The historic teacher strike ended yesterday as the Union and the District reached a tentative contract agreement that was later ratified by teachers And although not every teacher who participated in the strike voted to ratify this agreement (as evidenced by their outrage in the comments section of the live-streaming of press conferences announcing next steps) here are some reasons that teachers should hold their heads up high.
1. Teachers effectively organized one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world to speak with one voice and therefor exercised REAL power. If we were to take Eric Lui’s definition of power (in the awesome video below) then we can see this strike as proof of concept that numbers matter. And therefore the multiyear effort the UTLA engaged was able to pay off in this regard. Thousands of parents and community members were empowered by these organizing efforts and may very well continue to play important roles in bettering and protecting our public educational system.
2. The union was able to limit the power of the district. This is no small feat. And not all teachers may agree or even understand how this was accomplished. For even though reduction of class sizes by numbers, to many, was not sufficient (or they expected more), the reality moving forward ends the power of the district to arbitrarily raise them again should they feel the need arise in the future. This is now codified in language requiring this to be negotiated in the future with teachers.
3. Raising the conversation while raising spirits. This I feel cannot be overstated. When the national dialogue around HUGE issues has all but died (see state of the government shut down among other things) this strike galvanized not just the LA community but the nation as well around articulating and supporting shared values and even definitions of public education. It was also able to bring other decision makers into the fold to contribute to the dialogue, demonstrating that even in the face of massive disagreement (and even a lack of trust and goodwill) that civil public discourse can continue as long as the power of the people are pressuring it so.
This last point is probably one that some might contest. For already there are those who feel that the strike was not worth the deal it got out. And while it is unusual to see in a tentative contractual labor agreement “vows” to work together to garner political will and policy action, the way that this all played out cannot be dismissed as insignificant. Teachers were never going to get everything they demanded in this round of negotiations. What they did get was a national recognition and reminder of the power of collective voice to disrupt and begin to change the system. In this lesson, we can come to understand that the teachers never really stopped teaching; the question is will the rest of us remember these important lessons?
My mind and soul feel like they are on fire right now. This summer has been an interesting and fresh balancing act of attempting to disconnect and focus on quality time spent with my family and friends, while simultaneously struggling to stay focused and motivated to confront all of the realities of tragedy and despair that have become (or maybe more accurately have always been) “las noticias de hoy.” It has been surreal and at times I have felt the despair set in. Every time I feel this happening, I have to grab hold of something, a book, podcast, television show or documentary, album, ANYTHING that can jar my mind back into accepting the reality that the world is a beautifully harsh place, that can indeed be transformed through collective effort, into a more just and peaceful planet. In trying to continue to be a student of life and all of its instructive stories, I have found it difficult to force reflection on some of these more difficult realities. Yet I know that this is absolutely necessary for true understanding of what the hell is actually happening. And so this is my attempt at a reflective synthesis.
In preparing for the upcoming fall semester at CSUMB, I have been reading Antonia Darder’s The Student’s Guide to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In redesigning my class for novice teachers to be able to rise to the occasion that, now perhaps more than ever, demands we teach for “liberation” and not merely for content mastery, I chose to use this text to help unpack Freire’s original influential text. It is here that I have been prompted to think more deeply about what a liberatory and critical pedagogy actually mean. Reminding myself of the necessity for time set aside for direct and intentional theorizing and abstraction, but never sacrificing action. It is serendipitous that the new History and Social Science framework is intentionally focused on “civic action.” Never mind that many history and social studies teachers are not yet fully aware of what this actually means for their classroom instruction, the architecture is now there to spark an authentic dialogue (which is another fundamental aspect of Freire’s text) amongst teachers who are in the position to have tremendous impact on the patterns of thought and eventual action of many young people. On this note, I have been simultaneously excited and nervous to begin my new job as a curriculum specialist, which will help experienced and veteran (some expert) teachers collectively consider the implications for a type of instructive pedagogy that has civic action at its foundation, in particular at this moment in history. This text also reviews the history of many schools of philosophical thought and more importantly the historical context of authoritarianism, which is as stark a reminder of our current national and global epoch.
Aside from professional reading and pondering, I have been personally immersed in stories of the day that force the full act of humanity, that is to say I have been intentionally reading, watching, and listening to things that recognize and acknowledge the human suffering of our brothers and sisters all the world over. It is not always easy to stare into the eyes of human suffering, but I know it to be necessary if I truly want to be part of movements designed to lessen and eventually end such oppression. Enrique’s Journeyhas been an emotional slog for me. In the context of the mass separation of migrant children from the parents, this powerful narrative ha also harkened me back to the stories of so many of my students, undocumented minors both in Los Angeles and here in Salinas, who’s own journey’s were comprised of similar trials of tragedy. It also reminded me of many parents I have had the honor to work with, attempting to repair the often strained relationships between themselves and their children.
The Intercepted podcasthas been a summer staple, providing much needed journalistic context for the litany of crazy that is our current events. Two episodes that have had a lasting impression on me this summer have been these two. The show is unapologetic in its “speaking truth to power” style but what I appreciate even more is their journalistic commitment to contextualizing the stories of today through factual history, with a depth necessary for authentic understanding. Also appreciated is the hopeful chord always struck by interviews with activists and resisters. It has been on of my “go to” podcasts since the election.
Despite my steady summer media diet, which has also deviated into the realm of indulging pure entertainment in my attempt to not go insane, it was last night’s episode of Treme that really “struck a chord” in my soul. I have waited until this summer to watch this series from the beginning, knowing full well that I missed the metaphorical train on this. Truth is, I have not been ready until now. I remember the summer Katrina hit. I stood in disbelief as the events unfolded, the human callous out doing Mother Nature’s stormy onslaught. I remember feeling petrified, afraid of how I was reduced to a mere spectator from afar, gazing daily at the suffering of mainly black residents of New Orleans and the blatant disregard of our government. This feeling could not stand, so I along with my friend Daye and my future wife, signed up for a “disaster relief” course from the Red Cross. We were prepared to go to New Orleans and help in any way we could. In retrospect, relying on an institution to grant us “permission” and “training” to go help our brothers and sisters was unnecessary and ultimately futile, for it was not to be. The Red Cross said that there was a diminishing need for relief workers, as so many folks around the country had already been actively engaged and sent down to New Orleans. Historical hindsight being what it is, I never felt quite ready to see the deliberate destruction and designed despair that was to be the “re-building” of New Orleans. The neighborhoods left to rot while others were rebuilt. The closing and “charterization” of the entire public school system. I guess I was only ready to see this story dramatized on screen after the sobering reality of yet another disaster, Hurricane Maria, instructed me as student of history… this is the way of our world right now.
That is of course, unless we are called to action. And this is I guess the main struggle of my summer. The continuing questioning of action. What can I be doing? Am I doing enough? There is no one answer. On any given day, at any given moment the answer, for me at least, can change from the negative to the affirmative. These are often questions of focus. As someone who often lacks focus, who wants to pretend to concentrate on everything, I have had to remind myself of a previously stated intentionality of focus at this time in my life: family. My wife is my daily reminder of the importance of parenting to any movement related to social, political, or economic justice. How we raise our children will indeed have impact on our future circumstances. No matter how many times I have marched, or contacted my representatives, or voted… there is nothing as powerful as cultivating the imagination of a child towards empathy and reflection. Reading my daughter’s book is just another reminder that my focus has to be on my children right now. And all of the other things we know we must do to stay vigilant in these times.
In the face of the atrocities that grow daily at the U.S. southern border, there is confusion about what we as the public can and should be doing. When those in power blatantly abuse their power only to demonstrate cruelty and the “checks” on that power in this “democracy” fail to even be acknowledged… what is a populous to do? Where is the resistance and outrage? To be sure it is there but what is missing is the mobilization. And this is the key problem.
Teachers and students across the country are out on “summer break” but it seems as if we might have to gear up and hold summer school for the nation. The mandatory course section our nation should be enrolled in? Organizing the Outrage 101. In our profession, as demonstrated by the recent waves of strikes in different states, teachers are constantly put into positions where we have to organize our colleagues, our communities, and now our entire nation. For those of us who have grown old and tired, we need to step into the instructor role of guide on the side, allowing for our students to remind us of the youthful energy often needed in defiance, as demonstrated all throughout history with student generated movements against war, state sponsored violence and neglect.
Other professions could aide even further in a mass mobilizing of the nation’s outrage and horror against this administration’s deliberate policy decision to monstrously and callously separate young children from their parents and hold them in detention center while mocking this very policy they are complicit in.
As Naomi Klein recently reminds us in her latest documentation of what she terms the Shock Doctrine, capital organizes much more quickly than people. The film industry could mobilize a mass of wealth and fame to go down to the border and confront these atrocities, using their bully pulpit to document, bring the mass corporate media with them, etc. God knows (as do you and I) that Congress should already be down there in their entirety, having cancelled their own “summer break” demanding that this practice cease immediately. But we also know that this won’t happen.
So it looks like it is up to us, once again. Teachers and students showing the nation what it looks like for truth to be spoken to power. While they organize and demonstrate their cruelty, we should all be organizing the nationwide response. Our unions should be contacting our members and rallying the war cry, the war for nothing less than the soul of our nation, which may very well already be lost. But that is not a reason to disengage. As teachers and students we know that to engage is to define the human spirit.
I am not sure that this will happen. And so I too am lost in confusion at this moment in time. But I am quite sure that this is entirely possible. And so I will write it as if it is so. To enroll in your mandatory summer course, please spread the word to your fellow classmates, the nation.
Today marks a day of solidarity and national demonstrations by the youth of our nation. My school site organized 17 minutes to begin school with an on campus march as well as student speakers at lunch. Having been active in the past to support student organizing efforts on my former campuses, today felt strange. I admittedly stepped back from my usually comfortable role of helping to lead student organizing and was more of a spectator today, in particular for the morning walk around the field. I was encouraged to see young leaders from our middle school step up and lead chants and hold posters communicating the sentiment of “END VIOLENCE NOW. LESS TALK, MORE ACTION.” And while these messages resonate with me at my core, I am still building up parts of that core here identity here in my new community.
And it feels strange, to be this mucho on the sidelines. And it feels strange to not have as many students and teachers at least aware of the sides contextualizing this dire moment of national identity construction, let alone taking active stances on the issue. Part of it I know is the reality of middle school development. Teaching at this level again has reminded me of how young my students are, while simultaneously giving me hope and joy to see the childlike immaturity venturing away from raw innocence and ignorance… towards their unforeseen and undefined futures. And part of it is excepting that this is not South Central Los Angeles. I teach in an agricultural community and my identity as a social justice educator and activist has had to shift to meet this reality. And yet it still didn’t seem right, never does really, to jump back into “business as usual” to forward my curriculum. We don’t learn just by doing. We need to reflect on what we have done. And today, most of my students took a stand and walked out of their classrooms in solidarity with other young people… even if they didn’t fully understand the context of implications of their action.
That is where we teachers come in. Our job is to help students make sense of themselves and the world around them. Some would argue our job extends to the responsibility to show students that they have agency and that their actions can impact the world around them. What continues to be evident throughout history is that young people will do these things with or without our help… so why not support?
Today I did what little I could do to aid in this effort, accepting the fact that I know I could have done more; that I am used to doing more. But to do nothing but watch is unacceptable. To me. So instead of forcing my students to present their personal Tanka Poems to conclude our unit of study on Feudal Japan, we read articles from NEWSELA about the issues facing our youth and nation today. We read articles about youth leaders and their movements. And then we reflected on the morning’s action. Here are some of my students’ thoughts on this national day of action.
“i am honored to participate in today action it made me feel helpful.some concerned are the fact that they want armed teachers.I think that people that own guns should take classes about gun control .One question i have would be does trump think about the risks of an armed teacher.”
“I feel pretty proud of myself for participating in today’s action. Some Concerns I have as a student is not being safe with our gun laws and I feel very deep down sorry about the 17 students who came to school, thinking they were safe. I personally think we should have a stricter process when getting guns and increase mental health services since clearly that man who shot was ill. Who was the person that thought that it was right for EVERYONE to be able to get a firearm?”
“I feel good about participating in today’s action. My concerns as a student about gun violence and school safety is that they should stop selling guns to mentally ill people and schools should have more security.”
“What I feel about today actions was supporting the 17 victims. One concern that I have about school safety is that they shouldn’t let people buy guns under 21 or under. I think what should be done about this sad problem that happened in Florida is that they should put fences around the school.”
“I participated to show respect and love to the family members that lost their kids in the school shooting. Gun violence is not okay especially if teacher have guns in their classroom.”
“I did not particpate on the event this morning because i have anxiety and i feel like i can’t breathe when am around people i don’t know. What conercers me is what is a kid or teacher uses the gun and kills people or themselves. i think more safety rules.”
“why are people just having a big talk about this now. now that a big school shooting has happened , now you want to talk about that they want to change gun laws. This isn’t the first shooting that has happened this year. People have been talking about this and they just noticed. People have been killed, people have been injured, families have been ripped apart! But now people are thinking of giving teachers guns. What if teachers get mad at a student or the student is being disrespectful, how do we know the teacher wont pull out the gun and shoot, HOW DO WE KNOW that that wont happen???”
“I feel good about participating in today’s action because we are honoring the 17 lives that were lost. I am very concerned about teachers being armed. What happens if a student makes a teacher mad?! The teacher could kill everyone in the room. If they do pass this law then I hope they make sure that the teachers are not mentally ill.”
“i don’t feel anything for what i had done today at school because how many times have their been a school shooting or just a regular shooting and we just don”t put much mind into it but i do not know why now when their have been countless times of shooting and we do nothing about it. Some concerns i have as a student is that what is someone tries to jump over the fence or go through the front office, we in my opinion just don’t have enough protection. Get more protection change some laws, but then again people do have the right to own or get guns.”
It is clear from the responses that there are a variety of thoughts and feelings regarding these issues. And there were so many more themes to come out of my students’ reflections. As evidenced above, a lot of young people have deep concerns about the solution to arm teachers that has been so nonchalantly floated by Trump and even more embarrassingly by our Secretary of Education. And why would they not be with stories like this coming out the same day (noted this would be my children’s neighborhood high school in the coming future.) This amidst other ideas that are also problematic in and of themselves, like the understandable reaction to want more police presence on campuses, which we know from past youth led campaigns as well as current ones leads to other issues for young people.
In all, I am very proud of our students and district for attempting to support multiple ways for students to be involved in such an important time in our country’s history. And to be clear, it has always been youth movements to prod this nation reluctantly forward toward more equitable and just realities. But there is so much more to be done. The energy that this movement has sparked is encouraging and I can only hope that it will continue to build and merge with other youth led movements like Black Lives Matter to create the type of broad based coalitions needed to take on and defeat the alt right, neo fascist powers that have taken control of our country. My identity as a social justice educator continues to evolve, only with the help of what my students and their communities have to teach me… and my ability to reflect on these lessons.
Yesterday morning’s #superbluebloodmoon was awe-inspiring for those of you up early enough on the west coast to witness this celestial event. I felt blessed to have this otherworldly scene greet me first thing as I opened my front door at a quarter to six. As I pulled up to the gym parking lot, a little later than I would’ve liked, I was compelled to suspend my routine (albeit it very new… as in 2 weeks new) start time. I sat in the back of my car, just staring at the eclipsed moon, in all its darkened red glory. I felt a little silly as people passed by me, some already having been productive in their personal fitness and some rushing towards whatever physical health goals they had previously established, while I sat dressed to work out and instead gazed at the sky. The shyness quickly turned into shock and then sadness. One person saw me gazing and stopped just long enough to ask me. “What is this all about?” I responded as a matter of fact, but this seemingly innocent inquiry really got me thinking about the crisis of our modern relationship with our surroundings.
No doubt living back in the Monterey Bay region has reawakened a sort of environmentalism that has been lying semi-dormant for a long while. This is after all the area where I put my finger on the brand of educational and spiritual training I felt most drawn to. I have also been prompted reexamine what exactly I mean when I say “environmentalism” by some pretty profound writings of Paul Kingsnorth of Dark Mountain fame. His collection of essays entitled Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essayshas been helping me survive the massive onslaught of “bad” news in the past year. But in reality its been several years if not decades since the roots of extreme global capitalism have taken shape, forming a type of global consciousness (or lack thereof) devoid of any true connection to land and environment. This is what became clearer to me early Wednesday morning. How could anyone witnessing this eerie celestial event not pause to question and reassess their position in the “grand scheme” of things? Even if only for a moment, a break in one’s gait long enough to view the sky through eyes of wonder. How would our ancient human ancestors have viewed this gigantic blood-red sphere, hovering above, so differently than every other day? How would they have rearranged the sublunary events of their day to accept a larger, profound, and more universal one?
I wondered about this and other questions as I stared into the early morning sky. I also took a few pictures, with the intent of sharing. I soon laughed at the silliness of this, not the instinct to share this with others like friends and family whom I texted despite the hour to see if they were fortunate enough to be awake and experience this, but the absurdity of trying to ‘capture’ this amazing image with my phone camera. I walked away in awe and also distress.
Admittedly I have not been the best optimist of late. I have real concerns about the state of just about everything in the world. From the state of our own nation, to geopolitical realities that are unfolding, humanitarian crises, and the ever-growing threat of nuclear war. But at the center of my pessimism is the absolute realization that we are not, by and large, not making this world a better place. And I don’t just mean for people. There are many who would argue, even quite successfully that we have. I mean making the world better for all life. And I think there are also just as many (hopefully more) that could counter the argument of unlimited growth and progress leading to better qualities of life by recognizing that those processes that we engage in the name of progress are actually the main drivers of death.
And it is not that death is necessarily supposed to lead to pessimism. We all are supposed to die. All life leads naturally to death. It is the obsession with staving off the natural declines and deaths of everything in favor of a false philosophy of infinite growth and wealth that eats at my soul daily. Knowing that this philosophy drives most everyone in the modern world, including myself to live in ways that are murderous to everything that is actually sustaining to our lives. And the cognitive dissonance is so real, that it has taken those of us who feel a drive to “save” our planet from the unnatural destruction of our own making to a place where we are dependant on the human solutions of technology and innovation, the ironic drivers of this destruction. Kingsnorth pulls at this idea throughout his entire book of essays but utilizes the soul-stirring words of mystic poet Rumi to really drive home a much-needed paradigm shift.
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion; bewilderment is intuition.” – Rumi
In my attempts to heed this advice and combat this pessimism before it devolves into permanent paralysis and inaction, I have recommitted to some key principles in my life. The first is to get out in nature and be a part of it. This has developed into a sacred and spiritual Sunday outing where our family explores the wonders of the wild and untamed world, recognizing our very small but important place in it. This may even turn into a more disciplined practice of something I used to enjoy many hours of in my youth, nature journaling. My wife recently stumbled upon this dandy of an idea, suggesting that we even consider taking his class as a family!
The second thing I have dedicated energy and time to is involving myself with a local organization working on a very important social and environmental issue, specifically in our local region. Salinas being the salad bowl of the world, industrial agriculture has bestowed both the blessings and the curses of mass food production. Pesticide use as a “reasonable” byproduct has long been questioned and challenged in the region, as far back as Cesar Chavez’s work with the UFW. It still is today. A local community organization called Safe Ag Safe Schools, a part of Californians for Pesticide Reform, is leading the charge to help change regulatory policy of pesticide use near and around schools. After attending one meeting, I was energized to continue to deepen my involvement with this dedicated group of people. From banning chlorpyrifos to eliminating the use of Round Up on school campuses, there is still so much work to be done with regards to challenging the ill and often catastrophic impact of our modern-day food systems.
These are the things that have helped me to begin reintegrating my spirit into this land again. That and being able to spend more time with family and friends. And even though there are many moments where things feel hopeless and strange, there are still many more moments to embrace the grandeur of where we are and what is actually possible… when one invests in bewilderment.
Around this time of year, usually I would be preparing to teach a Critical Media Literacy class with Jeff Share at UCLA. The class aims to get teachers to think through helping students (and increasingly adults) critically think about our media consumption/production. As I most likely will not be teaching the course this year, my appetite for all things critical media literacy has been grumbling. Despite that feeling of confused hopelessness that many of us feel these days in the “post truth” era, I am very excited to continue helping others around me think deeply about the corporatized media landscape and its impact on our daily lives, in particular as learners in classroom settings.
Having found some colleagues in Salinas who share this interest and passion, I am in the beginning stages of thinking through professional development for teachers. Recently inspired by our district’s tech showcase conference out on by teachers for teachers, the ideas began to flow. This recent NPR story further serves to drive the point, what many of us have been actively trying to impact for years as classroom instructors.
I am excited to continue dialogue that seeks to deepen our understanding of some of society’s most salient features today; search engines, online media, schooling, and the ability to discern fact from fiction. Educators, how do you use media in the classroom and how do you get students to think critically about it and evaluate its authenticity and reliability? Parents, how do you help your children think through what they are consuming and producing for the web? (note the strategic invite to leave a comment below and interact with this blog 😉
I do not want to spend my time writing about our nation’s current leader. I feel that our first year under his presidency was dominmated by an endless cycle of comsumption of the most ridiculous, abusrd, offensive, and flat out scary stories that I and many others have read about in recent memory. This morning’s addition to this never ending stream of assaults on humanity and the earth disguised as tweets struck me in a way that I felt the need to reflect and write on.
I got the chance to catch up with an old friend, who was going to take her sons to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico this past weekend. As I was responding to her instagram post of success in the underground caves with kids, my phone was alerted of this story. I found it a sobering and sad juxtaposition of child/adult realities of our complex world.
These tensions and complexities are my trade as a history and geography teacher. It is my aim to help future generations identify and understand not only the broad themes of history covered in my classes such as power, conflict, and change but I also strive to have opportunities for students to deeply explore the details and nuances contained in everyday narratives. It is ideal when I can coax students into believing their own personal stories are worthy enough to bring into classrooms as authentic academic explorations. Yet in taking this approach to educating young people, it is often challenging to seperate the personal from the academic. Especially when national and global stories have direct implications on not only student populations that I have taught in the past… but real human beings whom I’ve developed relationships with.
Today’s episode of The Daily Podcast struck such a chord (defintely worth the 22 minute listen as it is on most days). As I drove tp work and listened, I couldn’t help but thinking of the many Salvadorian students that had an impact on me over the years, their families, and their now uncertain futures. It was upsetting to be reminded of the all too real history that I of course know and try to illuminate for student when I can in classes where America’s history and policy in Latin America presents itself as a focus. What was harder was to visualize the students whom I’ve known in my career who have been or were actively trying to be a part of MS-13 or who’s journies out of their war torn country was unimaginably terrifying and traumatic.
And although these realities have always been there… it is just slightly more demoralizing and difficult when you realize that our “leader” is purposefully disrupting people’s lives just because he can. Because he feels threatened and invulnerable all at the same time, byproducts perhaps of his sick conception of what it means to be both stable and a genius. Or perhaps this is just a newer version of what has always been a brand of American politics and culture. Either way it weighs heavily on the mind and soul.
The question for this year, and most likely for many years to come is: what to do about it? How will we sustain in the face of contiued callous attacks on humanity? One thing that continues to provide me strength is recognizing the seemingly infinite resilience of those who are under attack and continue to fight. Young people who find ways to grow despite the situations that would dictate otherwise. Though I think it is somewhat dangerous to disregard the realities and history of systemic oppression and inequality; I do think that the following tweet by Neil Degrasse Tyson is worth serious consideration… as are the commentary of responses lol.
Studying those who succeed in spite of broken childhoods might be more illuminating than studying those who don’t succeed because of them.
Over the last week, every aspect of my identity has undergone some sort of institutional attack by the Trump administration. What’s even more saddening is that so many more people; friends, family, and strangers (fellow countrymen and fellow global citizens) have experienced the same attacks and yet have had to feel them on much deeper levels. To realize this suddenly Saturday morning with my children, while attempting to shake off the remnants of a difficult work week by reading a friend’s tweet… it is all surreal.
My identity as the child of an immigrant mother who came to this country at 19, newly married to my father… a soldier in a semi occupying army in her native land, this part of me is under an old but vigorously renewed assault by the same country that welcomed my mother with open arms. I’ve always had to deal with prejudice and misunderstandings of one of my home cultures. It is hard to read stories like this and not feel the impact at the core of your soul when you juxtapose those with the memories of waiting anxiously outside of customs to be reunited with your family once again. Being a Panamian – American is not as hard perhaps as some other minority bi-cultural groups, but that identity is questioned and challenged for basic legitimacy and dignity nonetheless. As is my Mexican heritage. How should one respond to the building of a wall to keep separate the people on the other side you call Tio and primo? I have a few choice responses swimming around my mind right now.
As a husband to my wife, a woman who’s entire family lineage is born of a Muslim land where people are currently being barred from entry to the country we both call home… the attack is real. Like me, she can vividly recall the beginnings and endings of summer travel to our other homelands at the Tom Bradley international terminal… immerging from the tunnel to warm smiles greeting us. Attempting to imagine what other have been greeted with as of yesterday’s America is traumatizing.
I’m infuriated by the attacks on women in general, as a father of two young girls who will be growing up in a “democratic” society that attempts to legislate and politicize their own bodies. Incensed by the economic and social inequities imposed and emboldened by this administration’s view on a women’s worth in the work place. I’m sick to my stomach.
And what of our work? And that of others. While this new administration, like those of the past, asserts that they prioritize job creation and expansion of the middle class, they are about to enact policies that will completely decimate it. At the same time, they are drastically attempting to limit the power of labor organizing, lying to union leaders, placating them with overinflated estimates of infrastructure jobs to be created and squeezing out any real sense of union strength that will be necessary to preserve the working class.
These are some of the identities that make up my daily existence. And while I won’t quite adhere to the sentiment that my existence is being completely challenged… I know enough about history and contemporary society to understand that many people are feeling the pressure of these encroachments by the political apparatus in a way that brings on a type of existential and identity crisis that typically results in two outcomes:
1. You become paralyzed with fear, afraid of the possibility that your existence is no longer welcome or sanctioned by the state… and you conform, playing along with the insanity in the hopes that you will get by until the next “transition of power” wishfully thinking it may be more merciful in the future. This option unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately is only viable for a few.
2. You fight. Fight like hell to be recognized, never apologizing for who you are and where you are from. Because your whole life you’ve known to one extent or another that your identities, complex as humanity, were never fully accepted by the state. Your existence has always been challenged one way or another.
It is the fight that has become unclear to many. And for those who are coming out of the privileged consciousness of false peace, it’s quite a cognitive dissonance to make the leap into war, even if that war is to be waged for your own self preservation. Because you have never really had to fight. But for those who have lived their whole lives under attack, there is nothing else but the fight.
To be clear, if we are going to come out on the other side of this ok, we are going to need both types of folks. And the fight can take on many tactical variations and iterations. But fight we must. These words are one extent to the fight I will continue to be, for these words are me. And my government has not stolen them from me. Not yet…
To be part of today, part of history… the amount of people and all our collective resistance, humanity… it was amazing. Here in Los Angeles, 750,000 were estimated to have turned out for the Women’s March. Those estimates are not over inflated (take note Trump.)
And yet, even as the high of participating slowly drains from my body… my mind wrestles with a question. What will we all do tomorrow? And the next day? It is this question that I know matters even more to the Resistance movement.
It is without question that we must continue to organize and push. But what does that mean? I know for me throughout the years it has meant being part of an organization, a community of people working to improve the world we inhabit in some meaningful way. There were so many of these types of communities that were present today, unified in our message of Resistance. And yet I know there were so many people there who came just as families or as groups of friends. And that is a wonderful sign of things to come, of what could be possible when folks organize themselves and build broad based coalitions of overlapping and supportive work under a framework of social justice and humanity. And it all begins with building relationships. But it also means extending yourself into the realms of real and often uncomfortable work of organizing. It is a sacrifice, but it is one born out of shared community and struggle.
It is this shared community that has been our struggle in the past. The factioning and fracturing off of many “left” and “progressive” and even “radical” causes who stay strong and continue to push for demands of equality, justice, and even reparations… but who do not stand united everytime. Today, for whatever reason it felt… different. Have we finally realized how to stand together? For more than one day?
As we take the fire of inspiration that many of us were a part of lighting today, let’s be clear of the commitment to action we are taking. Tomorrow, we should rest… and reflect. Pick up a book that helps prepare you for the fight that is necessary for the movement to succeed. Read or re-read some of the history that has gotten us to this point. Call someone and invite them to read these with you. Form a reading/study circle, or seek one out to be a part of… and rest. Monday, become an official member of an organization for the first time. Support public media with a donation, however small. God PLEASE support our public media outlets. Sign a couple of petitions online but then really research what those causes are all about… and then JOIN those organizations that are fighting for change. Call one of your representatives, just one and give them hell. Remind them that you were in the streets… and they may have been in the streets. Remind them that they work for us, and this is what we want.
She can’t commit to not privatizing public education
She cannot be sure if, as the chief education enforcement officer in the land, she will hold educational institutions accountable to the same standard whether they are public, publically funded and privately managed, virtual or otherwise
She won’t uphold federal law to ensure equity or equality for students with disabilities
She doesn’t fundamentally understand the important debate around authentically and accurately assessing student learning
She believes that public dollars should be allowed to go to religious education, despite that going against our nations first constitutional amendment
She doesn’t have an opinion on how the second amendment should be interpreted to protect our schools
She has no public educational experience whatsoever (k-12 or higher ed)
She has not been cleared by the Office of Ethics
She lied to congress in her confirmation hearing
Her brother founded one of the most successful and dangerous companies on the planet with a business model that essentially removes public and governmental oversight of the military
TODAY’s POP QUIZ:
Is Betsy Devos qualified to lead and improve our nation’s PUBLIC education system?