Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Surrealism in the second grade (now that's redundant...)

One boy writes, "My gradpa is as old as the Year 1. He plays weird old fock (sic) music but I love him anyway."

Tension and jelly beans in the teacher's room. Cherry trees outside burst out in their prettiest pom poms. The air smells like honey. A fight between the music teacher and the school secretary about his unauthorized "borrowing" of the school piano for six months. And a tiny political discussion: one of my most supportive teachers says she doesn't think the Dixie Chicks should have said what they did (I'm ashamed the president is from Texas,) because it showed disrespect.

I said that if someone wants my respect he needs to not execute mentally retarded people, steal elections, or lie to the country about weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for a dirty war.

Someone else chimed in with "I guess there's no respect for the Presidency since Clinton."

"No, since Nixon and Watergate--he destroyed respect for the office."

"Listen," chimed in another teacher. "All of them have done corrupt things. There's not a single president in the twentieth century who was not corrupt." (I would disagree. I think Jimmy Carter was clean as a whistle, and smart and ethical, and skillful as well, if Congress and everyone else in Washington hadn't been against him. G and I argue about Carter on a regular basis.)

"Well," said one of my most supportive teachers, a woman who has been teaching second grade since the year 1, a woman who let all her meat and dairy products in her car spoil when she received a friend's phone call from the emergency room while grocery shopping. "I just think children need someone to look up to. They need heroes."

"Sure," I said. "There are plenty of people who would qualify as good heroes. Martin Luther King..."

"I mean someone who's alive," she said.


Okay: who are my heroes? Barbara Lee, for sure. Not many other politicians. The late Paul Wellstone. I'm looking forward to having Barack Obama be my hero, but I'm still wary, like a lover who's been cheated on too many times. TAs the election hoopla begins its inexorable opening notes, I am almost physically shuddering.

I know this is whining, and I vowed not to do it anymore, but I don't think I have ever really recovered from the 2000 and the 2004 debacles. Even though I had long ago left off idealizing presidents, I still had this unexamined faith in the great American democracy. I thought every vote counted and that the counts would be fair. That faith is gone, and like virginity, I doubt I can get it back.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing that I am disillusioned with electoral politics--there are still many people left to admire. The woman profiled in There is No Me Without You, Haregewoin can't remember her last name, the Ethipian woman who took in hundreds of ADS orphans. Melissa Fay Greene who wrote the book about her. Paul Farmer, sho set up a free health clinic in Haiti. What's his name the head of, the philanthropical arm of, who used to be the head of WHO. Angelina Jolie (I know people will think I'm a PEOPLE-magazine-crazed naive fan, which is true, but she is a hero to me. Bill and Melinda Gates because of the work their foundation is doing to eradicate disease in Africa.

It seems there are plenty of heroes. My most supportive teacher, who is lobbying the PTA to double my sessions at the school, thinks we should teach children to respect the office of the presidency. I have a knee-jerk tendency to disrespect it, to disrespect authority in general in fact. And is that so good? The Dalai Lama would say to respect everyone, George ZBush is my greatest spiritual teacher, blah blah blah.

The best I can do at this moment is to try and be more civil and less of a self-righteous lefty know-it-all when I'm talking to people who hold different political views than my own. G has helped a lot with this by disagreeing with me on many important issues. I can try to tone down the strident language a notch or two and to entertain the idea that even Repyublicans might have intelligence and ethics. I'm not there yet, exactly, but I am trying. Very trying.

I wrote two poems yesterday--both strong. Strong and disturbing. It's taken six years since my mother's death to begin to begin to be really honest about the rage and when I do I have an immediate terrified reaction, like I'm a bad girl and no one will love me now. Last night I dreamed I had been feeding baby tigers and now they had suddenly grown up and were going to turn on me. After I got them subdued with a tranquilizer dart, my room filled with exotic poisonous African snakes--pythons and pylons (are those African or Indian?)

And now Oscar's here with a pipe wrench, and the bolt's still frozen...

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