“[They] agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.”
— Joseph Heller, Catch-22
My kids are alike in many ways, but they are definitely individuals in ways I've tried to articulate in the past.
Yesterday, they gave me a single story that illustrates each of them, perfectly.
We had to drop off Kaylee at camp, and after the paperwork and unpacking in the cabin, everyone was supposed to assemble at 'the field' to say goodbyes and play games.
So we went down there, and see about forty kids milling around, visiting, et cetera. There's a makeshift kickball field, and a couple boys about a year younger than Kaylee, kicking a soccer ball back and forth.
Sean goes over near them, and is watching intently.
One of the kids notices this, and veers off his direction, letting the soccer ball roll over near the edge of the field by the trees and long grass.
"Do you want a ball too?" he asks Sean, extending a old, dirty, yellow rubber ball. "You can have this one. Do you want it?"
He keeps offering it, and asking, over and over, until Sean finally shrugs and reaches for it.
At which point the kid chucks it backwards over his own shoulder and has a good laugh with his buddy.
And here are my kids:
Sean frowns at the kid, shrugs as if to say "whatever man, I don't even know you, and that ball was gross anyway" and stalks off to do something else.
Kaylee, who'd been standing next to me, takes a couple steps forward and starts in. "Really?!? You're starting off a week of camp, WITH ME, and the first thing you do is pick on my little brother? THAT seemed like a good idea? Really?!?"
And the boy backs off and rejoins his friend. They both realize they don't have the soccer ball anymore. It's over at the edge of the field.
Actually, while all this was going on, Zoe went over and picked it up, and she's standing right where it had rolled.
They walk over, bending over and talking in that "charm little kids" high voice.
"Hiiiii. Can we have that? Can you give that to us?" They pause. "Do you want to kick it to us?"
Zoe looks at the ball, extends it out toward them…
… and CHUCKS it back over her shoulder, into the trees and long grass.
Then walks away, without even looking at them.
So… my kids, in summary:
"Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up – and there isn't anything Washington can do to stop us," Bloomberg said.
Actually, let me take that "not going to lie" a bit further: I cried a little when I read this, grateful and a little shocked.
I don't know much about Bloomberg (though I like what I do know); I certainly don't know if he's a good person or not.
But the guy just stepped up and promised concrete action to protect my kids, and a ball of tension I didn't even realize I was holding unwound a little.
‘Washington can’t stop Americans’: Michael Bloomberg pledges to pay US share of Paris climate funding
US billionaire Michael Bloomberg has offered $15 million to UN efforts to tackle climate change after President Donald Trump announced he is pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.
I mean, members of his campaign staff could have been on the phone with lots of different foreign countries. It didn't have to be that one. They could have been on the phone with friendly foreign countries like England, or France, or Spain.
They could have been on the phone with countries that we're not particularly friendly with that we don't take especially seriously as a threat. Like Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or North Korea or something like that.
But no. It had to be Russia. They had to pick the one country that literally every generation of voting Americans is going to think of as the biggest baddest most ENEMY enemy country that we have.
It's like a caricature. It's like a cartoon of people being evil and corrupt. It's like they thought if they were bad enough, they'd be so bad no one would take any of it seriously, because it all sounds so ridiculous.
If this were an espionage novel, no one would publish it. It's ridiculous; it has every terrible trope in it, executed poorly, and obviously.
And it's only chapter 3.
Yesterday, I shared a thing regarding hate speech and how it is/isn’t protected under the first amendment, then I said:
Always. Punch. Nazis.
And I stand by that.
However, Dave made some good points about how that sort of thing is going to look to thus-far neutral people, observing the whole mess. It’s hard to look like heroes, when you’re clearly not being very nice.
And I see the point about winning the hearts of bystanders, but when some guy is arguing for the “benign genocide” of my family, I feel the situation has moved past Diplomacy checks.
Debate isn’t available for those talking points and, if necessary, I will personally deny that option to the speaker.
Neither do I consider it “hitting a guy cuz he said something that made me mad.” (People do that ALL the time, and I don’t hit anyone over it.)
I consider it defense. Pure and simple.
I mean… there’s a lot more I could say about it, but I said most of it already, mostly about how none of this makes me happy, in the least.
To be clear: saying “punch nazis” isn’t bravado on my part, or some kind of machismo. It’s probably not even a smart option for someone in his mid-forties.
It’s a line in the sand.
Everyone’s line is going to be somewhere different. I understand that.
Everyone sees the country and our people in a different light. Some (many, probably) don’t see it in the same light (or darkness) that I do. Some look and think we’re near a precipice.
I think we’re ON the precipice, and it’s crumbling.
My niece lives in downtown Denver (a very progressive, blue area of the country), and she walks to work every day constantly trying to avoid notice, to be invisible, because of what can and does happen, even here. She’s 25 with a master’s degree and she’s averting her eyes for fear of giving offense as a black woman.
My niece was punched by an old white guy at a Broncos game this year, because she was there and he was mad, and my other niece, standing there, couldn’t do anything, because everyone nearby was mad and old and white and she’s none of those things, so she just had to let it be. To stand and take it.
To be obedient.
Because if she ISN’T that, she’s instantly an angry (uppity) black girl who dared to go into a public place, and there are points in time right now in this country where that is a death sentence.
The America I see today, close at hand, is just fine. Yes. Fucking incredible, but yes. There are not-so-distant storm clouds I can make out regarding civil rights and education and the environment, but really are they going to affect me and people like me? To judge by the reactions of those around me… no. Things are fine.
I can imagine a lot of bad, or project forward far enough to see the bad coming, even pretty clearly, but that’s it. It’s not around me.
So I look at things with my nieces’ eyes.
In my nieces’ eyes, some of the most progressive areas in our country host skirmishes in a race war most people don’t even acknowledge is happening.
In Ferguson or Flint, that war has been going on for years, the government is providing aid to the inarguable BAD guys, letting American children drink poison, letting their parents face beatings and worse for speaking out, and there’s no help coming.
So maybe someone doesn’t get why I draw a line in the sand in the first place.
Some nod, but they think my line is drawn too far. I’m overreacting.
Some people want to know what took me so long, because they’re already bleeding.
See, THEY have been trying to win the hearts of bystanders for years, and those bystanders don’t even hear them, let alone help.
Maybe the person on the sidelines who needed to be convinced was me, and I finally am, and that’s IT: there aren’t any more allies coming. Maybe everyone who was going to listen already has.
So I’m taking the opportunities to help that present themselves: volunteering, donations, learning more about public service, and lots and lots of “Trying to make people more aware of what’s going on.” I don’t, though, know exactly what to do to help, or if I’m doing enough.
But I do know what I’m not going to do.
I’m not going to be nice.
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly, and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away.”
“You know who weren’t nice people?”
We still live in a mostly polite society, mostly under the rule of law, but that is (as was chillingly demonstrated during the first days of the Muslim Ban, by the CBP) a fragile framework – perhaps no more than a fiction, when push comes to shove.
I want that polite society. I want that rule of law.
But I also know that there’s a point where, history has proven time and again, you either Hit, or you Obey.
Maybe we’re not at that point. Maybe we never get there. I sincerely hope so.
But when I hear “the world is better off without the people in your family, and here’s how I propose to remove them…”
That is not when I choose ‘Obey.’
No Time To Be Nice: Now Is Not The Moment To Remain Silent
Naomi Shulman makes the post-election case for speaking out.
But here are a few things to understand about Federal involvement in K-12 education.
1. The Constitution leaves the responsibility for public K-12 education with the states.
There is a compelling national interest in ensuring the quality of the nation’s public schools, so the federal government provides assistance to the states and schools in an effort to supplement state support, and thereby get a say in what goes on – without that funding, they can’t really (or at least easily) say much about it.
2. States and localities are the primary sources of K-12 education funding, and always have been.
In the 2004-05 school year, 83 cents out of every dollar spent on education came from state and local levels (45.6 percent from state funds and 37.1 percent from local governments). The federal government’s share was 8.3 percent. The rest was private sources, usually aimed at private schools.
3. All federal education funds are dependent on the recipient school districts’ adherence to federal guidelines.
The Feds CAN’T dictate mandates without attaching those mandates to money, because the Feds are constitutionally NOT in charge of K-12 education.
YOU CAN STILL HAVE TREMENDOUS IMPACT ON EDUCATION AT THE STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL, SO GET INVOLVED.
Funding comes primarily from State and Local sources. Policy decisions come at State and Local levels, including the decision to take Federal money and abide by the associated mandates. If a federal mandate is bad, the related money can be rejected and the mandate ignored. This would hurt, but it is manageable, with preparation, planning, and determination.
Every call you made to an unmoved Senator about DeVos can become a call for local support, local tax dollars, state legislation and support – it’s the same work, and potentially (even probably) far more effective.
DeVos’ appointment just moves the fight to somewhere we have home court advantage.
It doesn’t mean the fight’s over.
This is going to meander a bit.
I'm not a conservative. I doubt and, in fact, hope I never 'age into' becoming a conservative.
I mean no offense if you happen to identify as conservative – you do you – but for myself, I can't see the value.
Conservative thinking, really by definition, focuses on conserving the status quo – either that, or actively reverting to the way something was in the past. So, to me, that whole mindset demands backward movement, either culturally, politically, or intellectually. Or all of the above, or whatever.
That doesn't work for me. Especially because the "conservative" umbrella is, today, often used to shield really shitty people who want to go back to a point in time that was demonstrably more terrible for groups that Aren't White (or Aren't Male, or Aren't Us).
Now, some folks might say "When I say Conservative, I'm talking about Fiscally Conservative." Sure. Okay. Except even back in those times (Eisenhower? Let's say Eisenhower.) there were still a pile of bootstrap infrastructure things going on that helped people out through government programs and project spending. So… I don't think the name really matches whatever they're talking about, but whatever. I can leave that alone, maybe.
But when people talk about conservative social policies, there's is just no common ground for me there.
There is no point in American history where people were more equally treated than we are today, and we are still Absolute Shit.
EASY EXAMPLE, WHICH I HAVE HANDY: In Denver, in 2015, the average black household made 57% of the average white household.
So, either there are unacknowledged biases that make it twice as hard for black people in Denver to earn a living, or black people are roughly half as intelligent and hard-working as white people.
(I'll give you a hint: there's a right and a wrong answer.)
Native American families in Denver only make 37% of the white family average. The same two explanations for this are available. Look HARD at yourself if you think answer is different than in the previous paragraph.
In Denver, most ethnic groups' mean income went up about 20 points from 2000 to 2015, which sounds great.
… except cost of living went up about 37%, if I'm reading data.bls.gov correctly. (Disclaimer: I may not be.)
Whites' mean income went up 52 points in that same time frame.
Native Americans went down 25.
That's comparing households. Per capita comparison is actually worse: per capita, only Asians make more than 50% of the white average, in Denver. They make a whopping 60% of the white per capita average. Everyone else is at or below half.
The report (this one: http://www.city-data.com/income/income-Denver-Colorado.html) doesn't talk about women compared to men, but I know from other reports we get that it's equally shitty.
I mean, teachers used to get GREAT pay until it became a largely female-dominated profession – now it's terrible, and layered on to that gender discrimination, there's this weird undercurrent of bias whereby being a male teacher in anything other than college is KIND of like being a male nurse to people outside the profession? It's a 'female' job now so OF COURSE that's bad? WTF?
We just suck. We're terrible, collectively.
And this is the BEST we've ever been.
So… no, I'm not conservative. There isn't one thing behind us worth going back for.
Take your rosy memories, if you have them, and build a better version up ahead.