Friday, January 20, 2017

I Will March

People keep asking me if I am excited for Saturday    I don't know how to respond.  Am I excited? No.  I am everything else.  I am nervous.  I don't like crowds.  I went to school in New Orleans and stood on Bourbon Street during Fat Tuesday once.  Once.  I am five foot nothing, and when I felt my feet leave the ground, I was terrified.  There will be 1,000,000 people at the march in D.C., and I am still five foot nothing.  I am frustrated.  I don't like the cold.  It is January.  I will be outside.  I want D.C. in spring, not winter.  I am annoyed.  I originally thought most of my friends would be making the trip.  They are not.  I am not a huge fan of busses or sleepless nights.  I will be on a bus for 6 hours in the middle of the night.  I am not excited.  But I am going.  Because I must.  I will be marching with my mother.  She grew up in the 60s. This will not be her first march.  She marched so that I would not have to. But Saturday, we will march together.  Because I have a daughter.  She is lovely and bright and filled with energy.  She had an "awesome" day today because, I kid you not, she had a math test.  This excites her.  She is and will be a force to reckon with, and she will never be touched or grabbed or violated in any way, if I have anything to say about it.  But I am tired of turning off the news when she enters the room.  Just the other day, her old school was on the news.  She attended a Jewish Community Center school until she was in kindergarten. On Wednesday, someone called in a bomb threat.  This was the case across the country, not just in our town.  Friends texted me.  They worried about their children, being walked across the campus.  I imagined their teachers, acting silly, trying to distract them from the abrupt change in routine, trying to ensure they felt safe.  My children were not there, and I felt relief, and guilt.  So I will march.  Because this, this new reality is not okay with me.  I have watched my friends in other states post about incidents of antisemitism.  In my naivety, I thought, "How sad, but not here. We will not have that sort of thing here."  We pretend, you see.  We are safe.  We are in a blue state.  I teach at a diverse school, in a diverse town.  My children will never be called kikes, or find a swastika on their classroom doors.  But just a week ago, someone made a swastika in the snow.  It was later turned into a peace sign.  But it did not negate the first iteration.  This is why I will march.
I am a teacher.  A good number of my students attended the inauguration of a president about whom I have grave reservations.  Will he protect their rights and their needs?  Will he allow them to be curious, to question and contradict?  Will there be security and safety for their parents who need it most?  Or will he tweet away their safety?  We have worked so hard to make them feel included, to feel they had a voice.  Do they still?  Will they always?  I will march on Saturday to let them know that if I have a say, so will they.  I will do what I can, what I am allowed, so that some day, they might choose to do the same. Some day, there will still be a place to make the choices that in my lifetime have remained a right.  Some day, there will be a person in the White House who sees them as an equal part of this great nation, who allows them all the chance to live, to prosper, to thrive, no matter who their parents were.  Someday, we will all remember that we are a nation of immigrants first and foremost, that women birthed this nation, and that children must not bear the burden of their fathers.
I am a mother, and a teacher, and a Jew.  This is why on Saturday, no matter my discomfort, in spite of my discomfort, because of my discomfort, I will march. And like my mother before me, I will do so, so that they don't have to.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My Pledge

Previously Published in Huffington Post on 11/09/2016:

I don't think I can say the Pledge of Allegiance today.  I teach high school students, and second period, when we all say the Pledge together, I will be sharing my room with my eleventh grade Advanced Placement Language and Composition students.  I have spent the last three months teaching them about the power of words.  I don't think I can use those words today.  I don't think I have any words to speak today that will be good enough or strong enough to quell my fears, or to touch the unnamed fears my students must be harboring.  I have brown skinned children in my class.  I have blue haired girls, and muslim young women.  I have strong women in my class.  I believed that I would walk in today able to speak to that strength, able to hand to them an America that I believed in.  But today, something has shifted, and I don't know how to form the words, to make them believe that I support this man.  He has bullied, and shamed, and hurt so many.  He has divided and belittled and served no one but himself.  He is now America.  As a teacher, how can I support that?  How can I tell them that their America is still alive and well, when we have now seen another country rise up in our midst. The Trump country is one of ignorance, resisting intellect with wild abandon.  The Trump country is one of ownership, of women's bodies, of guns and division.  It is one of dishonesty again and again and again.  It is anti-constitutional, even as he claims to hold up the second amendment.  He keeps the press out.  He holds no belief in the power of discourse.  He is a one man government, who will surround himself with men like him, who would have gladly joined him in his "locker room," and they will laugh together at the world that they are raising, and the future that looks more and more like a past we have tried to forget.
And perhaps that is the problem.  We allowed ourselves to forget.  We believed we were safe, because we had already created a sense of equality in our nation, we had already fought for civil rights, and women's rights, and marriage equality, and perhaps we forgot that each of those rights is not built on a cement foundation. That the wrong Supreme Court addition nominated by this man, can turn each of these successes into dust.  Perhaps we forgot that we still need to fight.  Perhaps we forgot that each of these victories left blood on the battlefield, but clearly not enough.
So maybe I have found my words as I write this out.  Maybe all I say to my students, is that we have to keep fighting.  We have to hold on to what we have built, and not allow it all to be demolished by the many angry people who won their own small minded battle last night.
We will fight for the words, for the language, for our beliefs that still can stand even in the face of this new America, which has risen from the shadows.
My Pledge is this: I Pledge Allegiance to civility, to brotherhood, and sisterhood, and goodness.  I pledge to protect those in my care and those who need my care.  I pledge to support those fighting for my safety and for my ability to share these beliefs with the world at large.  I pledge to love.  One Nation.  Indivisible.