Sunday, January 22, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here?

I had an amazing adventure yesterday at the NYC Women's March with my brother ESL teacher/ UFT chapter leader Patrick James Walsh. We met early on, and wandered over to where we thought UFT would be. Usually UFT gives a t-shirt or something so that we can be seen and identified as a group, but for the first time in my memory that didn't happen. I certainly hope that wasn't part of the "Let's Not Name Trump" campaign. It's foolhardy for us to stand around and pretend, say, that it's Pence making decisions so we can just drop Trump's name from everything and that no one, therefore, will suspect we oppose him. Do we oppose him? Judging by leadership, who knows?

Patrick and I got stuck in a crowd and it got pretty scary pretty quickly. Forty-five minutes after the march was supposed to begin we were crammed in like sardines with no movement in sight. This looked to be potentially dangerous. Eventually, this being a women's march after all, we followed some brave women and spent maybe twenty minutes extricating ourselves from the crowd. We attributed these issues to bad planning, but in retrospect it's more likely because turnout was so massive. Even as we were no longer part of the directed march, the march was everywhere, on every street and avenue. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it in our lives.

Whatever else may have happened. I'm 100% sure Saturday was not a good day for the incredibly thin-skinned Donald J. Trump. Millions of people all over the world marched, and none were doing so to thank him for grabbing pussies, for offering to deport Muslims, for adopting anti-Semitic
slogans, or even for the ever-popular vilification of teachers and public schools. Upping his meds might be in order though I've seen little evidence he takes them  as needed, or even at all.

I am in awe of the volume and power of people who came out to send a message to this tyrant in training, and my sincere hope is that it continues both in volume and frequency. Nonetheless, while we have the quantity, we're going to have to make sure our message keeps up with quality. It's not entirely the fault of Donald Trump that he managed to take the White House. There are, of course, the swing state voters. And there's Putin and his wacky antics. There's that guy Comey, who saw fit to publicly bandy about unsubstantiated allegations during a Presidential campaign. There's Hillary herself and her decision to use that server, whatever that may or may not imply.

But the most important part of this last election, for me at least, was none of the above. The most important factor was our decision to run an underwhelming and uninspiring candidate, one whose
primary message was More of the Same. More of the same mediocre policy that ignored the needs of the American people. More of the "best we could do" nonsense that leaves millions of Americans without health care. More of the "Oh well," philosophy of shrugging your shoulders when Americans can't make a living or send their kids to college.

Even now, the same people who called me crazy for supporting Bernie Sanders muster the audacity to lecture me about 1972. How long will those folks heed the lesson of 1972 without learning the lesson to 2016--that the same warmed-over nonsense no longer flies in this country? While Hillary Clinton is not as flawed as Donald Trump, she was simply no prize. Americans don't want someone to be President simply because she doesn't foam at the mouth when she speaks. We want a leader who will help us leave a
better country for our children. We want someone bold and inspiring. A lot of American's mistook Donald Trump for that person, and a lot of Americans will soon suffer from buyer's remorse if they haven't begun already.

Our own United Federation of Teachers is a microcosm of America. Our leadership still fumbles around, terrified they'll offend people by the mention of the Trump name. This, even as millions of American's rose up against him. They had no message for this march, nothing to distinguish us. When we, the teachers, stand up and demand improvements they tell us we improved things five decades ago and that ought to be good enough for anyone. They give us messages so mixed that we have no idea what they stand for, what they stood for, or what they plan for the future. They criticize top-down thinking and demand transparency from others, but operate in complete secrecy and share little or nothing. They know better than us, and it's our job to sit down, shut up, and follow.

And in that, they embody the very worst qualities of both Clinton and Trump. We need to do better all around, for both our union and our country.
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