On This Insurrection, And The Next
Because it was my son’s ninth birthday, I wasn’t supposed to forget that day
Because it was my son’s ninth birthday, I wasn’t supposed to forget that day. We decided to continue this tradition even though we were in the midst of a pandemic. Anchors on the news kept repeating that the proceedings of the day wouldn't get as much attention if it weren't for the president's constant obfuscation. He and his cronies began speaking one by one on a podium in DC, in a small picture in-picture setup in the bottom right corner, with no audio. However, the events of that day were not supposed to receive much coverage, other than a demonstration or confirmation.
The insurrection broke out. The America we all knew was now in HD view. Rogue recusants made their way up the Capitol steps with ease. The crowd believed to have dissipated following Election Day was determined to discredit the process by all means. Many of the correspondents and anchors who witnessed the red caps slide through Capitol Rotunda seemed confused by the idea that the United States of America had ostensibly become a "third world banana republic". They were unable to find the "blue life matter" chants as they were trampled by Capitol police and passed them while flashing their badges. As the velvet ropes became wider, it became clearer that many police officers in charge of security would follow us around, not abating or concerned about drawing guns, as they did at the Black Lives Matter protestors this summer.
My nine-year-old son was not surprised. He is also a hundred years old. Although no one of us is a homogeneous race, we have the ability to see things in this nation that it does not see. We know to tell the truth to our youth long before their supposedly ready for, lest it reveal itself before we are ready. This is one example of when " I said so" fails to hit the mark. Even saying things such as "Black people always have to save white persons from themselves" puts many of us on defense. As if we couldn't see why the Trump administration would not scale back norms for white comfort.
Our country will insist that teachers tell the story of America in all its exceptionalisms and destiny. It is bad enough that social studies has been reduced to second-class elective over the past few decades of education reform. There are also a lot of textbooks that downplay slavery, maps that don't trace Native American genocide and singalongs that celebrate Columbus as a hero. We've heard America should be "a marketplace of ideas" for the past four years. But we haven't considered the fact that white supremacy or fascism are terrible ideas that will inevitably be offered in such an environment.
Children learn from their parents that the choice they make here is deeply linked to a matrix of elements.
It doesn't suffice to have anti-fascists (antifa) A teacher who is a teacher of color and a teacher of color won't erase students' internalized racism will not suffice. This calculus recognizes the importance of teachers. Teachers are agents of the state and must adhere to a set of standards and contents that they're required to teach children. This country's students spend a lot of their childhood with teachers. These teachers provide great opportunities for these students to acquire the necessary tools to navigate the world. The "one teacher" concept of teaching is often portrayed in movies, but it ignores the fact that many "truth-telling teachers" are summarily excluded, ostracized and fired from schools, particularly if they are of color.
As we speak, a significant portion of Congress is trying to subdue the notions of impeachment. This is the best governance tool to address the Inciter In-Chief’s incendiary remarks and actions. This helps America to forget about centuries of oppression, suppression and dereliction of its obligations to hold the beliefs it holds on paper. This idea of America being a leader in democracy around the world not only negates other countries' attempts to infer from it, but it also keeps Americans' citizens from suggesting that America isn’t living up to the promises it made. Trump's accomplishments up until now suggest that his supporters have made everything he does part of America's overall mission.
That's fine. This also means that those of us who have been racially marginalized or oppressed by the exact same set of ideals may be rightly not surprised by this. Instead of calling for America's destruction, because it cannot seem to move beyond its racist, xenophobic and colonial past in truth, reconciliation. It doesn't matter what we tell our children about America. What does America mean to adults? What does normal mean to us? What are our definitions of normal?
What does it mean to "hope" when we teach? There are a lot of teachers who define hope as a function of historical progress, and there is a small number of us who see these "setbacks” as part of America's core. Trump uses outward delegitimization of the rights and humanity to attack America. Many of us teach because, and not despite it. We didn't react too strongly back then, and we don't react as much now.
While I would not wish for America to repeat the events of Wednesday, those who are most responsible for changing course will allow this moment to pass out of fear or political aspiration and we won't see the peace that we seek. Many of us don't understand how a country that was founded by white male landowners could trample on millions upon millions of human beings in such a linear manner. Timothy Snyder's excellent article states that "this isn't because the present repeats its past but because the past illuminates the present." It hasn’t passed.
Oh, and to be fair, my son's day went as planned. Trump didn't intend to steal this day from us.