Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Paul Egan Story (or Lack Thereof)

I don't know Paul Egan terribly well. I really met him in 2016, when Norm Scott, Jonathan Halabi and I were at the AFT Convention in Minneapolis. We were out for lunch and ran into him in a restaurant. He sat at our table and was very kind to us, which surprised me. At that time I was not accustomed to Unity members being overly friendly to us. That's not to say we were overly friendly to them either.

I've been seeing him fairly frequently over the last three years, mostly at Executive Board meetings. Sometimes I would talk politics with him. I do recall his saying they wanted to get on board with Hillary very early. She seemed like a sure thing, but we all know how that turned out. During the build up toward the Constitutional Convention vote I had him to my school to do a COPE drive.

He also seemed to read my Executive Board notes, especially when I began actually writing down all the things he said about the Chelsea football team. He asked me if I wanted him to just email me his comments beforehand. Sure, I said. Actually, I write my own comments beforehand because I can't take notes while I'm talking. Anything to make it a little easier when frantically taking notes is a net plus as far as I'm concerned.

I was pretty surprised when he failed to show to a meeting last month and no one mentioned why. I was even more surprised to hear rumors that he'd been let go, with no clue as to why. Then the Daily News story showed up. I was a little upset with it, and I won't link to it. Here's why:

First of all, it referred to him as "burly." Paul has not been burly for years. It used a photo of him that must've been at least five years old. And then, of course, it went into the embarrassing story about ordering quail in a restaurant and complaining about it. So here's a story written by people who certainly know that Paul lost all that weight, yet make it appear that he hadn't.

I've lost some weight too. A year ago last August, my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic. That was a bridge I decided I didn't want to cross. That day, I gave up sugar. I gave up beer. I gave up white rice, white pasta, white bread, and white potatoes. I don't reach for the snacks people leave lying around my department office anymore. I lost a little over 35 pounds in a year, and I stopped taking blood pressure pills I needed when I was overweight.

Still, I wasn't overweight like Paul was. I wasn't "burly."  I don't know how he did it, but I know it must've been very hard. I know because it was very hard for me, and he had a far longer way to go. But I remember him telling me he'd competed in an ironman triathalon, something I wouldn't even consider doing. That was one long and disciplined journey. The DN writers acted as though it never happened, and doubled down on every tidbit of negativity they could muster.

The quail thing was outrageous, but it seemed to have inspired Paul to change. That's my best guess. Not everyone could do what he did. It seems to have caused him to take stock and make over his life for the better. Did he make himself perfect? Probably not. I don't know anyone who has.

Was Paul actually sexting? I don't know. Was it the same source that provided the obviously inaccurate photograph? If they knowingly lied about his weight and appearance, what else did they lie about? I know something must've happened, because he didn't part ways with UFT just for laughs. But I don't know what it was. Something about some relationship with a lawyer., it says. Some people have reservations about lawyers, but there's no law against dating them, at least as far as I know. (Full disclosure--I am not a lawyer.) So maybe he had a relationship with a lawyer. Or maybe not. All I really know is there's much I don't know.

There are those old charges against him from the DOE. I spent one year as LAB/ BESIS coordinator in my school. When I was missing information I'd have to make phone calls. I was shocked at the abject viciousness of DOE officials who didn't give a damn about students and instead went directly to threatening me over mistakes I may or may not have even made. I hear ridiculous deliberate lies from DOE legal on a regular basis. In general, I don't trust DOE bureaucrats any farther than I can throw them. 

This story, of course, is a reason to damn the UFT in the eyes of some people. That's likely why it made the front page, and why it's presented as more important than whatever atrocity Donald Trump committed on that particular day. Even though we parted ways with him we are guilty of his sins, whatever they may be. It makes me sad to see these things happen. I don't believe the story, because it quite obviously contains outright lies. Maybe we will find out he did something awful. If we do, I'll say that was an awful thing he did. Maybe I'll say it's a good thing UFT wouldn't put up with that awful thing. I don't know.

But until and unless I hear something like that, it's just a sad story. I saw one comment saying there was a cover-up. A cover-up of what? I know people who've lost their jobs. I'm a blogger, day to day desperate for a story, but the most you'll ever see me write about them here is never. I know people in trouble. Sometimes they should be. Sometimes they shouldn't. I represent all of them to the best of my ability regardless. You will never read about them here. Is that a cover-up? Am I depriving my readers because I don't share every tidbit of human misery I come across?

This is a story about one person, who did something. I don't know what he did. I don't know why, exactly, it's even my business to know. Maybe I'll learn otherwise. Here's one thing I do know--judging every UFT member, or even every UFT employee by the actions of one person (particularly when we don't know what the person did) is crafting an outrageous stereotype, the same stereotype demagogues like Joel Klein and Campbell Brown use when they trash working teachers in the press.

That's the only reason it made the front page. The press can do better than that, and so can we.
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