What I Will Fret Over, 2018

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A few years ago I wrote a blog post about what I would fret over regarding my two sons and their futures. It’s near the end of 2018 and what I will fret over is some of the same but more and with a different urgency.

At the time I realized:

On my deathbed I will not be wishing I had fret more over my children’s education.

Rather, when that day arrives I may fret about their futures. About whether they know how much I love them. I will hope that they know how rich they have made my life. I will hope that they understand themselves to be capable and extraordinary human beings. I will pray that they have learned to trust others, how to reach out for help, how to care for and love others especially when loving is hard to do. I will fret that we have not had enough time to say all the things that we wanted to say to each other. I will fret over whether their passion for life and learning will be enough to see them through, in and on whatever paths they pursue. It is extremely unlikely that I will fret over how they did or are doing in school.

Today, following the election of an openly fascist president in the largest country in South America, who joins the ranks of world leaders poised to desecrate nature in hopes of power and profit, to punish indigenous populations for existing, to carry out nationalistic policies which openly discriminate and uphold racist divisions. In the midst of these developments, I fret for the future not only of my own children but children across the globe who will grow up knowing perhaps only the unrest, anger and deception that lie at the heart of the rise of unjust regimes.

And I fret over education and how we practice it. While I have found wonderful nurturing communities of educators who are deeply committed to opening minds rather than closing them, I need to remind myself at times that we are not necessarily the majority. The willingness of my allies and accomplices to face their own biases in order to better serve the children in front of them is not the norm. The rigorous pursuit of inquiry, liberation and radical imagination is not the focus of our professional development programs or degree granting institutions. Rather, we insist that new teachers learn to look past inequity and miraculously raise test scores. Education officials may suggest that gun training for teachers is a higher priority that ensuring that all children have adequate access to counseling services in every school. At the ballot box, funding initiatives to guarantee the coverage of school necessities in communities across the US struggle to pass and take effect.

We are living in a time where we have become comfortable with idea of stealing. From our children and grandchildren. With our political choices we are showing them that we are indeed selfish and short sighted, stingy and cruel, poor historians and lazy thinkers. All of our proud speeches about respect, care and critical thinking run smack into the reality of what they can witness on a daily basis – dehumanizing rhetoric, never ending violence against the vulnerable, the hardening of a ruling class that refuses to change itself.

My fretting today is the kind that has me writing at 4 am instead of sleeping. It’s the fretting that is physiological and that rekindles old worries and insecurities. It’s the kind of fretting that these new regimes aim to foster. Because a fearful, disoriented and unsure populace is much easier to manipulate with strong man arguments and false promises. But I am an educator. I’m not a superhero. I am a parent. And at this moment I am fearful.

And I have a little faith. I have two sons who know some things about care, respect and critical thinking. They are avid readers and understand that this matters. They have strong imaginations and dreams about what they want to achieve. In my classes, I work with eager students who have seemingly boundless energy to climb, jump, run and tumble. As they grow, I hope that they also build their strength of character and learn to recognize and counter injustice wherever they find it. Many of them will. Among hundreds of previous students, several have already made that commitment.

So this morning I have fear and some faith. I have community and back up. I know which side of history I am on. Today I will fret. I will also fight.

image via Pixabay.com CC0

Reckoning With Resistance

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Today my mind has not strayed far from the awful crimes being committed against asylum-seeking families arriving at the southern border of the United States. Yes, my outrage is selective. Yes, the previous administration had a tremendous deportation machinery of its own. Yes, this preying on brown and black people by a white supremacist political structure in the US has deep historical roots. Yes, this policy-mandated behavior by immigration officials is entirely American and cruel at the same time.

The hard truths about this situation rest snugly embedded in a larger political context which features steady the erosion of democratic norms; rampant corruption and profiteering off the backs of the most vulnerable; a depressing exposure of historical illiteracy of the American populace, all wrapped up in a climate of fear, exhaustion and despair.  These hard truths are not the enemy.  Bitter realities, such as they are, show us the monsters of our own making – either through our silence, complacency or even active encouragement.

One of the hardest reads of my day centered around asking the question how was it possible for people to practice the cruelty necessary to carry out genocide on their neighbors and fellow citizens then (in WWII) and now. From the subReddit stream of AskHistorians:

The descent into cruelty and abhorrent deeds is one that in almost all historical situations is not caused by one individual’s personal cruelty but by a socially and political accepted mindset of necessity and acceptance of cruelty.

The reality we must face is recognizing our real and potential complicity with the cruelty proposed, enacted and denied by authorities, politicians, and everyone else who determines it better and safer to ‘get along by going along’. We are or will be regularly confronted with choices which uphold or further the cruelty rather than confronting and demanding its end. Hearing the audio of screaming children, seeing footage of caged children and teens, reading first-hand accounts of those directly involved either in the processing or being processed – these all provide ample evidence of awful realities – in snapshot form.

Feeling both hobbled and blessed by my geographical distance to the unfolding crisis, I tweet my desperation through the day. I try to refer others to meaningful threads. I comment on my own inclinations in posting widely on this topic. I throw stick after stick onto Twitter’s outrage bonfire and I question my own integrity in doing so. There can be no self-satisfied way to confront human rights abuse from afar. Discovering and applying my best resources to offering assistance require time and thought. (Truth without comfort: This is one battle among many, I can and should plan for the long haul.)

Perhaps by tossing my twigs on the outrage fire I seek to add my voice to the masses who resist a mindset prepared to normalize long-term detention of children and families seeking asylum in the United States (or in other wealth Western countries – see Australia). To resist a mindset that consciously and deliberately turns its back on upholding human rights. To resist a mindset that says my voice – my living-outside-the-country, black woman of substance voice – doesn’t count.

I am learning resistance. I am embracing resistance. I am struggling in my resistance. But I will persist. I must persist. We must persist.

Thank you.

image via Pixabay CC0