Today in Orange County, Florida, it’s our turn to join the ranks of schools around the country and the world that have tried to open their doors in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. It has been a nightmare getting here, and even as the doors open, the legal battles continue. Even with directives and mandates, science proves time and again that it does not bend to human will. If we learn nothing else this year, we have learned that.
I just want to wish every single one of you all of the luck, prayers, peace and hope I can muster as you start this day. You are warriors. Whatever some ignorant fool said yesterday doesn’t matter. What I say doesn’t matter.
What matters is that no matter how you’re doing it today, you are taking a stand, for kids, for teachers, for your families, for yourselves, for society, and for each other. Some of you are sitting it out for yourself and your family, so you can be here next year to teach when it’s safe. Some of you are teaching from home, whether or not you wanted to, which takes a lot of patience with your pets, your children, and your home on display for critique by the best critics of all: children, and sometimes their moms, dads or others. Some of you are going into the classroom. Some of you are going by choice, because that’s how strongly you believe in what you’re doing. Some of you are going because you don’t have a choice. My heart is breaking for you. Some of you are just rolling with the punches, because you can, and you are praying for the best. I’m praying with you.
I have used this year to teach my daughter so much about humanity, government, money, power, compassion, democracy, whatever it is we have masquerading as democracy right now, international relations, consumerism, and just a lot of topics that nothing else could have taught better than 2020. Because I am somewhat a teacher at heart, I turn everything into a lesson… because it’s what we do in our family. Which means I know it’s exactly what you will do. And you will do it much better and effortlessly than I can without the professional training you have. It’s what you do.
At the end of the day, or the year, 2020 is going to be one of the biggest chapters in history that has ever taken place. Things are going to get even harder. You are going to be asked why. You’re going to be asked why something inexplicable happened. You’re going to be asked why we are where we are. You’re going to be asked why something is happening NOW, before we even know it’s happening. You’re going to be asked questions you don’t even have the answers to. You’re going to try to figure it how to answer without an angry parent showing up minutes after the bell lets kids go, because they don’t agree. You’re going to be asked to explain why something is fair, and you’re going to do your best to answer, even when you don’t think it is. Because you know what children need to hear.
Somehow, you’re going to figure it out. Because that’s what teachers do. And that’s why lawyers can be lawyers, and doctors can be doctors, and engineers can be engineers, and even politicians can be politicians. (Because anything can be exploited.) But at the end of the day, everything is made possible because somebody taught…. someone taught us all that anything can be figured out. And if you don’t know something, you will find the answer. No matter what anybody chooses to do in life, that is the most important lesson you all teach us. You are the foundation of our future and you are responsible, in large part, for who these kids become. And they are starting from a place none of us have ever had to be. For many of them, you are their only beacon of hope, honesty, and hopefully a little bit of compassion.
I have also learned over time that kids are often our beacon of hope, honesty, and compassion. I hope that if nothing else happens today, at least one child reminds you why you are doing what you’re doing, and that you find some sense of the incredible value you have to so many people, which has been hard to see in the current climate.
I am part of a law enforcement family. My family is also made up largely of military, doctors, and so many educators. Today, you are the Frontline workers. Today, you joined the ranks of my family members who have been fighting on the front lines for generations. Today you have the impossible task of doing what you do every year: not just teaching a curriculum, but shaping the little humans who will be responsible for making something out of whatever is left of this world when 2020 finishes its work. For some kids, it will be the first time they get real information about what’s happening in the world.
Whatever you do, try to be patient with each other. Try to be patient with kids. We never know what they were taught. (Or rather, sadly, we do.) Remember everyone comes from a different background that has shaped their view of the world and their reactions to it. But in this…. everyone wants to stay alive.
Please know that I have not stopped praying this week for all of you, and will continue to do so on a daily basis. I pray that you all make it through this year, in all of its fluidity, and that you are able to tell the amazing stories of your experience to many future generations. Please know I am here, and I am a human being before anything else. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will do anything I can to help. I will listen. I will donate what I can. I will fight for you in whatever small ways I can find, and in bigger ways if they present themselves.
When it’s all said and done, there are not enough words to thank you for what you do. Anybody who doesn’t understand this should really consider why children so often call their parents by their teachers’ names, and their teachers, “Mom.” Thank you for everything you do for put babies, young and old, and may you stay safe and protected while you offer up your lives for one of the most sacred professions in existence. May the people who don’t get it yet learn to appreciate you as they should.
Today, as always, you are the heroes of the world. Don’t let the fools of the world be the voices you hear just because they are the loudest. Know your worth. Make sure your students know theirs. There is so much more to teach this year than what is in a book. As always, I know you will rise to the occasion.
Thank you. With everything I have, thank you. Wear that invisible cape proudly! (And with a mask.)
Someone please explain to me how inhibiting our access to medical information that can save or endanger our lives is not genocide. When the leader of a “free world” doesn’t like the numbers, so he orders that hospitals stop reporting them, and start using a different system, that will produce numbers he likes. This sounds eerily similar to a proclamation previously made that the reason our numbers are so high is because we keep testing. “So I said to them, slow down the testing!”
I literally plan my level of protection based on the numbers being rolled out. Now I can’t even trust that. It’s one thing to stand on your “stage” and contradict all science and medicine for political gain. It’s quite another to prevent scientists and medical professionals from reaching your constituents, thereby necessarily expediting their deaths, if not facilitating or causing them to begin with. If a doctor makes such a negligent move, he or she can be sued for medical negligence. If a store does something irresponsible that causes medical damage, up to and including death, they can be sued for negligence.
But the President of the United States can intentionally impede the distribution of medical records and knowledge to an entire country, contributing to and or causing the deaths of many, many Americans, and that’s just… What? What do you call that? Politics? Government? What is it that my life is being compromised in the name of? Because I consider taking an act that causes the death of thousand, if not “millions… billions… trillions” of people, the very definition of genocide.
Merriam Webster defines genocide as the following: “genocide -noun-
geno·cide | \ ˈje-nə-ˌsīd \: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.”
We already know this disease affects black and minority people of color more than white, or non-black/minority POC. If I wasn’t sure of this from the studies, I now know 10 different people who have had the virus. Six of them can be dismissed as first responders or people working in the medical field who were more exposed than others, and probably expected they would eventually contracted the virus. Luckily they all survived. Out of the 10, two of them were black or minority people of color. All of them survived. Two of them were hospitalized. One who was hospitalized had underlying autoimmune issues. The other one spent a week in the hospital, and almost didn’t make it. She’s black. I spoke with her a few days ago and she has lost three family members to the virus. In some other countries and continents, this very virus is being accurately referred to as genocide.
Now we have been ordered to open the schools across the country, whether or not we live in states where the numbers exceed 10,000 new cases a day, and where courts and other organizations that are able to take independent action are going back to phase 1 precautions because of the increase in transmission and no sign of slowing. (Ironically, mostly in top state swear political conventions are scheduled to be held, or no mask mandates have been ordered by the state despite drastic case increases in cases and records broken daily.)
This is happening as hospitals reach near capacity and have trouble disposing of bodies quickly enough, necessitating refrigerated trucks and storage spaces to send our corpses. The corpses of the immunocompromised. The corpses of the elderly. The corpses of the obese, whether they are obese due to medical complications or medications, disease, or struggling with weight conditions in general. The corpses of the poor, the disadvantaged, the people with less access to healthcare, and the people who fall into higher risk categories simply because of the pigment of their skin. The people who have been labeled as expendable when making decisions to proceed with the next phase of re-opening, including sending our children in to schools, “or else.”
Or else: federal funding will be pulled, and the schools will not be able to educate anyone. Families asking to send their children to school are doing so primarily because either they have been led to believe the virus is a hoax, the most irresponsible thing I have ever seen a president do in my lifetime, or because they don’t have a choice because either they are in single income households, or in dual income household they can’t afford to support on one income, and they have children who are either too young, or not otherwise able to self regulate and self monitor enough to do virtual education without adult supervision, and they can’t continue to provide shelter for those children if they don’t go to school. This is far different than a need for childcare.
If a family has to choose between being able to put a roof over their head of their child, and sending them into a building where it is almost assured their child will be exposed to the virus, something is wrong with the way things are being governed. Other countries deal with this virus without families having to choose to be careless about the virus out of a need to survive “the American dream.” For some, the American dream is not the same dream Martin Luther King Jr. referred to in his famous speech. The American dream is a tragedy of epic proportions.
When I am seeing article after article about people who have already returned to the schools to clean, to prep their classrooms, or to begin music or sport practices, and have had to either suspend those activities or are dealing with active community transmission at the schools already, including a local custodian now on a ventilator, and we haven’t even opened them yet, what business do we have opening schools as a whole, but especially in the “hot spots,” like Florida, which has topped all other states in new cases and broken its own record multiple times, but has ordered all schools to open for the Fall, completely contradicting the recommendations of virtually every heath organization or specialist in existence?
To do so will result in those who are financially able choosing virtual education to keep their children and themselves safe, including the children of most of the people making these decisions. It will also cause teachers and staff who are able to, to walk away from the profession. They are choosing their lives over their livelihood. The educational system will suffer. What will be left in the schools are the children of parents who think the best thing for their children is to go to school, because their mental health requires school services. Because they are tired of being at home. Because they have to go to work and don’t want their children home alone.
That is the system we have established in America. Schools are set up during the hours parents work, and they are staggered has to start times to help older kids watch younger kids after school until parents get home. It is not childcare. It is a system we have set up so that those who choose to serve society by educating children, or doing so during the hours those children’s parents choose to contribute to society in whatever ways they work. If school was some thing done at home, and there was no other way to care for children, our society would have devised a different plan for childcare.
Those who rely on it because we have establish a system in America where the poorest people have to rely on two incomes, and usually can’t survive on one, and possibly can’t survive one or two months without income. Further, the moratorium on evictions and disconnection of utilities in America is a joke.
What few people understand is that they are not waiving these fees. They are piling up your rent and utilities, and as soon as the orders against evictions and utilities shut offs ends, Americans will be expected to pay back all of the missing rent and utilities immediately, and they will no longer be restricted from evicting people or shutting off their utilities if they are not able to catch up the following month. Since most people have not been earning income during the last few months, or have not been earning the same income, this means as soon as the economy is re-opened, many families will go back to work, but will also face eviction and struggle to get back on their feet. Some will become homeless. Some will never recover. Some will commit suicide. Some already have. Some will eventually make it. Many will be dealing with the unexpected loss of family or friends to the virus. Many will be dealing with guilt, wondering if they exposed people they cared about to the virus. This includes the students who will be forced to go back to school in person.
Those who worry about their children’s mental health at home, will be shocked to discover how their children’s mental health will be affected by the loss of a teacher or a friend, or the anxiety caused by the precautions that dangle hugs and camaraderie in their faces at school, without allowing them to actually touch or receive what they need from friends, educators and school staff.
An article published by a psychologist addressed these issues, and concluded that the psychological damage caused by returning to school too early will likely be much greater than what would be caused by a few more weeks or months of virtual education and delaying the opening of brick and mortar schools.
Of those who are forced to return because of financial issues, family structure, or educational needs, they will be walking into a school knowingly exposing themselves to a virus that 30% of children tested test positive for. While it is rare, the virus can kill children. It can kill children without underlying conditions. While it may be rare, I don’t think the parents who lose children will take much comfort in how rare they are when burying their children.
Still others will not have to bear the experience of burying their children. But instead, will eventually have to retire to take care of their permanently disabled children, who have developed the rare autoimmune disorder that is much like the one I experience as an adult, but in children. I can barely deal with this condition as an adult. I can hardly imagine a child enduring it.
I pray for the sanity and survival of the parents who end up in this situation, that they don’t blame themselves because of the situation they were forced into. That they find a way for their children to survive in the world if they are not able to care for themselves anymore, and they will outlive the parents who are caring for them. Most of who will not have life insurance policies and other securities many privileged and non-minority groups are more likely to have. Many will not have access to mental health care when they need it the most, in the aftermath of the virus. Some will give up. Some will commit suicide. Some already have. Some will survive. Somehow. And probably be judged for how they do it.
They will not understand how they ended up here, when they followed the directions of their government, and tried to be responsible parents, providing for their children’s shelter, psychological well-being, and education. In short, many minority and poor families will be burying children.
I can’t help but imagine these children and teachers walking into the school, and picturing people walking into gas chambers in Germany. I guess it would be more like running through a gas chamber with an exit, and hoping you make it to the other side before you have inhaled so much gas that you don’t make it out.
Of the teachers and staff who survive, we will be left with only teachers who manage to survive the virus, which will disproportionately affect the minorities and black teachers and staff, along with substitutes and poor, single or inexperienced educators who have no choice other than to return to school. Ironically, the reason some of them have no choice is because they can’t afford to lose their medical insurance because of underlying conditions. The underlying conditions that make us insignificant when deaths are reported, and dismissed because “they had underlying conditions.” The translation of this is, “they were fat, old, black, or sick.”
Once we lose them, and those who can’t afford to walk away from the profession, how much better do you think the American educational system will be when it’s over? We weren’t exactly leading the planet with our education system to begin with. We were already struggling. Teachers are already underpaid and overworked. And that is an understatement. Now they are expected to risk their lives like a first responder, but with none of the added securities first responders have that provide for their family members in the event that they’re high risk job leaves their families to survive without them. Their families will be left with nothing. It is unlikely they will recover much if they are left disabled because of the long term affects of the virus, which are still being discovered, and which continue to present as much more long-lasting and permanent complications the more we learn.
So again, I ask, if action has been taken which is knowingly going to negatively impact groups of people, in particular, protected groups of people, such as the elderly, or minorities, or disabled people, up to and including their death, how is this action not the very definition of genocide?