Tuesday, February 07, 2017

I Stand with Chief Joseph (and Will Fight No More Forever)

"Choose your battles" is a common phrase in teaching and in parenting. I have heard this piece of advice and passed it on to new teachers and new parents. I thought I understood it, considered it and applied it well. I thought I was familiar with the "hills I was willing to die on." I try to be rational and reasonable in peace-keeping, especially at home where just tonight I reacted in a calm fashion when the 10-year-old in my house pulled his pants down and slapped his butt cheeks in his sister's bedroom doorway, which resulted in the sister violently grabbing his cheek (facial) in frustration. I thought I knew how to pick these moments, when to fight and when to rest easily on the sidelines. I was wrong. Today I realized I failed to pick my battles in one important arena - the politics of this country.

For so many years I have taken part in many education-related fights. I have made phone calls and canvassed neighborhoods for propositions, budget overrides and candidates. I have participated in union meetings and activities, always trying to represent my fellow teachers and demand what is best for my state's youth - now my own youth (the irritants mentioned above). I have been a part of victories and some defeats. Recently the defeats have been many. When I say recently, I mean the last eight years. Still, I found myself gearing up for whatever altercation was next, armed and ready to advocate. Some of those local fights were winnable. Unfortunately, I now know many of the conflicts I was involved in were not. The latest was certain to be a loss going in. Regardless, I fought against the confirmation of an anti-public education Secretary of Education nominee who now holds that position.

Taking part in this battle was stupid. I had no business being involved. No one issued me dog tags. I wasn't in that army. Why? The answer is simple. I am not a politician protecting precious party lines and special interests while watching out for my next campaign contribution. In fact, I was a casualty before anyone even took the field - a worthless imposter, trying to get some shots in without a weapon. Expending any efforts was futile. I am now aware of this. I am also aware that right or wrong, good or evil - none of this matters as long as money is involved. As long as two political parties are involved. As long as lobbyists are involved. As long as million dollar campaign contributions are involved. As long as politics is involved - Democratic or Republican.

I am going to think much more before I head into battle in the future. I don't need to be collateral damage. I have enough disappointment in my life. I don't need to have the sprinklings of hope only to realize my actions had zero impact. I don't need to insert myself where I don't belong. My skirmishes will be much closer to home now. I can handle them. I'll pick and choose when to get militant in my household. I'll let the name-calling go. I'll turn my head when somebody "borrows" a stuffed animal from someone else's room. I'll ignore the dog poop that didn't get picked up . . . again. But when someone sets someone else's hair on fire, I will run the gauntlet.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cavernous Contrasts and Consequences

We took a little Thanksgiving trip to the southeast part of this unique state, and I continue to consider the contradicting experiences during that mini-vacation. Since it's been over a year since I last posted, it seems about time to share some thoughts. Clearly, I do not have constant readers actively seeking the next installment, so yearly posts have become the average. Good thing no one is paying me for this.

In two days, we visited and toured two opposite environments that resulted in some philosophical ponderings for me. I am still thinking about the greater meaning of these incongruous episodes.

We prepared for our entrance into Kartchner Caverns by discussing its historical discovery. Sean, our guide (who looked like Paul Rudd), focused on the importance of keeping our oily, dirty hands to ourselves as we traversed the Big Room of the cave. We could not touch anything and even had to walk through a misting system to eliminate lint droppings that we might leave behind. The cave is amazingly preserved, and the message of the tour is conservation. The formations, history and beauty are mesmerizing. Altering them would be tragic. I was in awe of the story behind the discovery as well as the paths people took through the years to maintain what some could have easily destroyed. I was thankful for the experience.

Day two took us to Bisbee, where we toured the Queen Mine. We traveled into the mountain, seeing an unnatural cave. Man had blasted, chiseled and created this cavern in search of ore. The rock sparkled in places and water dripped down the cold walls. Again, I found myself mesmerized, considering the history within those walls. Our guide (an older, former miner) shared horrific and fantastic stories of miners, mules and minerals (yep, I am a big alliteration fan). Immediately, I couldn't comprehend and accept the difference in the message - strip the rock and leave the destruction behind. Endangering the integrity of the rock was only a thought if it affected the safety of a worker or prevented the requisition of the quality ore. Was I wrong to enjoy this concept of ravaging the interior of this mountain?

I considered the consequences and tried to talk to those with me about this contradiction in my mind. I was the only one who couldn't let this stand without some type of resolution. I like both experiences and appreciated both. Kartchner Caverns has historical implications - beauty all should be lucky to stand in front of and witness. Destruction would be a travesty. Millions of years of life and death, growth and change, science and discovery would not exist. Even if we didn't understand the loss, having never observed it, it would be a loss. The inside of the mountain stripped clean would not match that loss. Can I even call it a loss? What good came of the jobs, the ore extracted? Does it even matter that the interior of the mountain doesn't look the way that it did 100 years ago? I find myself still trying to decide. It seems like a balance, an unnecessary one, perhaps, but a balance. We do what we do with this planet, and we all will never agree regarding the best way is to treat it. Instead, we see these contradictions and acknowledge this ultimate symmetry. It seems to me that's all we can expect. For me, it's all I need, even if I cannot fully explain it.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Disenchanted Lullaby (Credit to Foo Fighters for the Title. It Fits).

For the last few days I have been swimming in a pool of disappointment. Most recently, I am stuck in the deep end, treading water and finding it more and more difficult to keep my head from dropping below the water line. As fatigue sets in and I allow myself to slip under, I would welcome the relief that drowning would bring. Unfortunately, I find myself dry and decidedly defeated - unable to find any relief. Before anyone gets too concerned, I will point out that I do not wish to drown. It's just an extended metaphor. Suicide is not the solution. I just wish I did know what a legitimate solution is.

If you haven't figured out the theme here, prepare for negativity. I don't want to add more negativity to the world because much of that is what has put me here right now. However, I am writing in this negative state to try to find some answers, so I ask that you'll forgive me for complaining and spreading bad news. If you wish to avoid antagonistic rants, I recommend you cease reading now.

Disappointment really isn't a strong enough word for what I am feeling right now. Crushing defeat describes it a touch better. Even that doesn't capture it. The level of discouragement is one I have not had to consider for quite some time. I attribute this to the fact that I have had a number of events leading up to this point. If I had to address these experiences individually, throughout a period of weeks, I would be able to manage the obstacles. All at once - I can't. I am trying. But I can't.

I can only speak in generalities which is the one thing any good English teacher tells her students to avoid. Due to the involvement of certain people, I cannot "show" instead of "tell" in this forum. You English teachers know what I am talking about here. Therefore, I apologize for the lack of specific details. Still, I need to let this out.

Here come the questions.
1. Why do I keep fighting battles I know I won't win? One of these battles is one a group is tackling, so I am not alone in the pursuit. Even so, the evidence continues to illustrate the fact that it's a fruitless fight. If I look back in history, I enacted a similar campaign six years ago. Back then I had the realization that my efforts were hardly making an impact. Knowing that, I still have allowed myself to slide into the same mindset that I could make something better when I should have just accepted that I have no control. If I am not the one with the biggest sword, I am not the one who should be leading the war. I am putting my sword down. I don't want to pick it up again because I can't invest the time and heart again. I just have to figure out how to remember that I need to look at the size of my sword before I engage. Each and every time. Look at the sword.

2. Why do I allow people to let me down? Is it because I hope too much, expect too much, ignore their possible deficiencies? I guess I don't want to be the person who says she never lets people have that opportunity to leave her disillusioned because she expects nothing from anyone. If you expect very little and you give very little yourself, what kind of disappointment do you ever really face? It sounds like a nice world to live in. Recently someone again told me I trust people too much. I see too much good in people, not realizing their favorable shell might hide something less appealing. Here's a Gatsby reference for those of you who did not teach the book for nine years - I don't want the world to be full of Daisies. I refuse to live in that place. Yet, I let these people in, defend them, believe in them. Their whiteness rubs off and I see the yellow inside. I know I can't change. I know I can't suddenly become a hardened person who speculates that each person has a core of deceit. I just wish I could maybe notice some of the yellow spots underneath the white before I envelope these people in full faith.

I don't expect any answers. You see, my expectations seem to be producing poor results. I ask nothing and expect nothing. Then I don't have to be disappointed. If only this were true.

Maybe I just need a bigger sword.