O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

This week a student mentioned that we were on the brink of civil war. Not sure what the context was, since this snippet of conversation happened in the busiest of classroom moments. In a completely other class, on an entirely different day, another student mentioned that we would be embroiled in WWIII before the month was over. There is much weight on our youth these days. My students, like all the others clear across this country, regularly practice what to do if an armed and dangerous person comes into the school to gun them down. Their last three years were interrupted by a global pandemic that has in fact infected many of them, and for some, left lingering health problems. Fear resides at the core of their being. Anxiety is discussed between them with an air of universality. They are equally troubled by what lies ahead. About our sickened planet, our dismal response to gun violence, the absence of empathy for the refugees at our border, and for the robed ones dictating over women’s bodies. They want our flag to stand for them, the queer, BIPOC, trans, questioning and demanding generation. The whole of this revolving planet is on the brink of extinction, they fear.

I have stood in this classroom for decades, handing out books off my shelf, in the hopes of building a community of literate citizens. And for the most part have succeeded in aiding students to spot truth over opinion, to question authority when it clearly doesn’t consider their interests. They look up to me from their seats and ask a slew of questions each and every day, sometimes to counter other voices pinging around their head or to clear up a headline. This is when I am relieved to have the words of Arthur Miller or Shakespeare or Harper Lee or Ralph Ellison to hand over, and say, Let’s read what they thought of the human condition. What they thought of greed, blind ambition, institutionalized racism or the dangers of misinformation. In fact, these beacons still shine into our dark places and can lead us to hope or at least understanding the pitfall of human nature. Who in their right mind, or in an educated mind, could take Trump as a reasonable narrator? Dostoevsky’s feverish and delusional Raskolnikov is more trustworthy. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on February 1″ (Ralph). Unarguable truth Mitch, but sadly your co-opted party has blinders on and can no longer represent the best interests of anyone who stands for America, as they chose lunacy.

Thankfully in my state, one where a predominance of Democrats are in control, reason presides, and the mail-in ballot is an option. For the first time in our 31 years together, my spouse and I voted straight blue down the ticket. We simply can’t support anyone whose party is anti-election, anti-truth, a party that spreads fear and uses it to terrify its constituents only to support their lie, rather than rely on facts. These Republicans are baseless in every frenzied accusation, and this is evident to anyone who can read. Those of you in red states, where your politicians have employed every contrivance to silence you, my heart breaks for what you will have to endure to cast your vote. But I urge you on, as best I can, vote to simply vote those people out. Our future depends on you, me, all of us, to bring light to these dark days.

There is a horizon where a dawn breaks, another where night falls, and in between loads of possible sunshine, enough to heal our children who huddle in despair.

7 thoughts on “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s