Middle school—what images and emotions just came up when you read that? Right!
Math class, an African-American substitute in a lily white suburban school in the 1970’s. Female, with a class endowed with a fair number of typical jack-ass adolescent males, and she was probably old enough to be their grandmother.
Before class started, one of said jack-asses thought it might be entertaining to put a sign on her desk that read something like “the KKK welcomes you.”
Fortunately, one of the girls in the class found out about it, and, standing up in front of her peers, walked boldly up to the desk where the teacher had just found the note. The girl took it from the desk and, tossing it into the waste can, apologized for the indiscretion and disrespect on the part of the class. Then she sat back down. And the math class began.
To this day, I am still amazed. Not merely at the stupidity and ignorance of the ones responsible. Not just at the teacher’s gracious response and steady demeanor. Not only that there were no repercussions for my classmate’s behavior, (that I know of), perhaps in part headed off by the swift response to such injustice.
I am amazed that the bold young girl was….me.
Please trust me when I say that this is not a personal pat on the back or fishing for accolades, especially when I consider the timidity, the shear fear of peer pressure and people’s approval ratings, that has so dominated my life. Even as a middle-aged adult, it remains one of those spiritual deliverances that I must fight to maintain! Therefore, it is more than obvious to me Who prompted and empowered such an action on my feeble part.
Which brings me to a precious discussion I had with my oldest daughter recently concerning the 2016 presidential election. This was in response to a couple of lengthy email conversations with all three of our adult children, initiated by our youngest who lives out of country and was voicing much-justified concern.
Jess and I talked about several things, but one of the most important topics she brought up was the concern of those in our country who are not only not American citizens, but are not white, not “Christian”, or generally not part of the perceived Trump-approved block. I respect my daughter’s position, being in her mid-thirties, having worked as a liaison between the food-assistance sector and the state/federal government during the recession. She is white. She is an outspoken Christian. She is now married, and a mother. And, living on the west coast, she gives me an interesting and different social perspective that I (and dare I say, many of my co-patriots in the Midwest) desperately need. It is this:
In our recent political upheaval, people are afraid. Now, it’s important to consider that such a fear is nothing new for either side of the discussion; however, on a visceral level, the current climate of this fear, although not unique, is nevertheless not an emotion to be gainsaid. It would be easy to dismiss this reaction as immature, unfounded, and ignorant, and yet look at our history. Or better yet, look at the history of humankind:
- The aggression toward American citizens who bore any resemblance to Asian descent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
- The Nazi Germany reaction to persons of color or their citizenry belonging to the Jewish faith.
- The heinous medical “interventions” pursued upon the homosexual community, circa 1940’s.
Or review the history of the Crusades, for crying out loud—all done in the name of the very Person Who died to teach us what real love is actually about.
My point is simply that it is now up to each of us to reach out to whomever is in our path of influence, to foster unity and trust, not fear and distain. There are a few on each side of the debate that have, in recent days, dishonored their political favorite (and their country) with overtly selfish lawlessness. It is, however, a display of innate human nature. (No, dearest Ann, people are NOT “generally good”.)
As Jess so astutely pointed out, I was a Trump-voter, but I was most certainly not a Trump-supporter. However, as my vote helped, in a small way, put him in the most powerful seat on the globe, it is now my burden to do whatever I can, in my small way, to continue to fight against an evil that is much deeper and more insidious than any government policy or power or representative. I must advocate. I must be not only cognizant of the words and actions around me, but must be brave enough to step in and respond like the young girl in her math class so many years ago. Each of us must do likewise.
Otherwise, the repercussions will be daunting.
[Addendum: To continue to be engaged as concerned and responsible citizenry, there are many ways in which to be involved; your perceived “small voice” is not as impotent as you might think, and what happened at the ballot box is never the end of our responsibility. Click HERE to make a difference concerning issues that, although they may divide us as voters, need not and should not divide us as Americans.]