Sunday, June 30, 2019

“Stick To Education”

I recently posted here about the concentration camps that our federal government is running on the southern border of the US. Since then even more horrifying and damning information has come to light about the inhumane treatment of families who have arrived at border seeking asylum. Most readers have expressed sympathy and outrage. There have only been a few who have written to either defend the administration’s heartless policies or to, remarkably, deny the existence of these camps as “fake news.” This I expected, to a certain extent, but honestly, one would have to at this point be willfully ignorant to in order to not know that a cruel tragedy of our own making continues to unfold. Denial or silence in the face of this is the moral equivalent of the so-called “good Germans” who made the Holocaust possible. I believe we are already at the point that future generations will look back upon these times in disbelief that we allowed this to happen. 

But some readers have chosen to criticize my post of last week by admonishing me to “stick to education,” asserting that “politics” has no place on Teacher Tom’s blog. Let me make this clear: everything I write here is political. I might not be directly discussing this or that policy, I might not be calling on you to write your representatives or take to the streets. I might not be asserting support for a particular political party. But believe me, everything you read here is a political act in the spirit of democratic self-governance, part of the practice of day-to-day retail democracy. I am sharing my views as honestly as I know how, seeking not necessarily to shape yours, but to let you know where I stand in the world. And I expect the same from you. This doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you (nor you me), but to remain silent is akin to an act of treason.

When people tell me to “stick to education,” I genuinely have no idea what they are talking about. None of us live in a vacuum. Indeed, perhaps that’s part of the problem with political life today: we have this idea that it can be wall-off from the rest of our lives. Nothing gets under my skin more than people who insist, often with a bizarre tone of boastfulness, that they “stay out of politics.” That is the equivalent of saying that they don’t give a damn, that they’re going to hide away in their smug selfishness and deny the rest of us their participation in our community that is inextricably interconnected whether we like it our not. That’s the deal: you live in the US, you participate, and opting out is to choose the side that is against me and my loved ones. Democracy requires participation: sitting out allows evil to prevail.

So make no mistake, even when I tell a simple, inspiring story about the capabilities of young children, I’m being political. I cannot draw a line. Indeed, I have no idea where that line could possibly be drawn. So know that when you read here,  you are engaged in politics. I don’t like being left to carry the burden of self-governance, no one does. I need you there with me. We may disagree. That’s part of living in a world with other people. But when you tell me to “stick to education” or when you opt “stay out of politics” you’re harming the rest of us. Democracy is a participatory sport.

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