Should I be working in the middle of a coup attempt?


I have to admit, I feel a little dirty right now. Because I’ve just spent two days dealing with everything that’s accumulated for a few weeks, before hunkering down to finish a grant before an upcoming deadline.

And as I settle in to work, domestic terrorists have seized the US Capitol in a coup attempt. Lawmakers have fled for safety, the building is being looted, and much of the police are in cahoots with the terrorists. And the President just released a video fomenting his militia, saying how he loves the terrorists, and claiming that when he lost the election, it was fraudulent and stolen from him.

I feel bad for even thinking about work. But then, I really do have to work. This grant has a deadline, and I don’t know if NSF is going to extend it because of terrorism? And I also feel bad for writing about this.

But then I took a look at social media, and a lot of people whose opinions I value are also volunteering thoughts of the same mind, asking: “Are we supposed to be working during a coup?” Or, “will my chair understand that I can’t focus on work right now?”

I just wanted to get this post out there to validate these feelings, if you have them, because clearly, you’re not alone. Also, if you have the capacity to really focus on work now, don’t feel bad either! I’m a little jealous of you. Because I don’t really see that there’s much I we can be doing about this coup at the moment, and teaching and science are important now as always. There’s no rulebook or Miss Manners guidelines about how to feel or act when the President is mounting a coup.

11 thoughts on “Should I be working in the middle of a coup attempt?

  1. I had to get work done today, so this morning before any of this craziness started, I blocked news websites until 5 PM and changed my social media passwords so I couldn’t easily log in because I felt that today might have serious doomscrolling potential. I have really struggled to focus this last year especially during the BLM protests and in the run up to the election, and I appreciate hearing that I am not the only one.

  2. You aren’t alone by a longshot…and brace yourself, there is a lot yet to digest and process. Peace and love to you and all.

  3. My partner is an immigrant from a politically unstable country and lived through 3 coup attempts (some successful) before immigrating. He has often talked about the weirdness of living life as normal through these events, because what other choice do you have in the moment? I’ve thought a lot about this through conversations with him and have formulated the opinion that, while it’s acceptable to continue our normal duties in the short term (if you can), we absolutely cannot let this become our new norm. I plan on fighting it as you describe, by using my own strengths as an educator and scientist. But it doesn’t feel like enough.

  4. Hey Terry! Too bad it took a bloody invasion of the Capitol to get you into a Nature Briefing–but you are so right, as usual.

  5. Muy triste que los estaudinenses hayan llegado a atentar contra el Capitolio indica una Democracia que se está desrumbando no sólo por la polaridad por el vicio la falta de moral que los ha llevado a olvidar que el odio y el rencor son las dos llaves del infierno. Lo que se siembra se recoge. El capitalismo los esta acabando.

  6. Hi, Terry,
    You are definitely not alone. Last Wednesday, the 2020 Election, the continual depravity of this entire political climate. I teach World Geography; I feel as part of my teaching I must keep my fingers on the pulse of the globe, figuratively speaking. And it is really, really hard. My department chair is Chinese and she is witnessing an authoritarian attempt to usurp control of a country she thought immune to the events of Wednesday, January 6th, and she is very, very upset. She wants to ban MAGA hats and Trump 2020 garb from her children’s schools, yet the pushback is 1st Amendment rights for middle and high school students. So, you are not alone and thanks for all of your writing and thoughtful discourse. You have a great blog which I routinely share with my biology and ecology friends. Hang in there :)

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