Something that came up today in class

Fairy Tales show us over and over again the dangers of ignoring our instincts or trusting the wrong people or giving up or giving in. We have to face a new world and in it the things we fear, the things we are, and the things we think we hope for. What we think we want is never what it seems.

Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose emphasize pushing forward even when stopping would be easier. If we want to survive, we have to keep moving forward. Like Joss Whedon wrote in Firefly: The Message, “When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl—when you can’t do that…You find someone to carry you” which alluded to Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech when he said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Moving from sophomore year literature into the literature of senior year, these messages can also be found in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Really, this message can be found in everything we read by its direct address or the consequences of its absence.

Morning Meditation

“In response to Trump’s victory, a shocking win fueled by the rural roar of a dismayed white America, tens of thousands in at least 25 US cities — including New York and Nashville, Chicago and Cleveland, San Francisco and Seattle — shouted anti-Trump slogans, started fires, and held candlelight vigils to mourn the result.”

Max Blau, Euan McKirdy, Azadeh Ansari

Protesters target Trump buildings in massive street rallies (cnn.com)

I just found this wording and tone interesting in light of how other protests are framed by the news.

The bit about “the rural roar of dismayed white America” frustrates me since my state has always swung by the votes of the Willamette Valley, my northern neighbors are in a similar position regarding the power of the population density in their west side. Are there really states where rural voters control the vote? Because I keep thinking about all of the people who clearly voted for a man who rallied people together based on fear and hate—I am rural, I am white, I don’t know what it feels like to hear racial slurs lobbed at me in the halls of a high school or the local store or on the street. I know the fears of my gender, but it’s not the same.

I listen. I shut down the slurs I hear. I keep wondering how much I miss.

Clearly I missed something about 53% of women who voted for someone who openly discriminates against us. Clearly I missed several things this time around.

I will keep listening. I will keep learning. I will do what I can on the small scale of my life. I will remember that this is what the majority of my fellow voters chose.

I will also keep telling my truth which right now means other items on the ballot affect me more nearly and dearly than who the next president will be. It makes me feel like my life is so small sometimes to see people upset enough, scared enough to rally while I’m wondering how screwed my students are going to be in a state facing a 1.4 billion dollar shortfall after passing items that are sure to pull even more money away from education.

My life feels small because my first thoughts yesterday morning were for my students of color and my students who are open (and closed) about their sexuality and my students who already feel like their lives are small. My thoughts were with my students who are figuring out what they believe, who they want to be, who they will be, how to navigate the world we live in. My thoughts are centered around how to best model being an adult who owns my sins and learns from my mistakes (and from others) and changes as I continue to age.

So today got a little weird…

Somehow, this came out of our senior discussions prior to reading The Scarlet Letter (my favorite fairy tale).

The Colonials had to band together in communities for safety and short-term livability. Eighty-five percent of European colonists died in the first 75 years of colonization; a similar number of indigenous people died from European diseases and mistreatment during that same time. (Admittedly, my numbers may be a little off, but it’s what I remember from a Bill Bryson book).

In the same way that Arthur Miller couldn’t talk about The Red Scare and the dangers of Joseph McCarthy, Hawthorne couldn’t talk about “the other” in the context of slavery or the rampant hypocrisy within religion and politics.

Today, when we have Native Americans protesting on their sovereign land to stop the US government from laying a pipeline across their territory, when we have #BlackLivesMatter in response to ongoing racism, when we have students who hear racial slurs directed at them in high school hallways, we have to look at the history of our country and its treatment of immigrants, the descendants of slaves, women, and children to understand the anger and hurt some groups carry from generation to generation and the fears that spawns.

The Scarlet Letter is about how people are shoved into the “other” category by people who don’t really have any room to judge them.