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Opinion | Conversations with my brain

I’ve been spending many hours a day grading college papers. Final grades are due Monday, and I’ve still got a pile to plow through.

All of my “tests” are essays. So I’ve got to read them closely. It can take 15 minutes to a half-hour on one paper. The manual labor of teaching. If I don’t take a break every five papers or so, my brain turns into mush. I’ll be three-quarters of the way through a paper, and not remember what I’ve read. Or maybe it’s just a bad paper.

When I take a break, though, my brain says thanks, and then talks to me. Grading is a lonely endeavor, and I’m grading at an undisclosed location on the UAB campus that’s practically abandoned. I’ve been listening to my brain, though, and it’s coming up with some compelling stuff.

My brain told me that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was taking it slow reopening Alabama’s economy. She’s doing it through a reasoned, step-by-step plan. Not like Florida or Georgia or Tennessee or Mississippi, which have basically thrown the doors open. My brain whispers: People will die, and more than should have to. In Alabama, even as the governor takes measured steps, people will die, too, and more than should have to. But Ivey wants to watch what happens up there and over there and back there before going forward. She is listening to the experts — still. And to my brain, it feels right, if completely unexpected. Go, Guv!

My brain thought it heard that Vice President Mike Pence visited Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, but he didn’t wear a face mask. Everybody else in the room was wearing a mask, and visitors, patients, doctors, nurses, support staff – everybody who entersthe Mayo Clinic – are required to wear face masks. Not Pence, in a show of such arrogance that underscores his role as Donald Trump’s second. Trump doesn’t wear a mask, either. My brain signaled that Pence is an idiot, because Pence said he wasn’t wearing a mask because he liked to look people in the eyes when he spoke to them. My brain told me that if Pence is covering his eyes with a mask, he’s wearing it wrong. The nose and mouth should be covered, and to my brain’s best ability, there are no eyes in there.

My brain said it learned that Donald Trump suggested maybe household cleaners – Lysol, Clorox, Mr. Clean – could be injected in COVID-19 patients because bleaches and cleaners kill the virus in less than a minute. But there’s a bad side effect: It can kill the patient, too. At least the person won’t die from the coronavirus. Death will be by bleach poisoning. My brain thinks something is wrong with Trump’s brain and insists on social distancing, even when Trump is on TV.

During a break on Wednesday, my brain wanted to know why my wife got her $1,200 stimulus deposit, but I didn’t get mine? We file joint tax returns. Our taxes get there at the same time. I had to convince my brain that my wife and I did not get a divorce, but I’m checking the paperwork when I get home just the same.

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It’s only April 30, 2020, and my brain is kind of scrambled. Already Trump has been “cleared” in an impeachment “trial” in the U.S. “Senate”; Kobe Bryant, his daughter and others died in a helicopter crash in California; the novel coronavirus spread across the world; that same virus in three months killed more Americans than were killed in nearly two decades of the Vietnam War; the United States has fully one-third of the world’s reported COVID-19 cases; basketball, baseball, hockey, golf, horse racing, soccer, and the Summer Olympics – all sports– are gone; and we may not have a college football season in the fall.

My brain tells me it might explode.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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