I just read an article about an Idaho school whose teachers dressed up as Trump’s Border Wall. Another group from the same school dressed as Mexicans, complete with sombreros and mustaches and maracas.
As a citizen, my lip curled. As an educator, my gore rose. As a human, my wrath raged. This is totally and completely unacceptable.
What has happened to our humanity?
What has happened to us? The land of the free and the home of the brave? The land that welcomes the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
I guess we don’t anymore.
Trump is promising an executive order to abolish birthright citizenship. This president whose father was an immigrant. (Could he abolish his own citizenship, I wonder?) This president whose wife — actually TWO of his wives (Ivana and Melania) — are immigrants. (Could he likewise abolish Ivanka and Barron and Don Jr and Eric’s citizenships???)
The poetic justice just might be worth the insult to humanity!!!
But, no. No it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be worth the insult to humanity (tempting though it may be…) and it wouldn’t abolish their citizenship. Because let’s face it… they’re the immigrants and anchor babies of acceptable color. They aren’t Latino or Black or Middle Eastern.
And that’s what this “illegal alien” war he’s waging is really all about. Trump spouts his pie-in-the-sky Space Force rhetoric all the time; the reality and irony is his “space force” exists already — and is waging war right here on planet earth against “illegal aliens” whom he and his followers are all too ready to demonize. “Aliens” who are entirely human.
And those who side with Trump — they are not. They have lost all semblance of humanity.
Those teachers who dressed like Trump’s Wall… those citizens turning a blind eye to the ongoing disaster of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border… those fellow Americans casting their ballots in the midterms because they don’t want minorities in their land or in their governing bodies…
In the state of Georgia, discrimination is alive and well and driving our school systems. And it’s not what you think. Schools don’t discriminate against students based upon race, creed, color, economic status, or national origin. But they do, however, quite openly discriminate based upon course load.
You see, Friday afternoon, I opened an email from the State Department of Education and what I read blew my mind and hurt my Humanities heart. I am outraged and appalled.
The email states, and I quote, “In the past, funding has been provided by the legislature Tfor one AP exam for all low-income students enrolled in Georgia public schools. Recent legislation redirected this funding to support only STEM related AP exams for all students regardless of economic status. Hopefully, this notice will provide time for you and your administrators to explore other funding sources to support your non-STEM, low-income AP student exams.”
Wait, what? “Recent legislation redirected […] funding to support only STEM related AP exams[…] regardless of economic status?” Excuse me?
I had to read the email twice. And then I had to seek confirmation from my principal to make sure I was indeed seeing what I was pretty damn certain I was seeing? Because it seemed impossible. Impossible to believe that our state would take away funding from our worthiest and neediest students. Students who have been diligently bettering themselves, year after year, through education. Students who have been climbing their way out of the darkness of poverty by taking challenging AP classes (and yes, many of these students take STEM classes, but not all) just to have the final rung on their ladder toward success removed: the ability to test, receive college credit, and get out of the vicious cycle.
And just what is so special about STEM anyway, that it supersedes all other course work? STEM — that educational juggernaut that harnesses the four horsemen of accomplishment: Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. Those subject areas that in recent years equate to the Holy Grail of education, warranting such teacher and student incentives as signing bonuses, higher salaries, excess funding, partnerships, scholarships and now, apparently, AP exam exemption status.
Believe it or not, high levels of rigor exist outside STEM classrooms, ladies and gentlemen: critical thinking skills, advanced problem solving, the ability to gather and evaluate evidence, interpret and apply that evidence. These skills occur in other subject areas, too.
Yes, STEM is vital. I get it. It drives innovation and industry and helps keep the United States at the top of the global leaders. But STEM is not the only thing that keeps us there.
The Humanities and the Arts teach us what it means to be global citizens. Courses in history, literature, music, philosophy, language, rhetoric, and art provide instruction in civility, altruism, ethics, reflection, adaptability, etc. They strengthen our ability to communicate – with ourselves and with other nations. They keep us balanced. Without these valuable tools, we quite likely would become a nation fueled by xenophobia and driven entirely by rationality.
And what could possibly be wrong with a nation that looks out for its own best interest, driven entirely by the bottom line, you ask? A lot.
Read Jonathan Swift and you’ll find some answers. He warned us over and over of the harm that can befall mankind if we only use the rational parts of our brains. Read “A Modest Proposal,” where he pens a brilliant, satiric remedy for an over-populated Ireland by suggesting the Irish Catholics breed children (something they are already so naturally good at) for the soup pot and barbecue joint and monetary gain. Completely rational and cost-effective, mind you.
Read Gulliver’s Travels. Within its pages, there are multiple accounts of societies driven by — and completely destroyed by – the pursuit of science and technology and ice-cold rationality.
Read: it’s fundamental — and as a humanities course, it’s a dying skill.
Not all of us are STEM people, nor should we be.
And I’m not a STEM hater. Far from it. Some of my best friends are STEM people. So is my daddy. Hell, so is my daughter. But I’m here to tell you we need balance. Humanities and the Arts deserve a place at the table too, folks.
And, to bring it all back to Advanced Placement, where my argument began, our state legislature and DOE have taken Humanities and the Arts off the table for our economically disadvantaged students. They will be force-fed STEM or they will not eat. And that is wrong.
These exams are not cheap ($93 each), and while there are reduced costs in place for students who qualify through the Free and Reduced Lunch program, the biggest incentive – one free exam for each economically disadvantaged student testing – is no longer available thanks to our state’s new STEM reallocation.
I’m sorry, but STEM is not the Be-All and End-All of education. It should not be funded at the expense of other disciplines. Nor at the expense of our economically disadvantaged students.
A dear friend of mine just brought to my attention a scholarly article called, Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History: or, Why I Teach ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ by Terri Kapsalis, a professor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Among other things, Kapsalis discusses the Victorian diagnosis of hysteria – or the belief in a “wandering uterus” being the cause for basically any, and all, female physical ailments. If a patient was full of phlegm, or suffering from depression, or had a migraine — no matter what the issue — it was surmised that her wild and wanton womb had been creeping around where it didn’t belong again. Not kidding here.
And what, pray tell, was the reason it wandered? Why, it was hankering for a heaping helping of man juice, of course.
Of course. The God-designed purpose of the uterus. To receive man-seed and bring forth life. The only sure way to cure a “hysterical” woman was to keep her barefoot and pregnant. Jizz a day keeps the doctor away.
Such beliefs and diagnoses invalidated legitimate medical complaints of women from Ancient Egypt all the way up to the modern era. Everything was chalked up to hormones. And while diagnostic medicine has moved away from such ridiculous notions, public opinions about the psychological state of womanhood has not.
When we women get too big for our proverbial britches, when we become too intellectual, too political, too competitive, too driven, when we dare to do something beyond the roles society has deemed appropriate for our “kind” – you know, wives, mothers, maybe teachers or nurses – then we are seen as a threat. We are dangerous. So we are called deranged, out of control, hysterical.
And we are slammed right back into that whole wandering womb pigeon hole again. Obviously, we need to sip some more from that whole cult of domesticity Kool Aid again to get us back to our proper place – back on the path of the straight and narrow.
Look at Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, even Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Palin. They’ve all been called crazy bitches. Hysterical females. Because, as the article so wisely notes, “hysteria is a bipartisan weapon.” A powerful woman is a dangerous woman, no matter the party. I, myself, have been guilty of labeling a couple of these women with the same blasphemous insults that have been used against my favorites. It’s an easy trap to fall into. And every time I trip up, I empower the status quo.
And the status quo is white and male and always eager to see women fail. Sexism is a bullshit topic, according to them. Made up. And feminism is a dirty word.That’s definitely the mentality in certain branches of my family. And in certain corners of my classroom.
Not with AP students, at least not most of them. Most of them love to explore social and political movements. They find counter culture stimulating. They yearn for wider understanding than simply their daddy’s dictums, their pastor’s politics or their Uncle Johns’ world views. They long to balance and counterbalance their minds. To glean understanding from all walks of life. To broaden their understanding and to embrace empathy. They want to absorb, not only with their minds, but with their hearts and souls, too.
But in my general education classrooms, feminism receives eye-rolls. Books with female heroines get groans and barely touched assignments. We don’t want to read a book about a girl, they say. Sexism is imagined, they say. Glass ceilings are made up. Rape statistics are exaggerated. Sexual discrimination is the hashtag of the moment.
And as a teacher, I ask myself how in the world can I change such mindsets? Such opinions? Such blatant denials and refusals? Is it even possible to help someone overcome a prejudice they don’t believe exists? How do you help someone see when they refuse to open their eyes?
Now usually it is the white males in my classroom who refuse to explore the possibilities of inequality — of any kind, but especially sexism. But sometimes it’s the females, too. And that blows my mind even more.
But then, it also gives me hope. Hope that maybe these young women don’t understand that discrimination exists because maybe for them, it hasn’t. Because their fathers and grandfathers and churches haven’t preached weakness in women the way I had it preached to me. They didn’t grow up the way I did. And that gives me so much hope. Hope that the times, they are a changing.
But most of the young women in my classroom, they get it. They know the discrimination. Because they’ve seen it with their own eyes and they’ve felt it in their own skin – not necessarily in terms of business and politics, not yet. They are still young. But when we talk about their bodies, about body shaming and slut shaming and the shame that comes with sexual assault – the floodgates are opened. These girls have seen this. They know this.
And I know without a doubt that every single time I bring up that infamous 1-in-4 statistic, that someone in my class has been there. Odds are more than one someone in my class. These numbers, sadly, don’t lie. And as teenage girls soon to go off to college or careers or military service, my students are squarely in the demographic most at risk. They could become – or already have been – part of that statistic.
I know because I have received private notes from students who were victimized by family members, or by neighbors, or by so-called friends, or even by teachers. I have had students stay after class to say it aloud for the very first time. I have had students bravely tell their stories in class to everyone present. As a teacher, I have read about incidents of sexual abuse. I have heard about incidents of sexual abuse. And I have reported incidents of sexual abuse.
So, yes, even though the topic of feminism gets eye rolls and zeros in the grade book from students who refuse to learn about or acknowledge that sexism exists, I will continue to broach the subject. I will continue to present and discuss literature like “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Handmaid’s Tale. I will continue to wander off the path of the straight and white and narrow-minded. I do it because of those students who have been touched by sexism. And for those students who deny it exists. I do it for them, too. Call me crazy, but I believe I am helping empower women and eradicate sexism one book, one student, one semester at a time.
So go ahead, call me crazy. But don’t you dare call me a crazy bitch.
One year ago, today, I published a blog for the first time. Yesterday, I was told I should be quiet for the first time (with regard to my blogging, anyway…)
Inevitably when I write about something hard – whether it’s the death of innocent children or the dearth of wisdom in the White House – someone disagrees. Someone challenges my voice.
And I know that’s the nature of communication. People will inevitably disagree with you. And they have that right. That doesn’t mean I still don’t have the right to explore my thoughts and opinions and to voice them.
I write this blog for myself. It is therapeutic. It is cathartic and healthy. It is a way for me to use my voice. Because there was a time – for a very long time, actually — when my voice was silent. It was too squashed and maimed to be used.
It took a long time to build up my vocal chords, so to speak. So much so, that now, when I say something that I feel is important and needs to be said – and it strikes chords or nerves in others — I don’t know how to react; how to respond. If it is acknowledgement, I feel embarrassment. I was taught to be a wallflower. To blend into the background.
And if it is a challenge, I shut down. My brain immediately crackles and hums with the static and white noise of learned ignorance. I was taught that my thoughts weren’t thoughts. They were emotions. I was a hormone-fueled woman driven by emotions; I was unbalanced. And because of that unbalance, I should just still and look pretty. Don’t stand up, don’t speak out, I was warned.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was famously silenced on the Senate floor this year. At her workplace, where she rolls up her sleeves with nineteen other women and eighty men who were elected to ensure that all of America’s diverse voices are heard. Ironic, don’t you think?
But Senator Warren doesn’t play nice when the patriarchy puffs its chest. She has fight in her. She breathes fire. And if they try to snuff it out, she just flares up somewhere else. So when they silenced her on the Senate floor, she took it outside. (Isn’t that what men do when they get pissed and want to fight? They take it outside? Isn’t that the euphemism?) Well, Elizabeth Warren got pissed, was determined to fight, and took it outside. She fought the establishment. She fought the patriarchy. Even when she was warned (as the majority leader so infamously stated), nevertheless, she persisted.
Today is my one year blogging anniversary and I, likewise, will persist. This blog helps me. It helps me process my opinions into words on a page. Words that help me stay the course and press forward. Words that help me work through my overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. And as I write out those words I edit and edit and edit. I am as careful and calculated as a baker. I sift and weigh and measure and adjust – until I’m confident that what I’m saying is what I truly want to say. What I truly believe. And that it is as palatable as I can possibly make it – even though I know it’s not going to suit everybody’s taste.
Now I won’t lie and say that it doesn’t bother me when someone criticizes. Nor will I say that it doesn’t feel good when people approve. It feels nice to have my opinions acknowledged. my passions and feelings accepted. (Yes, I voice those, too – because I have learned emotions do not make me a weak, hormonally-imbalanced woman; my emotions do not invalidate my opinions). But I do not blog for the “likes” or the comments, or to try to “go viral.” If that were the case, I would be failing miserably because I am a far cry from viral, let me tell you. I have no cult following – or really much of any following. But none of that matters to me.
What matters is that I have a voice. And I have the right for that voice to be heard. And I do my utmost not to offend people. I really do. (Remember that baker’s analogy?) I have been rash at times, though. I admit it. Particularly in the days following the election. Several of those blogs may have cost me a friendship or two. And I wish that were not the case.
But that still won’t change how I think, and why I think, and the fact that, yes — in spite of all attempts to program me otherwise — I think. And believe me, I think long and hard about what I’m going to say on my blog. Because voice is powerful stuff. We all know the pen is mightier than the sword. So I try really hard not to wound.
There’s a poem by Eavan Boland I love called, “It’s a Woman’s World.” It fights female stereotypes in many clever and determined ways. And it argues that “as far as history goes, [women] were never on the scene of the crime.” We’ve never held the sword. As a result, “no page scores the low music of our outrage.” Boland goes on to argue, however, that despite the attempts to conquer and control our tongues, we women are fire-eaters. Our mouths are burning plumes, and we will be heard.
Elizabeth Warren is certainly a fire eater, a flame thrower. She knows the fight will be hard. She admits “there’s going to be a lot that we will lose. But I guarantee, the one thing we will not lose, we will not lose our voices.”
I believe we all have been given gifts from God, gifts we are programmed from the depths of our genetic markers to use, regardless of our upbringings and hardships. I believe mine is my voice. And although mine is not necessarily an audible one, it is a voice meant to be heard. And I will project it through written word.
My heart, such a blue, bruised, tight little ball in survival mode on Friday, has been warmed, replenished, and reopened this weekend by the outpouring of women’s voices and women’s marches — not just in our own nation’s capital, but the whole world over. Seeing my sisters spilling out of their homes and into the annals of history has been a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Women have always been my heroes and my leaders. I come from a matriarchal family, where the women are strong and outspoken and they get the job done. My aunts and grandmother showed me – after sixteen years of living beneath the shadow of misogyny and the dominance of patriarchy in a cult cut straight out of the cloth of the caveman days – that women are a pretty, big deal. They showed me that we can speak up and we can speak out. And what we say matters. And how we feel matters. And what we need matters. My matriarchs taught me that we can and should stand up against injustice – alone or together. Either way, we are a force to be reckoned with. On Saturday, that force rose together in tsunami fashion – a storm surge that flooded the streets of cities across the globe with a moral mission to preserve and advance the rights of women and other minorities whose voices are being threatened, whose rights are on the chopping block. I am so proud to be a woman.
I always have been. I’ve never, ever wished I were a man. Being female is the greatest. I love almost everything about it. I love dressing up. I love smelling good. I love putting on make-up and curling my hair. I love soft, fuzzy sweaters and soft, fuzzy kittens. I love carrying babies – both in my arms and in my belly. I love chocolate kisses and passionate kisses, Disney princesses and the princes that come with them (although my favorites are definitely the most recent ones – where the princesses orchestrate their own rescues and the princes play supporting roles). I love the color pink and big, white wedding gowns. I love rainbows and unicorns, peace signs and freshly baked cookies. All of these things fill me with warm fuzzies, as do romantic comedies and super bowl commercials. I get all the feels almost all the time. I don’t see that as a character flaw or a genetic glitch. Just because I’m soft, doesn’t mean I’m soft. And just because I’m soft-spoken doesn’t mean my voice can’t or shouldn’t be heard.
Yes, I embrace all my girly girl traits, but just because I love being a girl doesn’t mean I love everything that comes with the territory. Period cramps and labor pains bite. And glitter and leopard prints can go back to the ridiculous drawing board that first designed them. High heels hoover and handbags are too high priced. But the thing I hate most about being a woman is the disrespect and condescension that is served up from people – male and female alike — who refuse to recognize and appreciate a woman’s worth as equal to a man’s. Which leads me to my most-despised term in the English language: Ladylike. Them’s just fighting words.
But this weekend, we brought our fighting herds, which is what I choose to focus on during this oh-so-inspirational inaugural weekend. Yes, inspirational. And no, not due to an orange man in a white house. Nope. The inspiration comes from the outpouring of support by and for Womanhood, the subject that has most profoundly shaped who I am today, how I live today, how I love today and even why I am today.
I use the word SUBJECT here with absolute intent and purpose. As an English teacher, I teach sentence structure and semantics. I know the importance of word order and connotation. In grammar, the subjects are in control of their sentences. They are the ones doing and the ones being. They own and they control. For centuries and centuries – for entire histories – the subjects that are doing the doing, the owning and the controlling, have been men.
Objects – direct objects, indirect objects,…SEX objects – they are not in control. They are not doing and they are not being. For centuries and centuries – for entire histories – women have been the objects that were owned and controlled. We were wives or mistresses or prostitutes. We were the objects of sentences written by a patriarchy.
But we women have made tremendous progress in rewriting our destinies. We are currently at the highest point in our grammatical and sexual evolution. Not all of us, but many of us, are the subjects of our own sentences. We own and are in control of our options. Our decisions. Our bodies. Our lives. Our selves.
And this weekend, we poured onto the streets to protect and advance our rights. Do not doubt us. Do not denigrate us. Do not sandbag us, or coddle us or condescend us. Do not fault us or foul us or fabricate lies about us. Do not undermine us. Do not underestimate us. Because, as Maya Angelou prophesied in her poetic call to action:
Out of the huts of history’s shame, we rise…
up from a past that’s rooted in pain, we rise…
we are the black ocean, leaping and wide,
welling and swelling, we bring in the tide.
I am living in a heart-wrenching time to be a woman, but it is also a heartwarming time to be a woman. Yesterday, as Gloria Steinem said, we saw the upside of the downside. We saw women by the millions taking to the streets in support of autonomy and equality. In DC, in Austin, in L.A.; in Atlanta and Nashville and Chicago and Nome. In Berlin and Rome and Sydney; in London and Dublin and Ipanema — and even the Antarctic peninsula — we rose up and we roared. 673 marches across the globe, we rose in a sister solidarity to connect continents, challenge conventions, and change policy. And it won’t end there. We will continue to rise for as long as there is terror and fear and injustice and inequality.
For as long as these evils exist, We Will Continue to Rise.
I love Claymation Christmas specials. I grew up on The Little Drummer Boy, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Jack Frost… but I’ve always especially loved Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Maybe, subconsciously (long before I was an English major) the alliteration appealed to me.
Then, in November of 2008, Rudolph went down in history as my all-time favorite when Mike made the romantic gesture to end all romantic gestures. He brought along a digital projector, a Rudolph dvd, and a portable player to Caitlin’s med school interview to take all our minds off an extraordinarily stressful and momentous situation. The motel room was moldy, the carpet was spongy, the drapes were dingy, but I knew right then and there that Mike Candela was a keeper. He had brought us Rudolph for the road.
Growing up, I wanted to live in Rudolph’s soft focus, pulled-felt world. I wanted to be Clarice, the fuzzy, long-lashed doe with the French name. She was spunky and kind-hearted, and she had the most amazing polka dot, red bow.
And then, to top it all off, she fell in love with the misfit – the social outcast with the blinking beacon. I’ve always been one to go for the oddball, too. (Sorry, Mike, but you’re one of the weird ones. It’s okay – I am, too).
But even though Clarice was my goal, I think Rudolph was my reality. I am, and always have been, the ultimate misfit. For one thing, as a kid, I was in that crazy cult – it doesn’t get any odder than that! And I was tall –5’10’—which was way taller than almost any girl my age. (Still am, for that matter). And, since I suffered from acne, I had that whole glaringly red facial imperfection thing kicking, too..
Even now, after having outlived my awkward early years (sort of) and bizarre cult activities, I still find myself a misfit. I’m a mother of four-year-olds at the age when most of my friends have children in their teens or beyond. (Oh, I have those kinds, too!)
But now, along with my grown girls, I have fifteen-to-thirty years on all the other moms. (Case in point — several of the young parents at our boys’ school were actually the friends of my daughters growing up!) So, yeah, I’m still a misfit.
I also sport those hesitant, herky-jerky movements of stop action film. Not because of bad joints (I may be fifty-something, but I’m not arthritic), but because so very often I stop action in the middle of my errand because I don’t remember what in the sam hill I was about to do. Because even though I’m a new mother again after nearly a quarter of a century, my brain isn’t new again! It has a whole nother quarter century stamped and imprinted deep within its gray matter since the last time I gave child-rearing a go.
But mainly, the one thing I love most about Rudolph is how everyone who is targeted as a misfit – those who don’t fit within society’s expectations or generalizations – is welcomed with open arms by the story’s end. One, great, big, felt-covered happily-ever-after. It fits so nicely with my oh-so-progressive bleeding heart.
But then, watching it again with the boys, I’ve realized it isn’t quite the idyllic, little anti-bullying, feel-good statement piece I remember. For one, Donner is a sexist son of a bovid. And two, Santa is an absolute donkey’s rear. (Now, neither of the nouns I just used to label these characters are as colorful as what I would like to use, but Clarice is the only French word I’ve vowed to use in this particular blog entry, so you may read between the italices, here.)
So how is Donner sexist? You may not realize it – because I’m fairly certain they’ve cut this line from the television broadcast — but on the dvd version, he rejects his wife and Clarice’s offer to help find Rudolph by proclaiming, “This is man’s work.” Yup. MAN’S work. WTF?!?! (btw, those are initials, my dear reader, and if you heard French, it’s because YOU – that’s right YOU — provided the fancy foreign phrase there, not I. So I’m still technically sticking to my G-Rated guidelines…) Yep. Donner’s a piece of work.
And the offensiveness doesn’t stop there. The narrator kicks in some misogynistic commentary as well. It is after Clarice and Mrs. Donner (the only name she is ever given…) successfully find Rudolph –despite Donner’s orders –only to find themselves in the clutches of the abominable snow monster.
At this point, Yukon Cornelius, keeper of sled dogs, an open-carry revolver, and elaborate facial hair (evidence, once again, of the potency and divine might of beards) sweeps in to save the day, sending himself and Bumbles tumbling into a giant abyss. The narrator then proclaims people are “very sad at the loss of their friend, but realize that the best thing to do is get the women back to Christmas town.” Ugh.
And then finally, there’s Santa. The mean-spirited, faultfinding, curmudgeonly Santa who pokes fun of tiny infant Rudolph, right out of his mama’s belly. I mean, it’s to be expected that the other reindeer will call him names — it’s in the lyrics, after all. But Santa?
Santa is Father Christmas! He’s a saint, for Christmas sake!! He’s supposed to be all jolly and twinkly and eat cookies and go Ho Ho Ho! and bring along a sack full of goodies everywhere he goes.
But not in Rudolph. In Rudolph, he’s mean to the elves when they give him a Christmas concert. He’s mean to Rudolph when his shiny nose is too bright for sore eyes. He’s mean enough to banish handicapped toys to an island for misfits. He’s even mean enough to almost cancel Christmas — all because of a little storm! That’s not the Santa I remember!
I swear, I think they’ve edited a lot of the unfortunate 1960’s political incorrectness out of the broadcast version because I don’t remember any of the patronizing gender roles and rude behavior when I was little.
Then again, I was programmed and conditioned to overlook male misconduct. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to believe in Santa – so I didn’t pay him much mind, anyway. Instead, I hung onto every word out of Clarice and Rudolph’s felted wool muzzles, along with those physically deformed and bullied misfit toys. Those parts are still as awesomely iconic and compellingly relevant as ever.
Yeah, the show isn’t quite what I remembered from my childhood. But will that keep me from curling up on my sofa with a soft, flannel throw and my boys at my side, watching it every single Christmas season? Of course not.
The way I look at it, I’m a mom and I’m a teacher. And the fallibility of the cautionary tale gives it that much more impact. It provides so many teachable moments. I have a responsibility “to train up a child in the way he should go” so that “when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
And the way I want my boys to go is that same generous-hearted, progressive route of their father – who appreciates women, who respects women, who listens to the insights of women, and who values the opinions of women.
He sees my strengths, even when I find myself blinded by the conditioning of my youth. He knows that my worth is so much more than my ability to flutter long lashes and dress in comely red finery.
He doesn’t believe in Woman’s Work or Man’s Work. He just believes in hard work. And he’s a man who truly appreciates that my fluency in French far outshines his own – a rare find, indeed. Yes, Rudolph will provide me some pretty, solid, serious teaching moments for me and our boys for years to come.
So things are never quite the same as you remember from your childhood, I guess… But despite all the flaws and imperfections (funny, I guess the show is ironically a bit of a misfit itself) Rudolph still has a happy ending. That hasn’t changed. The nice guys and the misfits still win in the end.
I penned this one year ago today, and I am sad to say that the racial strife and violence has not gotten any better. This is still one of my most fervent prayers. I wish we would all see each other’s humanity — not skin and uniform color. The shooting of the San Antonio police officer Miguel Moreno earlier this month and the recent jury acquittal in the Philando Castille murder trial are two recent examples of how we are still so divided. I believe in the power of love and empathy. Humanity Matters.
July 8, 2016 “A Mother’s Prayer”
How do I possibly write warm twin mommy morsels when my heart is so very bruised and battered this morning? How do I dare think of my boys and their future when I see how horribly dark and diseased our world appears to be at the moment.
I write about my boys often, but you all know that I am also the mother of two amazing twenty-something daughters. Being the mother of girls is a worrisome thing. I stress about the intentions of others toward them each and every day. They are beautiful and they are strong and they are passionate, but there are predators out there — predators who are attracted to their strength and beauty and passion because they want to own it, control it, damage it. All girl parents know this fear. Are they home safe? Are they making wise choices? Are they being cautious or are they being carefree while out in this world of breathtaking beauty and breath-taking destruction?
Worry for a mother of any child, male or female, is a very real thing. We all know the saying about having a child—about making the momentous decision to have your heart forever walk around outside your body (Elizabeth Stone). But these last few days, in the horrific aftermath of all of the violence being reported, I have tried to put myself in the place of terrified black mothers everywhere and I have tried to put myself in the place of terrified cop mothers everywhere.
I am not the mother of young, black sons. I know fear, but I don’t know that I can truly understand THAT fear. My child doesn’t venture out into the world every single day and willingly walk into a world that so often despises them for the color of their skin and the youth in their years. I have never had to worry about that fear with my daughters. Or the fear that some people will judge my child as a threat because she’s wearing a hoodie. Or that someone will twitch and shy away from her as she walks down the sidewalk. Or that someone will assume she is a troublemaker because she has a concealed carry license. Or that someone will assume bad things about her because she wears a baseball cap and carries a bat. All mothers have fears, and many of those fears are the same, and some of those fears are unfair and unimaginable and almost impossible to breathe through.
I also am not the mother of police officers. I know fear, but I don’t know that I can truly understand THAT fear, either. My child doesn’t suit up at the oh-dark-forty hours of the morning and willingly walk into a world that so often despises them for the color of their uniform and the symbol of their authority. I have never had to worry about that fear with my daughters. Or the fear that some people will judge my child as a threat because she’s wearing a badge. Or that someone will twitch and shy away from her as she drives down a side road. Or that someone will assume she is a troublemaker because she has a state-issued firearm. Or that someone will assume bad things about her because she wears an officer’s cap and carries a nightstick. All mothers have fears, and some of those fears are the same, and many of those fears are unfair and unimaginable and almost impossible to breathe through.
I am not the mother of black sons and I am not the mother of police officers. But I am a mother. I know and understand what it feels like for your heart to walk around outside your body. I know and understand THAT worry and THAT fear. As mothers, we all want the same thing: peace and respect, love and goodwill toward our babies. How can we protect all of these mothers’ hearts making their way through the world as it spins on its insane axis? I’ve taught thousands of mother’s babies in my career. I teach the children of afraid, black mothers. I teach the children of nervous, targeted officers. I see and hear these concerns every year, hell, every day. I see and feel these pains every day.
#BlackLivesMatter #BlueLivesMatter. All of this hurling of hashtags (which I’ve done, quite recently too) seems to only exacerbate the violence. Black and Blue. The colors of bruising. And we’re bruising one another. Even worse, we’re killing one another. And I don’t even like #allLivesMatter because it has become a band aid to slap over an open wound. It is causing even further divides. Love one another. Respect one another. #HumanityMatters.
There are bad guys on both sides. And there are good guys on both sides. And the good guys outnumber the bad in every direction. So what can we do so that all the good guys win? God I wish I knew. But I do know it has to begin with empathy. Empathy: putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes as best we can. Listening to their stories. Hearing their feelings. Understanding their needs. Acknowledging their fears. Respecting their lives.
Our fears are all different, and our fears are all the same. It’s Einstein’s theory of relativity. And the physics doesn’t stop there. Newton’s third law comes into play, too: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And right now, the action has been violence. And the violence begets violence. The injustice begets injustice.
We need a sea change – in other words, a major transformation. And without empathy we’ll never get there. It takes one empathetic soul at a time to bring about change. And one feels like such a drop in the ocean. But with every drop, with every person who tries to understand, to put themselves in the “other’s” position, the tides can change.
Now I know that practically no one ever changes his or her mind through political FaceBook posts. I know people like their opinions (and only THEIR opinions) in sound bites – and this has been far longer than a sound bite — but I’m hoping someone out there has heard. One soul. Because first one and then one and then one and then one… and suddenly empathy has met Newton’s third law, and we have a Sea Change. Or should I say, we See Change. God knows we need it.