Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Downcast, But Never In Despair

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, got ready for the day, and was driving to Caribou coffee at 6:15 with the goal to put the finishing touches on my upcoming lessons for the next few days. I knew I'd have limited prep time with my many meetings and agenda items ahead, and I wanted a quiet hour in the morning to complete them during the time I do my best work. The starry skies blinked their still visible constellations as I traveled my early route.

But I drove across town with a heavy heart, my mind linked, and yet at the same time, detached from the lessons I had to finish for my classes.

We just spent four weeks reading The Diary of Anne Frank. Year after year of teaching this nonfiction work of literature, there is always one student who says, "It isn't fair that Anne had to suffer because she was different. That's not kind." I spend weeks teaching tolerance. I spend weeks teaching my students that while it's okay to disagree, it is not okay to be unkind. We spend time researching how one person influenced millions to believe that some people were not fit to work, fit to live, and ultimately, these people were sent to die. 

I reflected on this as I drove, wondering about the fate of our future not just as a country, but as humanity as a whole and our coexistence here on earth. I thought of my past and present students who embody the beliefs, origins, and genders that our president-elect has so easily called names, mocked, made fun of, and grouped together rather than see them for the people they are. And I wondered, how do I teach my students to be kind, to be moral, to speak up for those who maybe can't, when the future leader of our country is setting a poor example?

I am concerned for our world. I am afraid that this election has brought out the worst in people, from the multiple parties participating - not just one. There has been so much hate and so many unkind comments. I am reminded of a quotation that appears in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist. 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. 
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
We must be the voices for others, because we know we may one day need theirs. We must continue to demonstrate kindness and tolerance in a world that at times wants us to forget our fellowship with humanity. We are stronger together. 

And as I drove across town this morning, mentally preparing for what I believed would perhaps be the most difficult post-election day I've encountered yet in my lifetime, Anne's words felt like a whisper in the starry sky: It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I can feel the sufferings of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

I echo Anne's words for you today: I still believe that people are really good at heart. If we work together, demonstrating kindness, humility, and a common respect for everyone, we can take the steps to build a stronger world. Together. Keep the faith, my friends, regardless of your political affiliations, for this is not a political post. It's a post for humanity. Let us exhibit tolerance for all and set good examples for our country's and world's future: our youth.

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