Friday, November 11, 2016

The Night a Reality Show Celebrity Became President of the United States of America

Election night! It wasn’t a very good night.  In fact, it was a very, very, very bad night – sleepless and filled with troubled thoughts about the future of our country.  And I’m not the only person on the planet to have experienced shock, disbelief, anxiety, and acute sadness.  For those of you, who know about the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – Kubler-Ross), my emotions are running the gamut that approximate 4 of these stages.  However, I’m a long way from acceptance and I expect that I won’t reach that stage any time soon, if ever.  Already, news of racist, sexist and homophobic acts unleashed by the words and deeds of the “President-Elect” are being reported throughout the country.  Right here, in the city that wants to be known as “Buffalove”, a black doll was found “lynched” in a room on a college campus.  I’ve also gotten reports from teachers that many of their children of color, especially immigrant children are terribly frightened for themselves and their families.  They believe they’ll be harmed, harassed and/or deported.  How do adults justify scaring and intimidating children?

How is it possible that America elected a reality show performer as its next President?  A reality show?!!  Really?  a “fictionalized”, often scripted fantasy that supposedly depicts the life, trials, tribulations and triumphs of its stars is the basis for the next leader of the Free World?  The problem is that many people believe what they see on these shows is real and that the “stars” are genuine.  Throughout the campaign, there were many times when Trumps’ antics could only be described as appropriate for a reality show; name-calling, veiled and not so veiled threats, outrageous claims and lofty yet improbable predictions about what he’d accomplish as President.  And while these behaviors turned many of us off, they revved up Trump supporters.  “Believe me”; “It’s going to be great!”; “I know more than the generals about Isis”; “Trust me.”  On and on and on; this narcissistic man, talking about how great he is and how he would “make America great again”, never defining what he’d do to realize the “change” his voters said they crave.  But reality stars don’t need to produce concrete plans; they just need to entertain, excite, incite and project a fairy tale “reality” that many dream of achieving.

What will Trump’s America look like?  According to his vision, the reality of the Trump administration is bleak and frightening.  During his campaign he painted a picture of a dark America, lacking in capacity and will to celebrate its history of diversity or recognize the contributions of the numerous groups that helped to make America great.  He forecasted a country that devalues and threatens citizens and residents because their cultural heritage, racial identity or religious affiliations are suspect.  He demonstrated personal characteristics of a self-absorbed man who is petty and mean-spirited, shallow and vindictive, thin-skinned, intellectually superficial and mendacious. He inspired, sanctioned and normalized racist, misogynist and anti- LGBT-Q behavior. He’s a man, who will do anything to win – a role model that few of us would want our children to emulate.  Even Donald Trump’s legendary business acumen and successes are questionable.  His multiple bankruptcies are well-known, “The Art of the Deal” was written by a ghost writer and his refusal to produce his tax returns leaves us wondering about the extent of his wealth.

What will he do about education?  That’s only one of the many important concerns I have about a Trump presidency and share with others who are passionate supporters of public education.  Recently, Buffalo School Board member, Carl P. Paladino, a Trump surrogate addressed a national group of educators and promised that Mr. Trump would “encourage competition in the marketplace and eventually dismantle the corrupted, incompetent urban school districts that we have in America today.”  According to Paladino, Trump plans to severely downsize the federal Department of Education.  Further, the Office of Civil Rights, a unit of the DOE that investigates discrimination in school districts and described by Paladino as “self-perpetuating absolute nonsense”, would be greatly limited in doing its work.  According to Paladino, the job of the Secretary of the Department of Education would be turned over to a non-educator, probably a businessman who would run the department like a business enterprise.  An increase in charter schools and vouchers for private schools would replace public schools.
Public schools are already under siege and the prospect of an all-out war on public education will intensify under Trump and surrogates like Paladino.

Let’s face it, I’m still going through the four stages of grief and will be for some time.  But the last stage “acceptance” may never happen, especially when education is involved.  Our children’s future is tied to education so it is more important than ever that we continue the struggle to ensure that public education remains as a fundamental institution of our democracy.    As we ponder our response to Trump’s America, let’s remember the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The ultimate measure of a man (woman) is not where (s)he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where (s)he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  (I think Dr. King would allow me to make these minor additions).  I also think Dr. King would urge us to pray, remain hopeful but remember that each requires that we also, PUT In the Work!