of women, black people, Mexicans, gay people…and how miserably old, white men ultimately fail at this task in their governance of the United States of America for the last couple centuries.

We should also understand, as Americans, how truly young we are as a country on the world stage…especially considering how quickly we became the global template of civilization on this planet…

…Also, please consider the fact that we have elected an ignorant old, white man to dictate the law in this country for the next four years, based on the fact that old, rich white men are emboldened and engendered to potentially create the most intelligent Americans among us…

…Please consider how this is utter bullshit, from a professor of utter bullshit…

…To be more confusing in my rhetoric: if Trump indeed uses his position as President to make enough personal money, while being able to control his Internet, Television, and Twitter identity fiscally, then it has inevitably qualified Trump to govern with such unqualified vitriol and absence of shame to display America’s new identity as absent of moral or ethical responsibility, as long as the rich get richer…and the middle class will undoubtedly become absent from the American identity…

…I fear for America’s identity…for my American Neighbor’s sake…despite the fact that my American neighbor probably voted for Trump…

…Trump represents the old American white man, re-taking control of the American Government, and I cannot help but think Archie Bunker’s taken over the White House this January.

We are most political in our conversation lately and historically at the local level, and that is where the most violent atrocities so often occur in all fifty States, no matter the time, class, or environment of the location.

Let’s not let Trump bring us to the American brink, please. He’s a dip-shit asshole, and I’m going to watch him vigilantly…as Fox News has convinced me is a very necessary evil, based on their vetting of Barack Obama over the last eight years. I figure Trump’s Twitter feed alone would prove what a moron he truly is, but Fox News has been at his side to assuage the uneducated American that Fox News is the only media outlet that presents fair and unbalanced journalism…

You see, I believe that Fox News is personally responsible for the atrocity that is the current Trump presidency…In the voice of Kathy Bates as Bobby Boucher’s Mom from The Waterboy: “Fox News is the Devil! Sean Hannity is the Devil!”

However, my basic disappointment for this year’s election results is simple: The concept of a good man is no longer Barack Obama, but Donald Trump.

This I feel is America’s greatest shame in 2016.

However, let’s remember that this has not been the first horrible President-elect to creep up on America; I imagine Richard Nixon was a horrible frog-in-the-throat for Democrats in the aftermath of November 5th,1968…but please understand, my online reader, that these next four years are truly unprecedented, and we need to be vigilant about our collective rights as Americans.

Be wary during this Trump Presidency. Vigilant.

Please and amen. Love to those who believe me, and hope for those who cannot comprehend what I write.

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Ten

In my last entry, I wrote that you’ve gotta have faith…

…re-reading it tonight, I realize what a load of bullshit that was.

Donald Trump is our President-elect, and I’ve lost all my faith.

My faith in this country’s goodness, my faith in my family and neighbor, and my faith in my American-defined God: all of my good faith has been dashed to bits upon the Giant Rock of Entitled-White Man, Conservative-Christian, Blue-Collar Republican Stubbornness tonight.

Tomorrow in America is now officially terrifying. Congratulations, American voters. We will reap what we have sown.

This officially concludes the Maniacal Rant for awhile. I’m going to stop paying attention to the American experiment now. I’ll be too busy figuring out how to explain to my daughters how a simple, misogynistic asshole became the leader of the free world in their lifetime. God only knows how I’m going to muster the gumption to step off my porch into the American populace for the next four years…

With sincerity, peace out from the Maniacal Professor:

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

A Simple Proposal To Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump To Solve the Military Compensatory Bonus “Problem”

Okay, we have a ridiculous problem about which BOTH political parties agree: Military soldiers were paid bonuses to extend their tours of duty, and our government is trying to renege because of policy error and qualification language. We should all agree that this is mind-bogglingly stupid! If you’re a soldier who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you agreed to go back and do extra service because of 10 to 20 thousand dollar bonuses (which is not a lot of money…they went back to serve our people’s interests in war zones, people!), then we are obligated to pay them their due, not repossess it.

So, here’s the simple proposal: the government is looking to collect about $20 million from veterans who earned their paychecks, so how about Hillary and Trump take $10 million each from their campaign budgets and submit it to the government, instead of purchasing any more ad-time for ridiculous, inflammatory commercials in these last two weeks of the election. They both have that much cash in hand, and frankly, America is sick of these stupid commercials by now. They didn’t work for Mitt Romney in 2012, and they certainly didn’t work for Jeb Bush in this election cycle. Perhaps, the two candidates might work together to solve an American problem.

Maybe it can be a high point between the candidates in this toxic election cycle.

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

The Cubs Go To The World Series

I remember my grandfather, Edward Guffey, as a Cubs man. He taught me about baseball; hell, he forced my father to play catch with me in his backyard in Lynwood, Illinois, when my Dad didn’t want to play with me…to make my father interact with me when he wasn’t sure how to do so because the father-son bond was somewhat awkward…I used to sit in my grandfather’s kitchen, with his candy corn and VIP pipe tobacco mixed together in the middle of the kitchen table, while we watched summer Cubs games during the Fergie Jenkins/Jody Davis/Ryne Sandberg years…I listened to Harry Carey and Steve Stone broadcast games with my Grandpa and Grandma and loved every moment of it…I learned how to cut grass on a ride-on lawn-mower while he watched from the back window, and listened to both of them about the history of Chicago baseball,  literature, and culture.

My grandfather was a carpenter on many of Chicago’s sky-scrapers, specifically the very dangerous construction of the elevator shafts. He saw some of his co-workers plummet to their deaths while building on the Hancock building and others. He had to un-screw a rivet from his hand one day, and he didn’t go to the emergency room like most sane other men would have done. He went back to work as soon as he could, because he was from Chicago…

…and he was a Cubs fan.

I love tonight’s victory, and it’s made me think about my grandfather in a most loving way. Have a great World Series, Chicago!

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Nine

When we step out of the white noise and take a look from outside the media fish bowl, we can see that this election is not that hard to figure out.

This is not about being loyal to a party, or conservative versus liberal; blue-collar versus white-collar; or city versus country discussions lost to the rhetorical void of infuriating, frustrating American deadlock.

This is a vote for a moderate or radical President.

Trump’s going to throw a temper-tantrum from now until November 8th, which is guaranteed to continue after the election. He’s going to throw all kinds of shade and drum up anti-Hillary sentiment to the point of violence. The only thing moderate about Donald Trump—if you consider human fallibility to be a trait that needs moderation—is his tendency to snort on camera when he’s thinking, “Holy Shit! I’m really doing this!”

Clinton’s going to step aside, act cool, and hope nothing radical happens…like if she decided to scream at Trump on stage at this last debate, as I wanted her to do…because then Trump would inevitably shout, “See!! She IS a screaming harpy! Let’s not put her in jail! Let’s scream, ‘BURN HER!’ like they did in that Monty Python movie!!!” Laughter, applause, and a lynching follow…

Look. I get it. Hillary Clinton doesn’t inspire confidence, but Donald Trump is obviously the radical choice, and those choices almost always have consequences.

I’m not going to ask you to go out and vote, like most people seem to be broadcasting, most specifically at the youth, for whom I can testify are terrified at the “adult” government. I perfectly understand how much stamina it’s going to take to stay politically aware and go out and vote on November 8th.

Stay home if you want to. I’m willing to bet the ones who go out to vote are the Americans with the strongest feelings, understanding, and conscience for American values…

…and the one thing I retain from my religious upbringing: You gotta have faith!

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Eight

White noise: According to dictionary.com, it is also called white sound, a steady, unvarying sound, used to mask or obliterate unwanted sounds…

White noise: This was the sound of Donald Trump’s voice for me after he deflected his advocacy of sexual assault by going full-Fox-News and dismissing it as just locker-room banter. I swear I saw a little Sean Hannity, whispering in his ear about how to make the so-very deplorable become so-very digestible for the Republican Base. Apparently, the American People should continue to let men tell them not to worry about guy-talk, or how it may lead to sexual assault…or just how it’s plain indecent and SHOULD NOT be dismissed as “locker-room talk.” Boys will be boys, so let’s move on… Trump told Anderson Cooper that the Clinton News Network anchor hadn’t heard properly what Trump said, and by extension, Trump told the American People that we didn’t hear him right either. His voice started sounding like the adults in the Peanuts world right off the bat, when Trump successfully deflected the most horrific recording released to the public of a Presidential candidate ever…The drone in my ears, I think, is my brain defending my soul from Trump’s corruptible white sound.

White noise: The barely audible cheer heard across the country as White America regained their champion after Hilary Clinton dropped the ball last night…

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Seven

A great Packers game tonight! Another victory for my Cheeseheads, and we need it since Minnesota’s looking pretty good. The Eddie Lacy injury sucks, and the Pack didn’t look like world-beaters…but they won!

Yep, a good night of NFL football…

No Trump. I’m sure he put on quite a show.

I’ll figure out the fall-out tomorrow.

Lord knows we’ve got plenty to think about over these last few weeks, before America makes its decision. I realize that no matter who wins, this is going to leave some damage in its wake.

I’ve received some deep wounds today to prove it.

Scott C. Guffey

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Six

I’d been reviewing all of the commentary on Trump this morning, and I had to step out onto my porch for a moment of reflection. I pondered how we have come to this point in our national discussion.

A loud pick-up truck did a partial stop at the intersection. In the back window, the owner had a slogan surrounding the American Flag. Across the top, it read, “God, Guns, Guys,” and across the bottom, “Made the USA.”

I appreciated the clarity of the moment.

My mother had called me, so I stepped outside so as to avoid the necessity of fulfilling my familial obligation to talk to my mother, knowing that picking up that phone, at this moment when Trump has finally proven he’s a sexually-deviant creature unworthy of our national respect, knowing that it’s just not a good idea to answer the damn phone and have to explain my political and religious ideologies to my mother…I just ran out of the room, and entered the sun-shiny outdoors for a quick breath…

…I was talking to God out loud on the back porch, and He showed me an American truck.

It was just not a good idea to answer the phone. My mother knows this, but she needs to hear my voice. I get it because I need to hear hers too, but I just have fallen into that awful trap where we’re screaming at each other…just too many times in the past…I can’t do it…

I can’t hear a defense of Donald Trump and the Fox News talking points right now.

After the truck passed from the intersection, I bartered with myself about listening to the voice-mail my mother left. I did this for a good half-hour, trembling like a pansy about talking to my mother.

The first thing that came to my mind the night before, after fully hearing the full audio and video of Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush, was that this will not matter to Trump voters. Then, I wondered if this would matter to the women in my family. Finally, I affirmed how it would matter to a world in which my daughters mature…

I decided to wait for my wife to come home and listen to the message from my Mom for me. I turned off the politics on the TV and watched some college football, but I realized I couldn’t focus on the game because I started irrationally creating scenarios where my mother was leaving a message, telling me she was so very sorry for actually suggesting Trump was a better choice than Hillary…or there was an emergency that occurred, and I was stubbornly not fulfilling my familial obligation of maintaining contact…or my mother was disowning me from afar.

I shouted aloud to no one in particular, “God damn it,” and I listened to the message.

She hadn’t heard from me since August, and she hopes that the reason I haven’t reached out to her is because of this election thing.

I had teared-up when I looked down at my cell-phone and saw my Mom was calling me, because I knew I couldn’t answer that bleeping phone, and she teared-up as she ended the message telling me that she loves me…

…I love you too, Mom, but I can’t answer the phone right now.

I hope you understand.

Scott C. Guffey, M.A.

My Maniacal Rant, Chapter Two, Part Five

Please feel free to read the following essay using the internal literary-reading voice of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards character, Francis Underwood, yet make no mistake that it is the voice of the Maniacal Professor:

I came into the Vice-Presidential Debate hoping Tim Kaine would tear Mike Pence a new one…

…I came out of the Vice-Presidential Debate’s aftermath so very sullen, because Pence had actually gained my respect, despite his transparently-false denials…and I carry a grudge against my governor, for which I still feel justified because of his shilling for Trump and his abuse of Indiana’s educational system, but I just cannot deny that I share his rhetorical persona…

…I begrudgingly admit I find Mike Pence to be likable…

…because he’s so very good at deflecting with the good-natured Hoosier personality of being neighborly…respectfully disagreeing…sharing your experience…attempting to relate…using a NASCAR or hunting analogy every now and then…just trying to be friendly while trying to explain white Christian ethics to all the brown and black people that have shown up so suddenly in the metropolitan areas of Republican Red-and-White-Yet-Not-Necessarily-Accepting-Of-Blue Indiana…

…but Mike Pence is still shilling to Donald Trump, simply so he can run for President in 2020 after Hillary Clinton is elected to the office on November 8th of this year…fingers crossed…still not sure because I check my Facebook feed WAY too eff-ing often during these last thirty days of this election cycle.

My thesis: I try to be a good-natured Hoosier, but it’s damn hard to do so when more than half of Indiana is voting for Trump. The way I carry out this ideology is easy enough, because I do enjoy and practice the following Hoosier ethics:

  1. Pay your fair share
  2. Live within your means
  3. Be kind to your neighbor

Trump does not follow these three components. Mike Pence does; therefore, I think Mike Pence is a better candidate for President.

I do not enjoy showing up to the polling booth to vote for Hillary Clinton, ESPECIALLY after Bill Clinton has gone bat-shit crazy and seriously, openly criticized Barack Obama’s legacy. He is not helping his wife’s cause, unless he figures he is driving every woman voter her way by matching Trump’s misogyny…

…at any rate, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, and I hope fellow Hoosiers and Americans realize that Clinton shares the aforementioned three values more than Donald Trump. She is not exactly the embodiment of the three values, but it is undeniable that Donald Trump is the complete antithesis of these three moralistic values;

I admit publicly that I am voting against Donald Trump.

This is a difficult admission because I enjoy voting for a candidate; I do not enjoy voting against a candidate…

…but that is our reality in 2016.

I also admit that I will probably consider voting for Mike Pence if Hillary Clinton does not work out after four years.

I invite those Americans who understand that I am, in fact, a shill because of this invitation, just like I have accused Mike Pence of being for Trump.

I admit I am a shill…

…because Trump is not worthy of a vote for those of us who share a new set of conservative Christian values, a set of American values that involve fairness, frugality, and love, not discrimination, avarice, and fear.

Trump just isn’t the guy. Listen to what he says. Why do so many people have to work so very hard to figure out what he’s saying and defend what he’s saying?

Just listen to what he says. It’s a simple enough lesson from teaching rhetorical analysis: What you say betrays your character.

I am shilling to my friends and family and fellow Americans, from within the Northwest Region of Indiana, as a former Bears fan who wears an Aaron Rodgers jersey during NFL Sundays in 2016…

…Please don’t vote for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is not that bad.

Please and amen.

Scott C. Guffey, M. A.