Showing posts from November, 2016

Keeping Schools Public

None of these people believes in public education. Here's a non sequitur for an essay about how bad things are about to be: there are far scarier things in the Trump agenda than appointing Betsy DeVos, a charter school advocate with no training or experience in public education, to run the Department of Education. The reason is perspective. Federal subsidies actually account for just eight per cent of public school funding overall, and much of that comes from departments other than Education, subsidizing meal programs and Head Start. Directing some of that money toward charter schools and vouchers is still problematic, but the local impact of whatever nastiness DeVos can push through is going to be minor compared to the abomination that was No Child Left Behind. Stack it up against protectionist global trade policies and climate change denial, and it seems even less of a worry. What stinks about it is what it says about these ersatz populists who are now going to pick th

Diversity Isn't Always Beautiful

I listened to this album once, then traded it in. I remember the moment Steve Martin got bored with being a standup comedian. It's immortalized on the third of his four comedy albums, the title of which is the punchline to the joke. I don't remember the joke at all, but I do remember the audience expressing outrage at where it went. There was a long, uncomfortable pause, filled with the sounds audiences make as comedians milk their unappreciation for effect, followed at least by the line, delivered with all the self-important irony of his first famous catchphrase ("Excuuuuuuuuuusssee meeeeee," just in case you're under the age of 50): "Comedy is not pretty!" They were the words of a comedian who'd outgrown his schtick, who was ready to move on to something kinder, gentler, and better-respected. In the case of Steve Martin, it was his burgeoning career as an actor in screwball comedies that toned down the Dadaism of his onstage persona, enhan

It's All Politics

For some reason, I'm losing my appetite for leftovers. 4:30 a.m., and I can't sleep. Actually, I've been awake since 3:00; I just decided ninety minutes was long enough to think about what's happening, and that maybe writing about it would help me ease back into dreamland. (Sidebar: since going back to full-time teaching, my body has been hardwired to get up at 5:00 a.m. I now set my alarm for 5:15, but rarely need it. I just can't stay asleep.) I know I'm not the only American lying awake in the dark, my mind churning with fear and fury. There are many of us--if not a majority, certainly at least a sizable plurality--who are terrified not just by who's been elected President, but by the very fact that he was even nominated for this office, let alone that so many millions of our friends and relations voted for him. No, he didn't win the popular vote, in fact lost it by more than two million votes. But that's still 62 million Americans

No, We Are Not Going to Get Over It

Dear happily victorious Republican party, Congratulations on your electoral upset. You've been working toward this for a very long time (just over eight years, I believe), and you must be enormously relieved that all that effort has finally paid off. I understand your eagerness to dive in and get to work overhauling American democracy. I also get your annoyance with all of us in the opposition. It must really suck that we don't share your glee. Of course you want us to just get over with it, to simply accept the election results and pretend everything's just fine, just like you did eight years ago. Oh, wait. Come to think of it, that's not how you handled things then, is it? In fact, if memory serves, you launched a campaign of obstruction that soured all the joy and hope of the Obama election. You launched a grassroots movement that was a model of inclusiveness, in that you welcomed all sorts of people who hated our first Black President: racists, homo

Good People Doing Nothing

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. --John Stuart Mill, 1867 No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. --Winston Churchill, 1947 The system is rigged. --Donald Trump, 2016 I can't help myself. I just have to read it, listen to it, marinate in it, until I dissolve into a puddle of despair. How did this happen? How did this republic hand over the reins of power to an authoritarian kleptocrat who, at best, will use the office of President to enrich himself and his family with the most corrupt regime this country has ever known? There's plenty of "at worst" I could append here: mass deportations of immigrants, the return of profiteering chaos to health care, another generation of conservative control of the Supreme Court, reversal of progres

We Can't Secede

I get it. Like most progressive West Coast Americans, I'm grief-stricken at what's happening to my country, horrified that so many who consider themselves patriots could vote for a racist misogynist authoritarian windbag, and furious that our antiquated electoral system awarded the most powerful office in the world to a man who actually received far less than even a plurality of the popular vote. As with my long-standing beef with United Methodism, this leads me, like so many in my circle, to contemplate seceding: taking our vital economy, our big-hearted people, our earth-friendly attitude, and letting the xenophobic rural remainder fend for themselves. Let's see how well they do without us. There's nothing new about this idea. Various configurations of West Coast states (sometimes including British Columbia), joined together as a nation of their own, have been floated by futurists and environmentalists going well back into the last century. The result goes by a va

The Mad That I Feel

Los Angeles protesters burn a Trump-shaped pinata. What do you do with the mad that you feel When you feel so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong... And nothing you do seems very right? What do you do? Do you punch a bag? Do you pound some clay or some dough? Do you round up friends for a game of tag? Or see how fast you go? It's great to be able to stop When you've planned a thing that's wrong, And be able to do something else instead And think this song: I can stop when I want to Can stop when I wish. I can stop, stop, stop any time. And what a good feeling to feel like this And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there's something deep inside That helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a woman And a boy can be someday a man. --Fred M. Rogers, 1968 I was at the gym, lifting weights, listening to Marc Maron's Wednesday morning rant about the horror of Tuesday night. Norma

Remember, Remember, the Eighth of November

Aftermath of last night's riots in Portland. 9/11, meet 11/9. It's cropping up all over Facebook: the observation that reversing the calendar numbers of America's deadliest terrorist attack gives the date of Hillary Clinton's concession to Donald Trump, the greatest risk to American democracy since that attack. And I feel it, too, as I struggle to lose myself in chores, errands, tasks. For a few hours on Wednesday, teaching was the perfect drug, enabling me to check out of my base-level horror and just be utterly present for my students. Unfortunately, Thursday was a planning day--no student contact hours--and I spent most of it running recorders through my dishwasher, hardly an intellectually immersive task. Today is worse still: I've got nothing on my agenda that will keep me from thinking about what is happening all around me. It would help if I could cut myself off from the media, both social and journalistic, but I can't. Every time I pick up

Grandpa Would've Voted for Trump

Wait, what happened? Oh God... For five hours yesterday, I was fine. That's not the time I spent sleeping: my dreams have not been fine, and whenever I wake up (and being a 55-year-old man, that happens at least a couple of times a night), getting back to sleep has been a challenge, as my toss-and-turn thoughts are even more frightening than my dreams. It's not the time I spent trying to lose myself in entertainment: the meandering, unsatisfying pilot for an Amazon  reboot of The Tick , the Jane the Virgin  episode I couldn't stay awake for, the video games I play on my phone, all of it feeling futile. And while talking with colleagues, my principal, and family members felt important, necessary, and affirming, it also did nothing to pull me out of the despair that's constantly invading my consciousness. The one thing that made it better was the children. For the few hours I was able to engage with my students, I was able not to think about the nat