Dear Governor Ducey,
I haven’t given up on writing you about the budget cuts to eduction! It’s just been crazy the past couple of weeks. I’ve driven up and down the state. I chaperoned a group of fourth graders for an overnight camping trip in the Grand Canyon. I drove through Monument Valley to pitch a tent in Bluff, Utah. I drove to Tucson to speak and consult and lead writing exercises at Pima Community College. It’s been busy and set-backy. My air-conditioner broke on the way home from Tucson. I had made it up and down Black Canyon, down the Mingus mountains (I may be making the names of these place up), and halfway up to Munds Park when it conked out. Air-conditioner-conking-out-in-Arizona is a good metaphor for these letters. It’s a good metaphor for writing. It’s a good metaphor for politics. There’s some good parts. You use whatever you have to mitigate the natural conditions. And then you make due. I got a little worn out, writing, and driving, and trying to cool myself off with the windows down.
I admit, too, I got a little freaked out after the article in the Capital Times. One thinks one wants an audience until one gets one. And, a few people freaked me out, too, saying don’t you think it’s a little cheeky, writing from a publicly funded position? Don’t you worry that your program will get singled out for reductions? Don’t you think it’s ironic that you’re writing from a humanities program, the area under the most scrutiny to proving usefulness? I am a little afraid of unintended consequences, of the university asking me to cease and desist, cutting off funding to our area, or, more likely, not letting us hire new faculty that we desperately need. We have 36 MFA students. We are down to 3.5 tenure track faculty. Fortunately, we have some amazing new hires that have given me hope, even though it is a crazy time and it seems particularly crazy to hope for good forward motion. And this is a kind of usefulness. A productivity. A lesson on How To Do Things With Words, crazy though that usefulness may be.
Crazy has its own reward, though. Yesterday, the democrats called for a donation. The woman on the line told me that if they were going to succeed in the next election, they needed my help. I said, “I donate as much as I can, but only online.” And she said, “May I ask why?” and something about that question made me indignant and indignant, as you know, makes me crazy. So I went off, saying, “You want to know why? You really want to know why? Maybe because Obama OK’d Shell Oil drilling in the Arctic and maybe this Transcontinental Trade Pact or maybe the fact that you have no unifying message, you’re letting the Koch brothers rule the world, and in fact, what really is the difference between corporate sponsored democrats and corporate sponsored republicans. At least when I give money online, I have the delusion of feel like this is “our” party, not “your” party.” To which she said, quietly, “OK. I will take your name off the call list.” And I said, “Sorry.” And “thank you.” And “We’ll see how long that lasts.”
I felt a little overheated. A little adrenaline filled. A little sorry for going nuts on her. But then, the mechanic who was working on my air conditioner that had broken as I was driving through the whole of Arizona called to tell me it would cost $1500 to fix my air conditioner. Still primed from nut-going-on-poor-democratic fundraiser, I said, “What?” I said, “I don’t have that kind of money.” I said, “Oh my god, this can’t be.” I said, “I can’t talk right now. I’ll have to call you back.” I might have sobbed a little. I might have seemed a little crazy on the phone.
I called back a half hour later, left a slightly less crazy but still indignant message with the manager, saying that the car was just out of warranty. That I had read online this is a common problem with Honda Air-conditioners. That I really didn’t know what to do but I was investigating some credit sources to pay for the repair.
They called me back a little later to say that Honda had extended its warranty on air conditioners. They would cover mine. I just had to pay for the oil change.
Not everyone can afford to go a little crazy. It does help if you have tenure. It also helps if you can do most of the crazy from the privacy of your own home. But, as these letters attest, sometimes the crazy is effective which is why I keep writing to say, “Restore our funding. Save our students” even if writing letter after letter saying the same thing in different ways might seem a little crazy to you.