Heidi Czerwiec has shit for brains. Sure, she’s an associate professor of English at the University of North Dakota, which pretty much means that she chose her undergraduate major poorly and, failing to find a societally useful job, became an academic. Maybe that’s unfair, as it’s not like she does nothing beyond teaching.
My new collection, Self-Portrait as Bettie Page (Barefoot Muse, 2013), is a sonnet sequence that negotiates the relationship between formal poetics, bondage/discipline, and female identity through the figure of elusive 1950s pinup Bettie Page, whose own identity was a series of costumes.
But she’s a bit skittish, so when she saw people with guns outside her office window, she did what any
blithering idiot concerned woman does: she called 911.
A professor at the University of North Dakota is pledging to repeatedly call the police on campus military cadets in protest against the school’s decision to let them hold drills on campus while carrying guns.
During the Vietnam War, ROTC was highly controversial, as it prepared students to go into battle as officers, and there was serious concern that colleges should be places of learning rather than places to prepare men to die. But times change, and the military still needs officers. And to become an officer, or anything in the military, there will be training. And that training will involve guns. Because it’s the friggin’ military.
Heidi didn’t like that idea. Guns are scary to her, and things that are scary to her are bad, so she decided to do something about it by sharing her feelings with the campus police.
I can barely talk—first, with fear, and then with rage when the dispatcher reports back that yes, in fact, I’ve probably just seen ROTC cadets, though they’re going to send an officer to check because no one has cleared it with them. They thank me for reporting it.
A few minutes later, a university officer calls me back—not to reassure me, but to scold me for calling 911.
It seems remarkably unlikely that anyone forced Heidi to describe her speaking abilities, so when she writes, “I can barely talk,” the pathological narcissism stems from her alone. This is what an associate professor of English offers in her letter to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald to make readers understand exactly how she felt. Don’t other people need to know exactly how she felt?
When I tell him that this was news to 911 and that they encouraged me to call whenever I see a gun on campus, he seems surprised.
He also tells me that ROTC will be doing these exercises for the next couple weeks.
This is how the world appears to people who have shit for brains. Heidi, presumably, knows that UND has an ROTC program, since she cashes its paycheck. She is presumably capable of routine observation, the ability to distinguish between a student in ROTC and an active shooter on campus. When she calls 911 and, barely able to talk because of her fear of camo, tells them it’s the latter rather than the former, she gets the reaction she elicits. It’s possible that UND had a shooter. It’s not the 911 operator’s fault that Heidi’s fear of one caused confusion with the other.
But, of course, UND didn’t have a shooter. Heidi was afraid, she says. That means the campus police were wrong, because it’s not possible that Heidi has shit for brains.
It’s not my job to decide whether people carrying guns at school are an actual threat. It’s my job to teach and to get home to my family.
It’s already highly inappropriate to conduct unnecessary military maneuvers in the middle of the quad. But with school shootings on the increase and tensions at UND running high, it’s especially irresponsible.
We’re already under financial and emotional attack. We don’t need to feel under physical attack, too.
Saying “not my job” used to be the punchline of jokes. It was Freddie Prinze’s catchphrase on Chico and the Man. And now it’s Heidi’s excuse for having shit for brains.
But Heidi apparently has issues with the school whose paycheck she deposits, and absolves herself of all intellectual failings. The school is wrong to hold “unnecessary military maneuvers in the middle of the quad” because, well, Heidi feelz it’s wrong. And Heidi’s feelz somehow compound themselves into not only making it inappropriate, but irresponsible. Didn’t UND ask Heidi how she felt before doing something that might upset Heidi? Don’t they care at all about Heidi’s feelings. Isn’t UND all about Heidi?
So I reply that I guess I’ll be calling 911 for the next couple weeks—and I will. Every time.
Giving Heidi the benefit of the doubt, even though she wasn’t a gender and deviant sexual studies major or professor, such that she had been trained to elevate her feelings above all else, not because it’s an entitlement but because the universe must bend to her feelings, she now knows, with absolute certainty, that students in ROTC will be doing what her employer (remember that whole paycheck thing), UND, has decided they are supposed to do.
But Heidi will not allow that to happen. Screw UND. Screw ROTC. Screw the students in ROTC. And screw the campus police. Heidi will call. Every time. She’ll show them whose feelings matter. She’ll show them that the University of North Dakota is Heidiland. They will bow to the force of her feelings.
At the campus police headquarters, there is a picture of Heidi by the phones. When she calls, they will take her call, not ask any questions, but to have a huge laugh about the crazy associate professor who
recently completed a poetry manuscript, Maternal Imagination, which represents the female perspective on the monstrous body, since so many of the texts attribute fault to the mother: her imagination, accusations of sex with demons or animals, and even contemporary issues like thalidomide. I am also expanding into translation and creative nonfiction, and it’s both scary and exciting to flex new writing muscles.
And the 911 operator and cops will howl with laughter at the loony professor with shit for brains. Hopefully, Heidi won’t be the first to see an actual active shooter on campus, because no one will take her seriously and respond.
Update: This is supposedly an image of an email sent to the UND community on March 3rd. Apparently, Heidi didn’t get the memo (or at least couldn’t be bothered to read it).