Notes from a Public School Pew.
It is Monday, 3/21/11, and I am holding back tears as my spirit writhes and squirms to the sound of the Star Spangled Banner and the innocent, eager voices of our youth filling the auditorium room with their declaration of allegiance to the American flag. As I turn my face clockwise, my eyes screening the faces on the horizon of the auditorium, I notice the dutiful faces of our teachers, their postures, if once crooked, now as straight as an arrow, their response to the American pledge and the anthem as one of proud ritual, one that they can recall being a consistent practice throughout their entire education. One that solidifies being an apologist to one’s own government’s crimes when they hear of past injustices in war, the Gulf of Tonkin, Hiroshima, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Gulf War, Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, South Korea, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Phillippines, China, Cambodia..the list goes on an on and on…An act of allegiance that asks every citizen on sublevels of consciousness to turn the other cheek when they hear of continuing crimes against humanity, headlines that tell stories of occupation, torture, colonization, murder. This act of allegiance is more dangerous than a Social Studies teacher misrepresenting what happened on Thanksgiving, why? Because it’s regimented, it’s consistent, it’s expected, and the government can always count on it, alike seeing the American flag on every train, on every bus, in every American movie.
If “crazy” meant feeling pain where it is not perceived by the present mass, then I am just that. As the hours pass while I work quietly in my 5th year for an American public school, I review my feelings of distaste for a society that misuses words like Integrity, Unity, Justice, and Democracy, prides itself on its attention towards petty things and obsessive individualism, and promotes a very healthy pride for ignorance and indifference when faced with continual crimes against humanity at the very hands of its own citizens, citizens from every walk of life. More and more this Media War becomes to me, a more raw and bitter reality, as I watch young Chinese girls with a face like mine stand proudly on the stage, holding up the American flag with their porcelain hands, confidence beaming from their eyes, reaffirmed by their proud parents in the audience and the nodding encouragement from their classroom teacher, that this symbol is a symbol for democracy, freedom, and worse yet, their perceived promise of citzenry, and their growing and maturing righteous dedication to being an, “American.” The media war is not just a war, but a war with our youngest population as pawns, as early as the ages of 5 and 6…They are soldiers without choosing to be, they are no different from children who are forced to carry guns or work in sweatshops, our battle is fought amongst the impressionable minds of our most innocent and precious population..in a few short years, they will be faced with the decision of whether or not to join the military. Some will continue their childhood enamor of becoming a police officer. Some will be the ones who will march on the front lines into battle on the home front of where their own ancestors still lay, they will be the ones who will be faced with the decision whether or not to blindly follow orders or to organize and side with humanity for the interest of ensuring the future of their children.
So where must the teaching of this begin? It begins with media like IndyKids, the kids section of the Indypendent. It begins with teaching real history, and the destruction of the current racist social studies curriculum..It begins with associating the American flag with the Swastika. It begins with the teaching of dissent, what is civil obedience and civil disobedience, and the lessons of asking “why” questions to promote critical thinking. It begins with putting all things aside that could possibly stand in the way of building – things like petty individual, idiosyncratic preferences, the “iLife” of thought..
It begins with the teaching of current and past wars, the rebroadcasting of old speeches from People’s leaders, the surfacing of the Worker’s story, the Worker’s perspective, and the critique of why so many stories that are told are not our stories, but are of the rich, famous and powerful. It begins with think tanks and focus groups, and honest questions that ask for personal accountability for the local circle in which your actions directly influence, and mindfulness of your impact at the global level. It begins with teaching tolerance of differences of all kinds, and reviewing personally where our own characters are intolerant, and remaining humble and accepting of our own blind spots that may keep us from growing. It begins with the understanding and practice of respectful, sustainable and healthy relationships, and a consistency between our uttered words and our actions…It begins with tolerance and patience when those around us make mistakes, because we know we too, carry around imperfections, and we too ask for our peers for the same tolerance and patience and forgiveness when our imperfections surface.
It begins with our acknowledgment as leaders, and taking responsibility for what “leadership” entails…going and meeting our pupils where they are in their process, and walking and guiding them through, having the patience for when they are set back, and having the patience to respond with love and sensitivity rather than looking on them with value-judgments. Being a leader means that you have to work harder than your pupils, to overcompensate for where they might fall back, to be apologetic to others when a pupil of yours errs, to be 5 if not 10 steps ahead of everyone so that you know what next to anticipate. Being a leader means being more disciplined than what you ask of your pupils, leading by example through noble actions, never showing your panic that you may feel on the inside, being stronger even when you feel at your weakest, not complaining even when things feel like they’re crumbling all around you, on the contrary being optimistic when there is seemingly no hope….
It begins with the concept of independent media with respect for the fact that it is not ONE voice, it will never be one voice, but the voice of the masses, and what I mean by that is TRULY the masses, not one hot filmmaker who has all the cool equipment and wears the right clothes and has that right network and also seems to have a heart for humanity, whose films are made guided by his individual interests — no, no, no — we need MORE of our media makers — because we are not just battling one of the, if not THE MOST CRUCIAL WAR for Humanity, we are also battling the 15 second attention span that has resulted due to the overstimulating inundation of information that shocks and shatters our thought patterns, damaging and clouding our memories…We need People’s Media, not someone’s film career. There isn’t time for the oo’s and the aah’s of one person’s career — people are dying on the streets everyday due to natural disasters, the wars, the occupations, and police brutality… Putting anyone on the pedestal takes away from the Voices that truly need to be heard, the pictures that truly need to be seen. We need sustainable independent media that will follow up on stories with focus on the People’s Voice and the People’s Needs.
So with this, I ask of you, Media Makers….don’t do your thang…do Our thang please…….
Vanissa, ACD Media