Wednesday, February 6, 2019

See Something, Say Something

Dear New Milford High School, To Whom it May Concern, I would like to know where I can give back my diploma. I feel you failed an entire generation of people. Not just spelling and grammar related, which is generally atrocious, but in not doing your civic duty to produce a larger number of graduates who are, for lack of a better word, woke. 

I've tried to lessen my time on social media. Yet, when I do go on, I can't escape my fellow graduates posting things that reek of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and worse. Using the #metoo movement as a punchline and denouncing progressive teaching in our public schools.

This week, our NJ governor signed legislation requiring NJ public schools to teach LGBTQ history. 
Under the measure, public schools must include lessons about the political, economic and social contributions of individuals who are gay and transgender, starting in the 2020-21 school year. The bill also requires teaching about contributions of people who are disabled. 

What rational person couldn't see this as a positive? 

Of course there are conservative opponents who say this takes power away from parents and, "may encourage kids to question their sexuality". I wish I could insert a bewildered emoji here. May encourage kids to question their sexuality? Does learning about the Civil War promote kids to want to own slaves? Does learning about George Washington encourage kids to wear wigs or chop down a cherry tree?? I'm so flipping confused here. Have any of these presumably straight, conservative opponents ever questioned their sexuality because of learning about an accomplishment by a member of the LGBTQ community? That's literally one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

The fact that so many of my former classmates, people I grew up with, have even one negative thing to say about this legislation is mystifying and appalling to me. The hypocrisy of it all is downright sickening. I've had a pit in my stomach since I read my old friends and neighbors comments on Facebook on this topic. We had a vice principal who is gay. He wasn't out when he was our vice principal but, now, if there is "extra" out, then he's it. He's married to a man and even took that man's last name. On Facebook, not only is he friended on Facebook to all these people I grew up with, but they act like they LOVE him. When he posts personal stories of homophobia perpetrated on to him, they rally around him, offering sympathy and support. Yet, in the next breath, when this legislation came up for conversation, it was "horseshit". The addition to the curriculum was called horseshit.

I found myself angry, but also wanting to melt into my couch thinking that our ex-vice principal was going to see these comments. I was thinking about he was going to feel. Is he was going to be angry, sad, and disappointed? I know I felt all those things for him, so I could only imagine how he felt. I also couldn't fathom how these people weren't making that connection when it was a first thought for me.

It reminds me of B telling me how he was the only Jewish kid who played football for Emerson when he was in high school. He and his friends, his BEST friends, all non-Jews, were playing against an opposing team with one Jewish player. His friends started calling the opposing Jewish player a kike. B looked at them and said, "Come ON? REALLY?" or something to that effect. The answer from his friends? "Not you..." Right. Not you, just the kike on the OTHER team. You're our Jew friend! So, our old vice principal is okay in their book, but just not the rest of the LGBTQ population. We can't have our kids learning any of that horseshit like it's okay!

The actual post this asinine commentary came from was someone saying that they weren't cool with the LGBTQ curriculum until black history is taught. How about checking into that first before inciting the low hanging fruit of comments that would inevitably ensue? NJ already requires black history taught in public schools. It took me all of five seconds to find this link:

I actually had to block a MOM of former classmates, that I've known since I was in preschool, for her comments because this was the last straw for me. She had the audacity to post, "What LGBTQ history?!". Then, when someone listed some important LGBTQ history moments like the Stonewall Riots, she proceeded to say we should be teaching how to balance a checkbook. I was going to ask her if we couldn't teach both things concurrently. Then I was going to ask if are there still people even using checkbooks they need to balance. I can't tell you the last time I wrote a check. I use them so infrequently, they still say Commerce Bank. By the way, TD Bank acquired Commerce in 2007.

My issue isn't with her being so far out of touch to reference teaching check management, it's the grasping at straws to find a plausible reason why this shouldn't be part of the curriculum. It's being that against it, that you'll use any stupid reason you can come up with. Her comments in this instance were just the icing on a really anti-progressive cake she's been baking up on social media for quite some time now, only getting worse.

You hear about people being embarrassed about where they're from because of socioeconomic status, like being from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. Meanwhile, I'm embarrassed because I don't want to be lumped in with SO MANY bigots, and so much ignorance and raging hypocrisy.

Make no mistake, this isn't about politics either. Well, not specifically. It only is political in the way that from random comments I've seen, many of these people are Trump supporters as well. It isn't about politics in the traditional sense. I'm not unfriending and blocking people on social media because they've labeled themselves a Republican. It's not a debate about cutting pork from a budget. This, this open ignorance is a severe, deep seated character flaw that's a fundamental difference in values. You don't want anything about the gays mentioned? How about the Jews? The Mexicans? Are you chanting "Build the wall!" in your head? These are all marginalized, minority groups of people who have been treated as less than. Groups of people who have been discriminated against in the workplace/school/etc, attacked in the street, and more. Minorities are minorities. If you hate one  group of us, you hate us all.

The LGBTQ community exists. It's not a debate. It's not a question of existence. I guess some of these people could still believe it's a choice. I don't know how that's a possible belief since I never seem to get an answer to the question, "Did you choose to be straight?".

For arguments sake, even if it was a choice, this is a choice of ten whole percent of the population. A population where many have made a positive impact on society and have the history to prove it. Why do they need to be labeled as part of the LGBTQ community to discuss the accomplishments? Because they're a marginalized group, hated for no reason except that they way they live goes against other people's religious beliefs. Many of whom have made their legacy making the world a more inclusive place, where rights for all, is really supposed to MEAN THAT. Being part of the LGBT community is the reason they chose to be activists and fight for freedom, equality. and laws for protection. The LGBTQ part is the important part!

I know it was a different time, back when I was in public school from about 1979-1992. Seeing so many of the people I grew up next to spewing such ignorant garbage and proud of it, makes me sick.  I spend a lot of time just wondering if anything could've been done to prevent it. What could've been done in school? They didn't do anything when I was bullied so badly I had to take my study halls in the guidance office, so I don't think they were equipped in any way. Bullying stays with you. I'm 44 and can still name kids I remember being targets. That's why this new legislation now exists. The government is trying to find ways for the schools to HAVE to do better to educate. They need to educate not just on academics but on how to act towards our fellow humans. Obviously, the parents cannot be responsible to do it on their own.

There are just to many, from the same town, the same schools, with the same mindset to not place any of the blame on the school district. I don't care that it was a different time. I feel they were way too complacent in the ability to see the changes in the world coming down the pike, and adjusting the curriculum accordingly. Before it had to become law to do so. Now we have way too many that still think it's the 80's. It's not like seeing a random smattering of stupid comments spread around. Or if it was one or two people I could be like- yeah, they were always a moron, always crazy, always a dick. I shouldn't have to brace myself any time I see a post from someone I grew up with, knowing I'm going to be the the dissenting liberal snowflake.

It would be easy to excuse too- I LOVED some of these people. Some are people I thought of fondly over the years with warm fuzzy feelings toward! I'm DEVASTATED. I'm devastated that this is how they've thought all along and I had no idea. I feel duped, angry, bewildered, and sad. None of these topics ever came up because I lived in a white bubble in boring suburbia. Without social media I'd never even know. But once I DO know, I can't UN-KNOW. I really wish I could. Now, I feel like going to their parents and telling THEM what a piss-poor job they did raising their kids, and now their kids are raising kids with the same backwards thinking. The question always asked is- "You're okay losing 30-40 year friendships over politics?". The easy answer is yes. Why? I don't see it as losing friends over politics. We're not simply disagreeing over you telling me you're "for being fiscally responsible". It's losing friends over showing me their hearts and minds are comprised the most abhorrent "ists" in existence.

And it IS backwards. Mark my words. You are on the WRONG side of history, my friends, if you think this country is ever going back to the times where we had two black kids, a handful of Hindu, and Latin kid here or there. When everyone was white and Italian and Irish, and Catholic. Where kids who were a little different were called gay and basically abused. It's not going back that way. Whether you think the country is going in the wrong direction, which is your right, or not, doesn't make you correct or in control of it. What you are in control of, is what you teach your children. I will continue to hope against hope that you come to the realization quickly, that you want your kids to think differently than you were taught, and different than what you're currently putting out there.

If you don't like the progressive teachings in the public schools, you're free to home school...

These Trump years, of making it okay to discriminate and be openly bigoted are going to be a blight, yet a blip in our American history. Be the change you want to see in this world. 

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