Having recently received the Columbia County School Board’s Criteria for Selecting Supplemental Resources, it has solidified my belief that the rejection and removal of Dear Martin is an example of systemic racism perpetrated by the CCBOE. Looking through the 12 questions used for consideration, a few caught my eye.
Of what literary value is the resource? Is it from a research-based journal? Is it written by a reputable author? Is it a resource of merit and worth of close study? Is it historically/culturally accurate?
From their list, let’s look at Jurassic Park. As to the questions. None. No. No. No. No.
Dear Martin? Multicultural Education. No. New author. Yes. Yes.
The next questions are also relevant. Does the resource have intellectual merit? Are the ideas and issues explored in the resource, in addition to being appropriate to the relevant age-group, significant and appropriate for sustaining intensive study, raising interesting issues, and providing challenging ideas?
Jurassic Park. No. No. Maybe. Dinosaurs? No.
Dear Martin. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
A question comes to being appropriate. In Jurassic Park, people are eaten by dinosaurs. It is graphic. Violent. Dear Martin has some rough language. Oh, and a black youth is shot.
So, what is the difference? One book is pop fiction fluff. One book is a poignant look at the experience of black youth. Which was denied?
Ironically, question eight from the list is, “Is it free from bias, stereotyping, and tokenism? The books? Yes. The CCBOE? Not at all.
In question nine from the list it, about the books, it states, “They should reflect the experience and perspectives of male and female, young and old, and a wide range of cultures within historical, contemporary, and imaginary settings. Is this where Jurassic Park got in? Imaginary settings? Otherwise it does not meet this criteria.
Question 11 is the most revealing in context of choice. “Is the resource appropriate for the age and development of students and, in that context, does it reflect current community standards and expectations?” While the issue of appropriateness will be addressed later, this comes down to community standards. Columbia County sees itself as a white community. This makes Dear Martin problematic. It tells a different narrative than the selected books. It gives a different point of view. Mostly, it makes people uncomfortable.
Finally, question 12 focuses on questionable content. Here is the content that was acceptable.
Into the Wild
This story has profanity. The main character dies of starvation at the end. There is also a reference to the main character doing drugs on page 146. The f-word is used on page 64, 84, 125, 151, 154. Never used sexually, only as an adjective or interjection.
The Hot Zone
Because Hot Zone follows the virus and those who get the virus, there is some graphic detail about what happens when one is exposed and then dies from the virus. Profanity includes the f -word on pages 70,174, 187, 183, and 226. None of it is used sexually -only as interjections and adjectives. There is also some other milder language including s**t and d**n.
The text has mild profanity and some characters exhibit racist tendencies. Overall the text deals with these tendencies as a negative attribute of society. Mild use of d**n. Three uses of s.o.b (pgs. 16, 41, 275). The n-word is used three different times in the text (pgs. 6, 75, 138). Each time it is used to reveal the biases or racism of characters. The text has a clear message of unity, with several characters overcoming their biases.
This is a mature text that address human goodness and human depravity after the collapse of society. It includes scenes of intense peril and tangentially addresses mature subjects such as suicide, tribal violence, and cannibalism. These scenes are generally not described directly, but are suggested through events, sparse dialogue, or imagery. Chickens**t is used when two men confront each other (pg. 65). D**nis used sparingly in the text (5 times). The man and his wife indirectly discuss suicide (pgs. 57-59). In a confrontation with “bad guys,” the father kills a man who poses a threat to his son (pgs. 65-67). The father and son discover prisoners locked in the basement of a house; this scene suggests cannibalistic acts but is not explicit (pgs. 109-111).
In fact, this is the text:
“He was standing [there] checking the perimeter when the boy turned and buried his face against him. He looked quickly to see what had happened. What is it? He said. What is it? The boy shook his head. Oh, Papa, he said. He turned and looked again. What the boy had seen was a charred human infant, headless and gutted and blackened on a spit.”
So, it can’t be the language. Or the violence. What can it be?
Based on available information, it is race. In fact, looking at all the books that were purchased, this is the theme.
To Kill a Mockingbird--White Savior
Lord of the Flies--White
Catcher in the Rye--White
And so on. And so on.
If Columbia Country truly wants to be a top school district, something must be done.
According to the Columbia County School District in Columbia County Georgia, there is a framework for ensuring success. The clever acronym, L.E.A.R.N. is used to spell out this Framework.
• Lead by example;
• Expect all to succeed;
• Achieve excellence through engaging experiences;
• Respect and value each other; and
• Now and tomorrow.
Based on their own framework, you must question the reasoning behind the recent decisions to reject certain works from the supplemental novel list for secondary schools. Taken step by step, this decision is contrary to the very fabric of the district’s map for success.
Lead by example. In looking at leadership, the district’s example is to silence voices of color and ability. In doing so, they are telling the students of the district that some voices are more important than others are. Is this the message that the district wants? Does the district want to tell the students that those in power get to dictate the message and that some messages are not as important? Personally, I do not buy the argument that there were areas of concern. All of the books on the list had them. The books that were silenced just did not mesh with the dominant voice in the district.
Expect all to succeed. In education, there is a concept of culturally responsive teaching. According to Gloria Ladson-Billings, teachers should use culturally relevant works to help develop students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes. If Columbia County is trying to prepare students for life, it would make sense that information about all people would be relevant. Not just books about dinosaurs, Ebola, and a post-apocalyptic world. This is not relevance. This is entertainment veiled as works about science and man vs nature.
Achieve excellence through engaging experiences. Schools are places of control. Schools control when students eat, when they can go to the bathroom, when they can talk, and when they can walk. However, there is another part to control. Schools can also offer a safe place to have conversations. Critical conversations. Difficult conversations. Conversations that can lead to critical and creative thinking that are necessary for a democracy to succeed. However, by stripping the curriculum of books that deal with voices of color, voices of ability, and voices of the marginalized, we are taking away engaging experiences. We are limiting the potential of the students of Columbia County by offering only one voice.
Respect and value each other. No and no. No, this policy does not show respect for each other. No, this policy does not show value for each other. In fact, it does the opposite. By silencing non-dominant voices, the Columbia County School District is saying that if you are not part of the dominant culture, your voice does not matter. And, in turn, perhaps you do not matter. Just because a work is difficult and deals with difficult topics does not mean that it is lesser. Everyone lives different lives and has different experiences. We must, as a society, respect and value each other.
Now and tomorrow. If one of the purposes of schooling is to help students prepare for life, both now and tomorrow, how can the rejection of minority and marginalized voices accomplish this? Is the plan to limit students understanding the world? Is the plan to create an idealized view of society through the lens of whiteness? Is the plan to have students graduate and realize their sheltered world is not reality? By limiting voices, we limit ourselves.
According to the Columbia County School District in Columbia County Georgia, the mission of the district is, “Empowering and Inspiring All Learners to Excel in a Global Society.” I guess that is true if the “All Learners” refers to white, Christian, straight, cisgendered learners. Ultimately, this decision reeks of white supremacy, white privilege, and a desperate attempt for Columbia County Schools to reinforce their notion of a conservative, white utopia. This is not what education is about. This is not what learning is about. And it is certainly not what living in a democracy is about.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I think things are beyond repair. Our society has become a fractured shadow of itself. Racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, and ageism have been given license to flourish. As Afrika Bambaataa (with John Lydon) sang in World Destruction, “This is a world destruction/Your life ain't nothing/The human race is becoming a disgrace/The rich get richer/The poor are getting poorer/Fascist, chauvinistic government fools/People, Moslems, Christians and Hindus/Are in a time zone just searching for the truth/Who are you to think you're a superior race?/Facing forth your everlasting doom.” People have come up with ways to distance themselves from this vitriol by commandeering tropes associated with the past. Go back to where you came from resurrects a time that was considered the past. It never went away. It is just being seen as acceptable by those who now feel free to revel in their bigotry and hate. What was once hidden is now being celebrated.
And that is just how we feel about people. Gun violence is rampant (two mass shooting is 24 hours—El Paso and Dayton). Pharmaceutical companies are jacking up the price of drugs to turn a greater profit for shareholders. People are working full time jobs and can’t make ends meet. Wall Street prospers and people say that things are great. The poor are rejected. Jobs are being created, but they are jobs that don’t allow people to pay bills.
I am losing hope.
But, it is not gone.
I think the biggest problem we have now isn’t money or bigotry or hate or violence. It is our humanity. People are losing their humanity. And with it all other things fall. People are becoming obsessed with being right over thinking through issues. People jump on bandwagons. People don’t care about facts. People just want things to fit their narrative, damned be the truth. Because we were brought up with the mindset of competition, winning, and having the most, we have become so self-centered and self-indulgent that we see the world with blinders.
Of course, I am not speaking about everyone. I am talking about the country. As a whole. And, yes. This includes a lot of people.
Obviously, there are those who directly do these things. They are racist. Homophobic. Misongynistic. Violent. Bigoted. Will listen to anything as long as it fits their life.
But, it is the other side that troubles me more. Those that don’t care. Those that are indifferent. Those that don’t vote. Those that don’t do anything. Those filled with apathy.
Because of this, I believe we are beyond hope. We live in a time of desperation. So many people are so scared. And they are told to be scared. Be scared of those that are different. Be scared that you won’t be able to protect yourself. Be scared that you will be poor (or poorer). Be scared of your health. And why?
Because someone can come in and say, they will fix it. Fix all your fears.
In doing so, they will give you someone to blame. They will tell you why you are scared. They will lie just to create an agenda. He will control your thoughts.
In the movie The American President, Michael Douglas’ character makes the following statement when talking about the problems in the U.S.; “[My opponent] is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character….”
And that is where we are.
And when it fails, there is a long list of people to blame.
“I tried to fix the problems, but there are immigrants, LGBTQIA people, liberals, socialists, Muslims, Latinx citizens, the poor, and….”
“It is their fault. If they agreed, all of this would be fixed.”
“It is not my fault. I tried. Blame them.”
And it is working.
But, I have hope.
There are people that are fighting back. There are people that are being loud. There are people that are teaching great things about social justice, diversity, and equity. There are people that are planning and organizing and working for change.
But, it isn’t enough.
The other side is louder. And constant. And tweeting.
So, I ask you. What can you do? How can you help? How can you use your voice? It is not okay to let this go on. Take a stand. Show this is wrong.
What can you do?
In baseball, there is a sabermetric called WAR. That stands for Wins Above Replacement. In essence, this statistic creates a hypothetical player considered to be run of the mill average player at their position. Let me restate, this player does not exist in reality, but is a place of measurement of what an average player would look like. It calculates a player’s complete contribution to the team. It takes into consideration all parts of the game: hitting, running, and defense (there are different metrics for pitchers).
Using this is a metaphor, what if we were to create a WAR for the president. Since the president is so fond of #winning, what if he were judged against an average replacement president. For the purposes of this argument, I will suggest that the average president sticks with the status quo. Things don’t get better. Things don’t get worse. Average.
So, we would need to construct some metrics. Now, normally this would be done with numbers, but I don’t have the statistical expertise (although I do stats) to construct something like this. So, we are going to look at the big picture.
I will consider the following topics:
Freedom of the Press
Environment and Climate
Using these markers, how would our current president compare to a replacement. If the president is above average, I will give a point. If nothing is different. If things are worse, a point will be deduced.
Economics: This is a tricky one. There are many measures of the economy.
Employment—Unemployment is low, really low. While there is underemployment, +1.
Production—Production is high. While the effect of the tariffs is only starting to hit, as of right now, +1.
Wages—Wages are stagnant. While there is a slight increase, inflation is flat lining it. Also, it is around 3%. If you are making minimum wage, that is 21 cents., -1.
Spending—Spending is up, but that means fewer savings. As the shutdown has shown, many are paycheck to paycheck, -1.
Corporate Profits—Way up, +1.
Trickle Down from Tax Cut—Nope. Not much, -1.
Stock Market: Damn. This is tricky. The market is volatile. Perhaps more so than it has been in a long time. Overall, the stock market is up. But, if you look at long term trends of percentage growth, it is about the same. While there was a huge grown in 2016, there was also a huge growth (about the same size) in 2013. In fact, since 2009, there have only been two years of an average decline, 2015 and 2018. The 2018 decline was twice as big (https://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historical-chart). 0
Freedom of the Press: It is appalling. There seems to be something now called the Fake News. It was created by the creator of the most fake news. Credentials are being revoked. Journalists threatened. Propoganda abounds. -1
Human Rights: So, we have had tons of rollbacks. From religion to skin color to gender to sexuality to socio-economic status to health, the Trump administration is attacking human rights (unless you are white). Too many to list, but feel free to browse (https://civilrights.org/trump-rollbacks/).
National Perception: There is a solid 40% that worships at the feet of Trump. No matter what he says or does, they are fine. The other 60%. Well, no. At all. So, while supporters are fervent in their support (and loud), that overall national perception isn’t great (https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html).
International Perception: According to the Pew Research Center, the international confidence in Trump stands at 27%. In fact, confidence change from Obama to Trump has dropped 76 points in Germany (https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/international-view-of-trump-735190/). -1
International Relations: Let’s see. Met with North Korea. Looks like they are still building bombs. Insulted Trudeau on an international stage. Alienating much of Europe. Love affair with Putin. Dissolving nuclear arms treaty. Not a pretty picture.
Education: There is a strong movement by the Department of Education to gut public education, rollback diversity policy, and increase funding to charter schools and vouchers. -1
Environment and Climate: According to the National Geographic Society, Trump has rolled back many policies that we aimed at slowing climate change. In addition, all of the following have occurred (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/) :
Executive order calls for sharp logging increase on public lands
EPA criminal enforcements hit 30-year low
Trump nominates Andrew Wheeler to permanent EPA job (former coal lobbyist)
Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era Coal Rules
Interior Eases Drilling Controls Protecting Sage Grouse
First offshore oil wells approved for the Arctic
EPA to Disband Air Pollution Review Panel
Poverty: Since Trump took office, he has worked with Republicans to gut assistance programs, food stamps, children’s insurance programs, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed rent increases for low cost housing.
Immigration: Well, Mexico didn’t pay for the wall. In fact, the government was shut down over the wall. A false narrative of immigrants has been created so that some people have someone to blame. Are there many people that entered the country illegally? Yes. Did some of them work for Trump on his properties? Yep. This manufactured emergency is just that.
So, when we total it up, it would appear that Trump is a -8 compared to a fictional, average president. What does this mean? Things aren’t working.
I say we contact some other countries. Perhaps we could make a trade. Trump and his cabinet for some other world leaders.
Who would you trade for? Or would you just trade them for cash considerations and we have a new draft?
False Equivalence and the Right
A couple of days ago, someone posted the following statement on his Facebook page, “HEY REPUBLICANS! Please don’t object to expanded background checks for gun purchases. The Dems are begging for it...give it to them.... with this caveat...all voter registrations have to be handled with the same process. (Please wear protective gear when suggesting this to your favorite liberal. Pretty sure their head will explode.)” This is a person of influence (to some) with a wide audience.
It is the worst kind of manipulation and pandering to his base.
If we look at these words, the largest issue is the blatant use of false equivalence. False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which something is suggested to being the same as something else for the purpose of an argument. But, they are not. In this case, there is a false equivalence between gun purchases and voting.
Let’s look at the issue of legality. According to the Heritage Foundation (conservative think tank), there have been 1,177 verifiable cases of voter fraud in the U.S. in the last 18 years. According to the Gun Violence Archive (which gets its information from new reports), there have been 1,459 deaths from gun violence this year (we are on day 39). So, voter registration isn’t really that much of a problem. Guns are. Saying that voter registration needs the same kind of background check as a gun purchase is ridiculous.
By comparing a gun purchase to voter registration, a huge false equivalence is created. These two things only have one thing in common. They are in the Constitution (and in reality, the universal right to vote is not in there). In fact, voting has evolved immensely over time, where the 2nd amendment hasn’t. By comparing the two, it is only creating a myth about voting.
Now the second issue I have with this argument is the opening.
Obviously, the writer had to make sure he reached his audience. Therefore, the intro. However, this is directing the false equivalence to one side by pairing it with gun ownership. And directing it to only one side. By screaming to his particular audience, he created a fake argument that would get rile them up.
My third issue with the argument is the use of an ad populum attack on the left. By ending the post with the idea of sharing with a liberal so their heads would explode, it is creating a further division in the conversation. Yes, I know it is for ratings, but with the decline in civility and fracturing of society in the last two years, there is no call for it.
My issue is that shortcuts, logical fallacies, and fear have replaced thought, logic, and evidence. The right will believe anything if there is a single piece of evidence. They will rely on news that isn’t news. They will do what they are told. We need to be thoughtful in our conversations. We need to be thoughtful to each other. We need to discuss things logically and try to come to decisions.
Now, I will admit, my head almost did explode. But, not for the stupid post. It almost exploded because of the manipulation of his audience.
Recently, a high school teacher in Virginia was fired for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns (https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/teacher-fired-refusing-use-transgender-student-s-pronouns-n946006). Of course, the Right is up in arms. “How can you do that? What about freedom of speech? Being transgender isn’t real anyway.”
Aren’t we all called by our preferred pronouns? If I were to walk into a bar and bump into a man and say, “Excuse me, ma’am,” do you not think he would be upset? What if that person got angry and started a fight and when someone asked, I said, “Well, she started it.” Would it not escalate? Would it not inflame?
I saw commentary recently where someone was making an argument that “Dude,” is a gender neutral word. Anyone can be a dude. One response was, “Well, then walk into a bar and ask some guy how many dudes he has slept with…see how that goes.”
My meaning is that pronouns mean something. They signify self-identity. They are personal.
Imagine if you and I just met and you introduced yourself as Kelly. I immediately proceeded to call you Charlie. For the rest of the conversation I only called you Charlie. You corrected me over and over and over and I refused to call you anything but Charlie. Not only would I be rude, but you might take offense.
Point being…we are who we are. We have an identity. It is not up to the other person to determine what a person will be called. We have an identity.
When you choose to call someone by a pronoun that they don’t identify with, you are denying their identity. You are denying who s/he/they/xe is. You are denying their existence as a person.
With this in mind, it is important to understand that gender is not a binary. Gender is a social construction. Around 37 different cultures around the world recognize, or have recognized, more than two genders. Ranging from adopting different roles in society to being intersex, genders are greater than a binary.
As are we.
Who you are is personal. And real. The parts you were born with are there. But, it doesn’t mean that they are the same.
So, going back to the original idea of the teacher being fired. Honestly, I would need to know more. Was this recurring? Was it belligerent? Based on the article, it was at first a mistake and then was purposeful when he refused. Should he have been fired? I think he should have been educated. He should have been taught. If he still refused, then yes. He should have been fired. It was willful bias against the student.
So, please be thoughtful. And respectful. Identity is important.
Over the last few weeks I have been politically hibernating. I have been socially hibernating. I have been culturally hibernating. I needed a break. Some rest. Some relaxation.
None of it happened.
For the last few weeks I have been more or less sitting back and observing. Not engaging. Sharing a few posts. Now I understand why I post. Something built up inside.
My disillusionment with society.
My inability to understand how people can have such skewed priorities.
My sincere anger with hypocrisy.
My wavering hope about the way things are going.
In the last few days it seems:
That was just reported or happened this week. And that woke me from my slumber.
This is not right.
I interrupt this rant for this important message:
Be nice to each other.
Don’t be racist.
Help the poor.
Don’t be a bigot.
Value people over money.
Don’t be a hypocrite.
Don’t be sexist or misogynistic.
Smile at someone.
Do something to make a difference.
Be a micro-revolutionary—revolt in small ways and often.
Don’t be self-righteous.
Fight for what’s right, not the right.
Remember this country is for everyone, not just you.
So, here I sit. Thinking about the complete cluster our society is in right now. There are people praying for me because I think health is a right, people matter, the rich are destroying society, and people in other countries deserve opportunities here.
By the way, we don’t have open borders.
People are in a fucking twist because of a few thousand people trying to escape their lives (that we helped create) and find refuge here. I hear the argument that we should be taking care of our own before them. And to do this we are….denying health care, attacking social security, Medicare, food assistance? What if took just one day of the money we spend on war ($250 million) and directed it toward the poor? What about one week?
I heard on Fox the other day that we shouldn’t be sending money to Central America for aid. It isn’t being used to help the people. According to USAID, in 2016 we gave $297 million to Guatemala. We gave $3.1 billion to Israel. We have given $16.5 billion for “conflict, peace, and security (let’s say war),” and $1.2 billion for education. Hmmm, does that seem right?
We are fracturing. Splintering. We are afraid. We are in conflict. Right now, we are not in a good place.
You know, I am tired of being told I am to blame. I am so tired of the self-righteous living in their safe little bubbles saying that everything is fine and I am part of the problem for being critical of what is going on. So, do you want to know how I feel? Here it is.
There is a reason that I am critical of what is going on. I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent. Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault. People love me. And you know what? I've been very successful. Everybody loves me. And why do they love me? I think the only difference between me and other people is that I'm more honest and my women are more beautiful.
And I am tired of what you think. You just don’t want to think. I hate it. … I think that you are lazy. And it’s probably not your fault, because laziness is a trait in conservatives. In addition, from watching the news I think that conservatives are both criminals and rapists. And I am sick and tired of all these people from shithole trailer parks come to my Facebook page with their commentary.
Because of this, I believe that conservatives and Trump supporters and enemies of the people. The facts they put forward are inaccurate, and even fraudulent. I believe that we must stop the open & obvious hostility and be accurate and fair. I am so sick of the fake and dishonest right causing all of these problems.
And to the people in this area, so many times you come off as crazed and stumbling lunatics. You should just walk away from your party.
A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate commentary of the right that I refer to as fascists. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. The right must clean up its act, FAST!
I hope you are not offended by my words. Well… Because… I didn’t say them. I only tweaked the words of your president.
The Dangers of Nationalism
I remember when I was a high school English teacher, I used to teach a lesson on similes. You know, a comparison using like or as? I used to tell my students that there was a particular reason to use a comparison….to help gain a greater understanding of something. So, we then started talking about similes (and other comparisons). I would start with giving a simile stem and having them fill out the end.
All men are _________.
In almost every occasion, there would be two answers.
So, I asked the students what about men were like pigs? The trough? Rolling around in the mud? Sex (just so you know, pigs are some of the most meticulous lovers in the animal world)?
Their answer? Because all men are pigs. They just are.
Run like the __________.
Say it with me now…..wind.
Well, what kind of wind? Breeze? Gust? Gale?
The discussion would come around to the use of stale comparisons and how they replaced thought. They were convenient. They were easy. They were expected.
And people would nod in approval because they were comfortable and they didn’t have to think.
You can hear the chant. USA.
There is something that seems endearing about honoring your country with the chant.
But, it also replaces thought. It replaces critique. It replaces awareness. People will cheer along to be part of something.
But, blind adherence without thought is dangerous. Because it is easy. And you don’t have to think.
Imagine this. Think about the person you are. Your essence. The thing that makes you, you.
Imagine if that essence was born in Mexico. Or Guatemala. Or Scotland. Or Zambia. Or Bangladesh. Or East Timor.
Would you be a Tri-Colore? Of course. That is where you were born. Would you be singing Himno Nacional at the top of your lungs? Sure.
Because that is where you, the person who you are was born.
Unity, Action, Progress (motto of East Timor).
Here is my point. The only reason you are nationalist about this country is because this is where your essence was born. And it has been turned into a rallying cry. A chant. Without thought.
Throughout history (Germany, France, Italy, China) rampant nationalism has been used to unify people against others. Any others. It has been used to galvanize against the other. It has been used to snuff out those with a different opinion. It has been used to silences critics. The press. The opposition.
Nationalism is dangerous.
What is this chant? What are you celebrating?
The genocide of the indigenous people of this land? Moving them to reservations? Taking away their right to vote?
A history of slavery? Racism? Red line neighborhoods. Civil rights abuses? Lynchings?
Economic inequality? Rampant capitalism that has caused a situation where the richest 40 people own more than the bottom 50% (2011). And we are fighting for pennies.
Turning away desperate people that are escaping gangs and warfare? Because you are afraid they are going to knock on your door (this was said to me)?
A health system controlled by insurance and pharmaceutical companies that only care about profit over life?
A president that has made racist, misogynist, bigoted comments? That is trying to put into effect policies that would take rights away from transgender citizens? That is trying to silence the press? That focused on rallying cries when his opponents were being attacked? That wants the rich to get richer? That wants to take from social security and medicare? And you chant with him. And celebrate him.
Shutting down the press?
Keeping your stuff? Only your stuff?
I would love to say that I feel great about being born into a country that doesn’t have to deal with the issues other countries do.
Drugs, gangs, poverty, racism, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry, ableism.
Wait, we have those things.
So, let us honor this country for what is about. Democracy. Free speech. Free press. Freedom to worship whom we want. Freedom to peacefully assemble. Helping the world. Being a nation of immigrants (except I was recently told the famous “huddled masses, yearning to be free” message only counts on Ellis Island). Looking out for each other. Being open. Accepting.
Think. Don’t parrot. Use your mind. Don’t just follow the crowd because it feels good, is convenient, and gives you confidence.
Be critical. Be thoughtful. Be kind.
And when you chant, chant….
This isn’t one of my regular blog posts (www.andrewtkemp.com/blog). This is actually a response to a conversation. But, here we go.
Okay, so the other day I posted the following on Facebook, “I am tired of Republicans saying, ‘You had your turn, now it is ours.’ Our turn didn't rely on misogyny, racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. So, piss off.” It was met with equal parts agreement and ire. That I can accept. We, as a people, are divided right now. Like it or not, we are.
I would like to say that it is unique to this time period, but it isn’t. We have always been divided. Sure, I know people will argue that we have had times where we were of a singular mind. Maybe during wars. But, even then, that was only the spoken narrative. We were still divided. By race, religion, sexuality, and wealth.
What is bothering me is that much of what is going on is being blamed on liberals/left/Democrats by the conservative/right/Republicans. Somehow, this is our fault. They are without blame. I was told, “As much as I disagree with most liberal policies, I abhor the pieces of crap that are intentionally turning us on one another. Quit falling for the two party manipulation and treat each other with respect.” First, this statement in itself is a statement of antagonism. Second, well, we have a two party state. Like it or not. Finally, it is easy to say you want to treat each other with respect when your voice is the only one in control. As someone replied, respect is earned.
In my original post, I noted, “Our turn [Democrats] didn't rely on misogyny, racism, bigotry, and xenophobia.” I am not quite sure what the issue was. Evidence?
So, complain all you want that this is my/our fault.
WAIT! Retort pause….
Oh, and, well, Bill got a BJ and lied about it
So, my point being. Stop it. It is not the fault of protestors, liberals, leftists, Democrats, minorities, immigrants, or the news media that we are divided. It is that the policies that are being enacted, are dividing us. The only care or concern is money.
Hey, my taxes went down! I am happy.
It doesn’t matter how much. Or if everyone gets it. Or the fact that the rich are getting richer over it.
Money, money, money.
Oh, and, “I need my freedoms. Not yours. Mine.”
And, I know that you might be reading this and thinking, well, that isn’t me. I am not racist, misogynistic, bigoted, or xenophobic. But, if you are supporting a group or part of a group that does, your silence on the matter is consent. Therefore, you are complicit.
So, I am not going to stop. I am not going to be quiet. I am going to keep talking. Questioning. Calling out people.
Feel free to respond.
We live in a misogynistic society. We live in a sexist society. We live in a shallow society.
Yes, I said it.
I am not saying that all men are misogynists or sexist or shallow. But, as a society, those that are dominant are.
Over the last few days I have seen posts making fun of sexual assault. For example, a former classmate of mine (who I have known since the first grade) had the following shared with him on his page (I had seen it before). “Hello my name is Charmin and I want someone to notify my Senator or my congressman or the FBI, that back in the 60s and into the 70s an old man named Mr. Whipple used to squeeze me inappropriately, even though people told him repeatedly don’t squeeze the Charmin…I demand Justice!” Of course, the picture was of toilet paper. A joke right?
What this is doing is making fun of assault. It is using the image of toilet paper to represent women. It is mocking inappropriate touching. It is mocking waiting.
Yes, it is.
I also see comment after comment after comment about why did she wait so long? Why? Because to many men, it is a joke. Boys being boys.
Well, fuck you. It is not boys being boys. It is an excuse because boys and men have been programed to be assholes. Men are programed by society. Society has taught men we need to have sex early and often. Society has taught men that women should have tiny waists and big boobs. Society has taught men that women are objects to be ogled and grabbed. Society has taught men that women are here to serve us. Society has taught men that women are worth less. Society has taught men that women should get over it. Society has taught men that women lie.
And the most fucked up thing? Some women believe it? Society has programmed them, too.
Well, fuck you again.
This same former classmate (who is a therapist of all things) posted the following. “If I touched yo booty between 3rd and 8th grade I apologize, I need my job. These allegations getting outta hand.
Haha, again. Right? Things that might have bothered you are funny. I get to make fun of them because other men will find it funny.
My response? Go ahead, say it in your head.
Now, I know there are people that are going to say that my use of language hurts my argument. I can’t have a civil conversation. I am going to turn people off to what I am trying to say.
You have no argument. I do not care if you say the bible says so. Or you were just joking. Or I am being crass and crude.
Making fun of sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, unwanted touching, slipping the roofy, is just wrong.
Where I live, a former candidate for our county commission said he would defend any woman that was assaulted. But, yet, he posted the same sort of humor. And then took it down.
Fuck you, coward. If you are going to believe it, post it and do it. But, also, realize you are showing yourself for who you are.
And I am showing myself for who I am. I am not okay with this. In fact, while I have really tried to have conversations about many issues with people, this is one I won’t have. If you are a sexist, misogynistic asshole, I am not going to try to be civil. I am going to call you out.
Finally, for those of you that are fawning over Brett Kavanaugh and think he is being treated unfairly and is being unjustly accused, think about your reaction if you found out your child’s teacher was accused of being a pedophile. Or having a history of sexual assault. You would be jumping over yourself to make sure that person didn’t teach your child. Well, Kavanaugh has been nominated for a position where he will be making decisions about women.
Fuck Brett Kavanaugh.
As a professor of education, I have to say that this is something as a society we must combat. We must teach our children to be civil. To be open. To think critically. To understand right and wrong. We must teach our children not just facts, but life.
We aren’t. And fuck us for not doing it.
We are exploited. In every way. And by we, I mean we. All of us. The common and the uncommon. The people you see every day. The nameless walking past you in the hallway, standing with you on the elevator, shopping with you in your local box store. We are all exploited. Economically. Politically. Spiritually. Educationally.
Take a minute and think about our lives. We live in our moments of bliss. We get a small raise. We get a good grade. We meet people at our places of worship. We blast Facebook posts about injustice. We scream at the top of our lungs.
And each of these things is a pittance. A trifle. A breath.
In reality (if there is such a thing), we are just replaceable parts in the grand scheme of power and money.
For all of you that celebrate the capitalist mentality, think that this is the American Dream, just think about who is making money. Not us. Not you. Sure, you might be okay. Maybe comfortable. You might have a car, Netflix, and pizza night. But, Apple is worth a trillion dollars. There are more than 500 billionaires in the United States. You/we are all just mechanisms in their quest to have more and more. And more. We are working to make sure they have. We don’t work for us. We work for them. And they fight against us. Fighting insurance. Fighting minimum wage hikes. Fighting against unions. We are exploited for their sixth or seventh boat or office complex.
So, who is fighting for us? Our party? Nope. Not at all. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican, Green, or Libertarian, our political parties work toward maintaining control without ever really doing anything. They let local parties and politicians fight for themselves. And then they ask for more. More money. More volunteering. More money. More time. Who gets elected? The electables. Even with people that have the same mindset, we are exploited for time and money.
The same holds true for spirituality and religion. Churches, religious leaders, atheists, agnostics, all exploit the masses for a purpose. We are told what to believe. If we don’t, we are threatened with damnation. We use our beliefs to control others, to subjugate others, and to be mouthpieces that rally against difference. Churches, non-Churches all have an agenda to attract and retain members. People are exploited out of fear.
Finally, what about education. What is our education system doing? We are creating generations that can read and write, but cannot think. They can do math, but cannot reason. That know the parts of a cell, but don’t know the methods of science? Why? To sell textbooks. To sell tests. To sell remediation. To sell, to sell, to sell… Education has become the most public, corporate enterprise. We have created emergencies of learning to sell products. And who suffers? The student. They are exploited and their growth is stunted because of the need to measure.
So, what can we do?
Don’t be exploited. Be authentic. Don’t just accept things as they are. Think about your comfort. Is it real, or is it just better than an alternative?
Strive for greatness, not just ease.
Do not conform to a forced ideal.
Do not be compliant in a world that only wants you to serve it.
Do not be exploited. Bob Marley sang, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our mind.” And it is time to emancipate yourself from the exploitation of life. Celebrate yourself. Always push forward. Don’t be just another person doing the work for someone. Don’t be just another person going door to door for someone that won’t represent you. Don’t be just another person that buys into a belief system out of fear. Don’t be just another student that accepts that right and wrong answers are learning.
Move forward. Take control of yourself. Be strong.
The Rise of Socio-Political Atheism
When I was younger, I was in search of faith. Some kind of faith. But, because of my upbringing, I teetered between agnosticism and atheism. For a while, I really didn’t distinguish between the two. But, after doing some research, reading some religious texts, and having many conversations I started understand the nuance between two. I was agnostic. Honestly, I didn’t know. I didn’t have a conception of a higher being. An atheist, however, chooses to not believe in God. This in itself shows a conception of a God in which to disbelieve. It is a willful choice. Mind you, I realize that this is a simplified definition of atheism and I know there are a myriad of reasons to not believe. Bear with me.
This brings me to the idea of socio-political atheism.
I was having a Facebook conversation the other day with a former peer of mine from school. I have known this person since I was in first grade. We really haven’t talked much since college. However, I post a lot on Facebook, and most of it is about society, politics, culture, and the way society is going. It seems that every time I comment, he has something to say. He says I am wrong. I am part of the problem. The things that I am saying don’t exist. In a particular exchange he said, “Police brutality exists but is rare. Racism exists but is perhaps even more rare.”
I was stunned. Police brutality exists but is rare? Racism exists but is perhaps even more rare? In what world is this person? Looking back over previous posts this was a common thread that he explored. The problems in society that we have are just fake. They are blown out of proportion. They are a figment of collective imagination.
Then it hit me. This is just willful ignorance. This is creating a narrative just to fit a worldview. This is being completely oblivious to the realities of the day. It has become a form of socio-political atheism. People are choosing to just not believe. They deny things that are obvious. It is a willful disregard for the problems this country is having because it doesn’t fit into their safe, white, usually male, cisgendered, straight worldview. Forget reality. Just make up your own. I started thinking about when this all started. I suppose it is always been true. But, I believed it is picked up steam and become a life of its own since Trump ran for office.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with people and they deny the simple realities of what is going on in society. Things like racism, homophobia, hatred of the poor, the Constitution, the dangers of guns, the danger of the president, Islamaphobia, and our education system. They hold tight onto the beliefs of the American dream. They believe that Donald Trump will make America great. They stand tall for the flag without any thought as to what I really means. They believe that Colin Kapernick is evil. They call Antifa, fascists.
I suppose that when your authority is challenged, your comfortable role as being the dominant group in society, your simplified belief system that makes the world make sense to you is being threatened you go on the defensive. The problem is that there is no defense. People will say, “Well, that just isn’t true.” That is the defense. It isn’t true.
This mentality of just denying things that you disagree with is incredibly problematic for a just society. There can be no discussion. Why? Because there is no defense. And those that willfully ignore the world around them always have their fallbacks. Obama. Hillary. Ben Ghazi. Emails. Servers.
What is frightening though is the fact that this willful ignorance of the facts extends up to the president. I have been told specifically that people don’t care about Trump’s beliefs, what he is done, his blatant disregard for respect for the office of the presidency, because he is getting things done. But he is not. At all. Feel free to argue that point. But when the real living wage is down .2%, a great portion of society is having their rights stripped away, large sectors of the manufacturing world and agricultural sector are being beaten down by tariffs, what exactly is it that you’re celebrating?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
That is because these people have become atheists. They have become socio-political atheists. They are choosing to not believe certain things because it doesn’t fit. Now, I am not saying that being a socio-political agnostic would be any better. But at least not knowing would suggest some search for reality.
Over the past two years, I have been pondering what it means to be a citizen of the United States. Well, that isn’t true. I have always pondered it. But as the conversation becomes more and more complicated, as people are interpreting the Constitution to fit their needs, as “being American,” is being defined by more and more limited definitions, I have been thinking about what it means to be us (and US). More specifically, I have been considering the obsession we have with the symbolism of the nation. Particularly, the flag.
The flag is a rectangular piece of fabric, sometimes one piece, sometimes stitched together. The flag has seven, horizontal red stripes alternating with six horizontal white stripes that symbolize the original colonies. At the upper left (a blue field with 50 stars, one for each state). Over the course of post-revolution history, the flag has changed based on the number of states.
But, what does it mean?
It seems that people are quick to put one on a truck, or a pin, or hang one in front of a house. Others have shorts that resemble the flag. And everywhere you go, people salute. Say the pledge. Blast the national anthem. But, how often do people actually think about what it represents?
To be a citizen of the United States, it seems that you should uphold the virtues of the United States. (Now, I bet some of you are wondering why I am not using the term America. Because there is a lot of America. Mexico, Canada are America. Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama are America. Brazil is America. Venezuela is America. Guyana is America.) Chanting USA, USA, or MAGA, MAGA isn’t being a citizen. It is being loud. It is being part of the crowd. It is about feeling like you are doing something.
It seems that people are distilling the republic down to bullet points of convenience, slogans, and cherry-picked statements to further their own agenda. We are desperately trying to simply our ideas. Therefore, we obsess over the flag.
The United States is more than that.
In the movie, “The American President,” the character Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) says at one point, “America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, 'You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.' You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
To be a true citizen, we have to hold dear those truths that are self-evident.
However, people are becoming fixated with just the flag. Or the anthem. It is an anthem of war. It seems that we are transfixed with simplicity. We fly the flag, we wear the flag, we put an applique on our car, and we are citizens.
In fact, it is more than that. We are infatuated with this simplicity. People wear the cross without thinking about what it means to act like a Christian. People have a peace symbol without thinking about the complexity of peace. People wear an anarchy symbol without considering the human condition.
We have become a reductionist society where a symbol replaces thought. Where a slogan replaces consideration. Where a vitriolic tweet has become policy.
Colin Kapernick was not protesting the flag. Or the anthem. He was protesting the treatment of black citizens of the United States. Yet, it is easy to say he is un-American. He isn’t. In fact, it is the opposite. He is ultimately a citizen. He is protesting. He is using his freedom of speech. He is challenging the gang mentality of the dominant class.
Right now, we are oversimplifying life for convenience. We don’t want to think. We can react to bullet points.
I implore everyone to commit themselves to thinking. Research ideas. Consider alternatives. Don’t disagree just because you are supposed to.
What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States?
Don’t be common.
This country is complex. We have many ideas, viewpoints, and cultures. This is why we are wonderful.
Celebrate this country through being engaged, thoughtful, and considering everyone. We ALL have a right to live. To be free. To be happy.
Help us get there.
For a moment, let us suspend our disbelief. Let’s say I went out and bought a gun. I am not talking about a modified AR-15. I am talking about a simple handgun. I will even go so far as to make it a .357. Okay, so we have the scene set. Now, because I have a second amendment right to own such a firearm and I am celebrating my right to do so, what do I do next?
How about one of the two things?
One, I could use my handgun to go out and shoot someone. No one in particular. Just someone. Someone that is bothering me. I will say I was standing my ground.
Two, I could use my gun in self-defense of my family. While I understand the statistics show that there are as many accidental shootings as there are cases of self-defense, I am going to have it available to shoot someone that I don’t want in my house (uninvited).
Now both of these scenarios could end with me shooting someone.
Are the shootings the same? Is the use of the gun the same?
So, you may ask yourself, what is my point?
I recently read a piece about the #walkaway movement. This movement is suggesting that people walk away from the Democratic Party because they are espousing the very things they are complaining about. Bigotry. Intolerance. Using people to further a cause. Here is the thing.
I get this every day. People constantly tell me that I am the problem. That my constant attacks on Trump supporters and the new conservative agenda are shutting down conversation. I am exactly the self-righteous person I rail against.
It is bullshit.
I am fighting against bigotry, racism, misogyny, homophobia, sexism, toxic masculinity, and profit over people.
They are fighting against being called that.
Democrats are bigoted against the bigots, show intolerance toward the intolerant. Democrats fight for other people by questioning policy.
Is it being intolerant to call out the intolerant? Is it being a bigot to show policies of bigotry?
This is the difference in what I meant by the gun metaphor. Both times I have a gun. But, what is it being used for?
The #walkaway people have made up a cause because they have no defense. And the people that are doing it? Conservatives. This is really popular among conservatives.
There is another issue I have with this contrived hashtag movement called #walkaway.
It is a command. It is telling you to walk away. Shouldn’t it be #walkedaway because you did? By making this an imperative sentence, it is suggesting you haven’t done it. Look at the other hashtag movements.
#metoo This suggests it happened to the person.
#notmypresident Suggests a political belief.
#blacklivesmatter Says that a group is important.
But, #walkaway? This is feeble and laughable.
So, why did I start out talking about guns? I knew that the people that this was intended for would at least start reading it.
Recently, I saw a picture online of John Edwards and Donald Trump. No, they weren’t together. They were in side-by-side with a caption by each. The one describing Edwards noted that he paid off a woman he was having an affair with and his career was ruined. The one describing Trump noted that he paid off a woman he was having an affair with and his career is being applauded. This troubles me.
We are barreling into a time where there is a schism so wide that simple ideas of right and wrong are being redefined. What was a ghastly act by a former candidate is now acceptable. What was considered to be morally reprehensible is now just a character flaw. This wavering of morality (and ethics) to suit an agenda is forcing(?) people to redefine what they believe, or, at times, compartmentalize it. So, certain behavior is okay if things are going your way?
I was having a conversation the other day (well, argument) with a conservative, Trump supporter and I questioned her/his support for Trump. During this ‘discussion’ it was noted that this person didn’t really care about Trump’s personality, his indiscretions, his commentary, or his attitude. The only comment was, “He gets things done.” Be that as it may, this person prides her/himself as being Christian. Trump’s behavior, commentary, and braggadocio are decidedly not. Over the course of time, I have noticed that collectively this view is common. Where individuals are appalled at the fact that Bill Clinton had an affair in the Oval Office and Hilary forgave him (maybe?), they see no problem with the idea of Trump having an affair with a porn star or a Playboy model.
Okay…I know there is a difference. Clinton was president at the time. But, if this is the argument, it would be that because he was president he was held to a different standard. Well, based on this assumption, shouldn’t Trump be held to the same standard? Shouldn’t evidence (which is just coming out) that he had an affair put into question his character?
And using this logic, wouldn’t it be not just about affairs, but about the office of the president? On the campaign trail and while in office, he has made derogatory comments about minorities, celebrities, opponents, and the press. These aren’t just statements of disagreement, they are juvenile diatribes using language more suited middle school. For instance:
This moral relativism is just self-serving. People can argue all they want about speaking the truth, honesty, or telling it like it is, but it is contrary to the type of commentary that would be accepted from another politician, candidate, office-seeker, or president. Yet, it is justified because of the convenience. They have their candidate and everything will be overlooked because they are getting what they want. I am trying to still figure out what that is.
However, this goes beyond just the presidency. This moral relativism has become a worldview. People say they care deeply about life, but don’t care about children. People say they care about everyone, but also support political incorrectness. People say they care about children, but want to cut their healthcare. This contradictory belief system is merely moral relativism. Standards change depending on how they feel. If they are the minority party, any hint of commentary or behavior that is questionable is horrible. When they are the party in power, it is okay.
Perhaps this is why we are fractured as a society. A great number of people are self-serving, inconsistent in their beliefs, and don’t have a solid foundation for argument.
As a purveyor of many an argument on social media, I am growing increasingly frustrated with the process. As someone that has been trained in classical rhetoric, modern rhetoric, political science, academic writing, and was an English teacher for 11 years, I stand aghast at the feeble attempts at arguing by many people on both sides. While much of my ire is based on the arguments of the right, I have my reservations about arguments on the left as well (but for entirely different reasons).
I cannot tell you how many times I have been engaged in an argument (typically with someone from the right) in which I find myself growing angry. My anger isn’t centered in the discrepancy of our opinions (okay, it is), but on the argument itself. Too many times these discussions/arguments turn into vitriolic pissing contests. How does this happen? People don’t know how to form a cogent argument that is not only logically sound, but based on evidence. It is easier to call upon talking points, name calling, and an ignorance of thoughtful discussion.
I think my biggest issue when arguing is the use of the red herring. I cannot explain how many times I have questioned the motivations and behaviors of the president only to have the retort be something like, “Well, we had to live with Obama for eight years.” This is not an argument. This is changing the subject. When pursued, the conversation becomes about the atrocities of the Obama administration (Obamacare) and the made up destruction of the country. Or the often used, “What about Hillary’s emails?”
Okay, yes, there was an issue with the emails. She used a private server and a private email account. After years of investigation, nothing was found to be dangerous. Does this make it okay? No. But, it does put it into perspective. This leads me to another fallacy of argument—the double standard. The president uses personal phones (yes, I know, they are changed, but rarely) for his rampant tweeting. But, he says it is inconvenient to have the security on them. If you remember, this is what Hillary said.
Perhaps the two related logical fallacies that get the most use are the ad hominem and ad populum arguments. In fact, I probably should have started with this. The ad hominem argument is the fall back for both sides. I remember being in a discussion with someone and the first responses were, “communist, socialist, and libtard.” Friends, this is weak argument. In fact, it devolves back to a time when we would say things like, “I am rubber and you are glue. What you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” Paired with this is the immediate reduction to ad populum name calling using terms that aren’t meant provoke a response for your peers. Terms like Nazi, fascist, socialist, communist, and the like are nothing more than signs that you have nothing to say. At the same time, the argument that protesting the government or kneeling or burning the flag or anything of the like makes you less than American or a communist or a socialist is, in fact, the contradictory. It is a cornerstone of our democracy.
Another gripe that falls high on my list is that of the use of faulty generalizations. This irritates me to no end. This argument never fails to come up. It seems that if someone can find an example that supports her/his argument, then it must be truth. It is a form of confirmation bias. It is ridiculous. An example of something is just an example. Because someone did it, it doesn’t mean everyone did it. Or can do it. While this isn’t about the president, I find that the argument about climate change comes up the most. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is man-made. However, there are a few that don’t. Climate deniers focus on the few using examples like, “Well, at one time people thought the world was flat.” That is not an argument. It is the opposite.
Finally (for this post), is the use of association. All liberals and leftists are not the same. As all conservatives and Trump supports aren’t. But, we lump them together. I was recently called a socialist and a communist, not because of what I said, but because of the assumption that I was because of my views. Okay, maybe I do adhere to many socialist beliefs and think that free-market capitalism is incredibly dangerous. However, I am not a socialist. Or a communist. My worldview is shaped by what I read, what I hear, what I see, and me trying to put it all together.
Last, but now least, we need to discuss and argue with skill. Here are things we can not say.
That is not true.
You are...(some derogatory thing).
Blah, blah, blah…because s/he did it.
I have had to live with…
It is your turn.
Anything you say without evidence.
What about Hillary?
On Friday, May 11, I had the honor of attending the 2018 Campaign Kick-Off Dinner hosted by the Columbia County Democratic Party. We are able to meet other candidates, see old friends, and bring together many different people to promote the upcoming election.
The reason for this post, however, is to bring forward a troubling occurrence that happened during the program. In fact, it is more than troubling. What happened reflects the seething undercurrent of bigotry and oppression that plagues this country.
One of the invited speakers read a version of the poem, “I am Somebody,” as part of his speech. The poem itself, while a bit overused, comes across as a unifying lyric to bring people together. A version of the poem appears below.
I may be poor. But I am Somebody!
I may be young. But I am Somebody!
I may make a mistake. But I am Somebody!
I must be respected, protected, never rejected.
I am God's child.
I am Somebody!
The speaker ad-libbed portions of the poem to be seemingly inclusive. He added the following line, “"I may be gay... oh no... but uh, I am somebody.” The addition of this line, and the stuttering pause, negated the sentiment, tone, and meaning of the message. More to the point, it reaffirmed the inherent bigotry many have for the LGBTQIA* community.
Coming from the chair of the 12th Congressional District, this not only was callous and ignorant, but also came from a place of authority. It should be immediately condemned.
On that note, too often we find in our leaders these microaggressions, small comments meant as humor, scalding statements in the underbreath, or the invisible stare through someone. All of these things only reinforce bigotry.
Because of this, there is an inherent danger in the spoken word. Any person, when given a platform, can easily cast dispersions upon another person or group through seemingly innocuous statements. But, these statements are far from that.
As a society, we claim to celebrate diversity. We claim to celebrate our humanity. We claim to celebrate freedom. However, in reality this diversity, humanity and freedom is of the convenience those in power. We need leaders that are thoughtful, reflective, and understand that a diverse and inclusive society is key to our growth as humanity.
For the past few years (and previously just in thought), I have devoted myself to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. When I see episodes like this, I have a two minds. One mind is painful frustration and ire toward those that behave this way. The other is one of hope, because when this happens, we have conversations, open up dialogues, and expose these realities and, perhaps take tiny steps toward a more inclusive society.
I would like to close with a poem by Kiowa writer, N. Scott Momaday.
I am a feather on the bright sky
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water
I am the shadow that follows a child
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows
I am an eagle playing with the wind
I am a cluster of bright beads
I am the farthest star
I am the cold of dawn
I am the roaring of the rain
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow
I am the long track of the moon in a lake
I am a flame of four colors
I am a deer standing away in the dusk
I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky
I am the hunger of a young wolf
I am the whole dream of these things
You see, I am alive, I am alive
I stand in good relation to the earth
I stand in good relation to the gods
I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful
I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte
You see, I am alive, I am alive
Peace be to all of you.
The Time is Now
I don’t quite understand why some people don’t vote. Every election we have directly influences our lives. At the city, county, state, and national level, every election makes a difference. Yet, nationally, there is apathy. In the last election, we had approximately 55% of the voting age population vote. In 2012, it was 55%. In 2008 we had the highest turnout since 1968, and it was 58%.
That is appalling.
Some people put in the effort. They get to know the candidates. They ask questions. They do the research.
A great many people vote on single issues. They care about one thing (or a few things) and base their decisions only on that. Others vote by party. Some vote because they have seen the name. Our democracy takes effort. You have to want it.
In Columbia County in the last midterm election 2,758 people voted for the school board. There are 27,000 voters in District 3. That is 10%.
That is appalling.
I know that you might not have school age children. But, having a strong school district is important for society. It helps with the economy. It helps the social structure. It helps the future.
In talking to people, it seems that people care what is going on. Well, the time is now to show that you care. On May 22, go out and vote. Or, vote early.
When you do, please consider voting for Andrew Kemp for Columbia County School Board, District 3. I am an experienced educator (11 year public school teacher). I have a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and teach in a College of Education where I teach teachers. I have done administrative work as a program coordinator in a public school. My children have gone through Columbia County Schools since 2010.
When thinking about who I the most qualified, think about the big picture.
You have choices. But, if you are looking for someone that has experience, a deep knowledge of education and the system, a candidate that is a critical thinker about educational issues, and someone that is current and relevant, vote Andrew Kemp.
On May 22, vote Andrew Kemp for Columbia County School Board, District 3.
To learn more, visit http://andrewtkemp.com/
Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to start by saying that the race for the Columbia County School Board is a non-partisan race. It is about finding the person that is best for the position. It is about finding the person that understands education, is forward thinking, and has the experience and education to move Columbia County Schools into the 21st century. However, there is also the reality of the world we live in.
We all have different opinions. No two people think the same way. That is what makes our society exciting. And terrifying. We can talk and debate and argue and scream at each other. Or we can combine our ideas to get to a place that is greater. I am sure that I have opinions that differ from many people. In fact, I know I do. Some of those ideas have to do with education. Many don’t. But, our combined voices are what can lead us forward.
One thing I have learned is that the school board is supposed to represent the community. In the last election in Columbia County, almost 70% of the people voted for Donald Trump. That means that 30% didn’t. I am in that 30%. What do know is that right now, the school board leans, no, falls to the right. Does that represent all of the people in the county? Does that represent all of the points of view that we have? My point is that we need a diversity of voices in order to work through the complexities of our educational system.
With this in mind, it is also important to reiterate that education is complicated. Discussion is necessary. Conversations need to be had. Differing opinions need to be represented. We are here to educate all of the children in the county and to represent all of the people in the county. Debates need to occur that consider various perspectives and aspects of life. But, the best part? It is a school board. It is made up for five people. No one person controls everything. Another opinion, another point of view that might look at things in a different way, can only benefit the decision making process.
Both of the other candidates for the school board fit the mold of the current school board based on my knowledge of them. Of course they are each individuals with their own ideas, but they fit in with the majority in Columbia County. The thing is, in many ways, so do I. I care about the education of our children. I care about the community. I care about the people that live here. To be honest, I am sure there are things that I believe that would rub people the wrong way. But, we live in a complex democracy that values discussions, debate, and conversation. With my experience (11 years in public schools) and education (Master’s and doctorate in education), coupled with my knowledge of Columbia County Schools (I have taught many of the teachers in the district), I will be the person that allows us to consider complexities of education, not just because I am a good listener, but because I have a deep knowledge of both the practical side schools (teaching and administration), but also the theoretical side of education and the possibilities that are ahead of us. Most importantly, I will allow all of the residents of Columbia County to be represented.
I am here for students and their learning. I want every student to succeed whether they are college bound, career prepared, or still not knowing what s/he wants out of life. A friend sent me a post the other day that said, “If we raise a test score, but fail to raise a reader, we have failed the child.” I think this is true on the broader sense. If we raise a test score, but fail to prepare a students for a successful, happy, and productive life in which they are active members of their community, we have failed the child.
If you would like to know more, please contact me at email@example.com or call at (706) 564-4541. You can also visit me at http://andrewtkemp.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/kemp4ccboe/ Please like my page.
If you would like to donate so that I can visit your neighborhood, please help. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kemp4ccboe/
Vote for Andrew Kemp for Columbia County School Board, District 3 on May 22. Early voting starts on April 30.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.