The United States of Dystopia

I used to be more of an optimist. Sadly, that sunny outlook on life I used to have has faded quite a bit in recent years. This year, this election, has been rough, and that’s putting it lightly. To be honest, I feel numb, like I’ve been living in some sort of alternate universe for the past couple weeks, where nothing is really what it seems. It’s bizarro world, and I don’t know how to function normally in it.

A few times over the past year, my 8-year-old daughter would hear something about Donald Trump at school (I heard he’s a bully. I heard he’s going to build a wall around the country so that we can’t get back in. I heard he hates everyone. Will he be the president?). I would listen to her and then quickly reassure her that everything would be okay. There was no way he was going to be the president.

So on November 9, I found this article to be especially helpful. I told my daughter that yes, the bully won, but it was going to be all right. He’s not the only one making decisions in the country. We will be okay.

I told her that, but truthfully, I’m not sure I believe it myself. I don’t really know what to think about the fact that Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th president. I feel mostly depressed and worried. Like I can’t wake up or focus or scream loudly. I look at my African-American husband and my biracial daughter, I think about my husband’s family, my Muslim friends, my former (possibly-undocumented) immigrant students, my LGBT friends — and I just feel nervous about what is to come for our country over the next several years.

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When Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for president last year, I was overjoyed. I cried because I felt a real sense of hope for the future. I felt that hope for months – every time I saw him speak, the crowds at his rallies, the artwork he inspired, the response of young people to what he was saying, the ideas he had for the future – and it was inspiring.

I still tear up when I see him speak and think about what could have been.

Trump ran on a platform of hate and a message of “Trust me, I’ll fix it.” But there is no trust there. He has no real plans. And the things he promised his supporters during the election have already changed. His transition is an unfolding disaster.

One thing that scares me now, after the election, is the way things are being spun. As if it’s a normal thing to have Trump as our president. As if it’s a normal thing to have a racist advise the president on important matters. As if it’s a normal thing to have the president’s children so involved in the White House while also running the family business. The truth is nothing about this situation is normal.

Case in point: Yesterday, I received the following in an email from my mom (My mother?! I mean, she’s 86 and frequently forwards me emails, but they are usually jokes or sentimental stories. Every once in a while, she forwards me something political, even though I have begged her to stop. We do not agree on politics, but since I want to keep loving my mom, we don’t usually talk about politics.). Here’s what the email said:

Our Muslim Govt …A MUST READ
I know that some of you aren’t enthused about Donald Trump but this does explain some things.
This is absolutely unthinkable that nobody- especially the CIA would have noticed this….
Trump is starting to look better all the time.
This information has all been checked, then double checked… It is 100% Correct.
That’s why there is such an alarm within US government, since Trump’s statement about temporary suspension of migration of Muslims to US until US authorities make sure there is a proper concept of safe penetration of US territory.
People are stunned to learn that the head of the U.S. CIA is a Muslim! Do hope this wakes up some!
Until it hits you like a ton of bricks read it again, until you understand!
We now have a Muslim government in the US!
John Brennan, current head of the CIA converted to Islam while stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Obama’s top adviser, Valerie Jarrett, is a Muslim who was born in Iran where her parents still live.

Hillary Clinton’s top adviser, Huma Abedin is a Muslim, whose mother and brother are still involved in the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Assistant Secretary for Policy Development for Homeland Security, Arif Aikhan, is a Muslim.
Homeland Security Adviser, Mohammed Elibiary, is a Muslim.
Obama adviser and founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Salam al-Marayati, is a Muslim.

Obama’s Sharia Czar, Imam Mohamed Magid, of the Islamic Society of North America is a Muslim.

Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, Eboo Patel, is a Muslim.

Nancy Pelosi announced she will appoint Rep Andre Carson, D-Ind, a Muslim, as the first Muslim lawmaker on the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, of all things! It would make Carson the first Muslim to serve on the “Committee that receives intelligence on the threat of Islamic militants in the Middle East !” He has suggested that U.S. Schools should be modeled after Islamic madrassas, where education is based on the Quran!!!

Last but not least, our closet Muslim himself, Barack Hussein Obama.
It’s questionable if Obama ever officially took the oath of office when he was sworn in. He did not repeat the oath properly to defend our nation and our Constitution. Later the Democrats claimed he was given the oath again, in private. Yeah, right.
CIA director John Brennan took his oath on a copy of the Constitution, not a Bible??
Valarie Jarret wrote her college thesis on how she wanted to change America into a Muslim friendlynation and she is an Obama top advisor!
Congressman Keith Ellison took his oath on a copy of the Qur’an, NOT the Bible!
Conservative Congresswoman Michele Bachman, R-MN, was vilified and verbally tarred and feathered by Democrats when she voiced her concern about
Muslims taking over our government!
Considering all these appointments, it would explain why Obama and his minions are systematically destroying our nation, supporting radical Muslim groups worldwide, opening our southern border, and turning a blind eye to the genocide being perpetrated on Christians all over Africa and the Middle East!
The more damage Obama does, the more arrogant he’s become!
Our nation and our government has been infiltrated by people who want to destroy us! It can only get worse!
In his book Obama said, “if it comes down to it, I will side with the Muslims.”
If you fail to pass this one on, there’s something wrong… somewhere!
Common sense doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden!

I had several reactions to this email:

1) What the f—?? Seriously? Is this for real? Do people actually believe this?

2) Ummmmmmm…. Mom? Is this really how you feel? Because I am not sure what to say to you if it is.

3) As a former English teacher, I wonder who wrote this originally. Because it is really, really bad. The author(s) doesn’t seem to know what a fact is, how to look up information on the internet, how to cite sources, and how to write proper sentences. (And that is 100% Correct!)

4) Is this what the next four years will be like?

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When I taught high school English, we studied dystopian fiction and read the novel 1984. In recent years, students noticed an eerie similarity between many of the things mentioned in Orwell’s novel and our reality. And now? I shudder to think about the similarities between the fictional Oceania and our current situation.

1984-1

I am actually glad I am not teaching right now. It would be extremely difficult for me to be objective about politics while teaching even though it wasn’t in the past. It would be hard for me to separate how I feel about Trump being president from the simple facts of the matter. So I am thankful for teachers who are hanging in there and seeing it through. Because I don’t think I could handle it.

1/25/17 UPDATE: We are less than a week into Trump’s presidency, and it’s already chaos, “alternative facts” and all. And what do you know, 1984 is back on the best-seller list. 

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One of the scariest aspects of a Trump presidency – and there are many – has to do with what will happen with public education. Will he destroy public education? With his choice for Secretary of Education, it seems clear he has no respect for teachers or the concept of public education for the common good.

Public education activists and supporters have been fighting for our public schools for a while now, against the corporate reformers and privatization, and I wish there were a point where we could feel victorious. Like the tide was actually turning. But no. It’s not. We must continue to fight.

I hope I have the strength.

When I look at my daughter, who loves 3rd grade, multiplication, geometry, writing in cursive, reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Pokemon, Minecraft, drawing, learning about other countries, singing, doing cartwheels, and her teachers – oh, how she loves her teachers! – I realize I must find the strength. Our public schools need our support now more than ever.

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A few days after the election, Diane Ravitch wrote her thoughts about the outcome. The following really resonated with me:

“I will watch and wait to see if President-elect Trump moderates his views and policies. I will hope for the best. I want America to be a land of hope and dreams, of idealism and mutual respect, of e pluribus unum, not just unum. We are a quilt of many colors and it is a beautiful quilt. We all belong here. I will wait to see if President-elect Trump is willing to speak to and for all of us and not just for his rabid movement.

“I want America to be America. I want it to be a land of liberty and justice for all. I want my grandchildren to learn what I tried to teach my children: kindness, compassion, a commitment to fairness, a love of justice, and a willingness to defend the underdog. I want them to aspire to be good people. I want them to treat others with respect for their individuality and humanity.”

In works of dystopian fiction, there are frequently moments when it seems like everything might turn out okay. Like it’s possible for things to turn around, just for a few pages or lines. And then, it’s back to the dystopian reality. Because there is no actual hope that everything will be okay. That’s not the purpose of dystopian fiction. It’s not a fairy tale or a romantic comedy. No, as you read, you know everything will turn out very, very badly. The lovers will not end up together. There will be no light at the end of the tunnel. Superman will not show up to save the day. There is no happily ever after.

So maybe the fact that we are living in reality and not a fictional universe is actually a glimmer of hope. We aren’t doomed — or maybe we are — but nothing is written in stone. We can fight. We can unite. We can make the world a better place.

I will try to remember that in the days and weeks and years ahead.

 

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3 thoughts on “The United States of Dystopia

  1. I’m a public educator in a city with a STRONG voucher program in a state bent on growing privatization. My children attend public schools, and I’m more than a tad frightened about the upcoming administration making my professional and my kids’ educational lives even more difficult. You’ve written a thoughtful piece that offers me a faint glimmer of something–not quite hope, because I am not there yet–maybe a glimmer of a fight in me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just today read this. It is an important piece and speaks for and to many people. Obviously based on his Secretary of Education selection he has no grasp of public education. My initial sentiment to it all is your comment #1 on the email. We can fight and unite but we had best vote in 2018 and continue to speak up. Teachers are not alone and we can get back on course.

    Like

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