November 10, 2016

It Was Hard Not To Cry, So I Did

It was hard to get out of bed today and live with the reality of what has happened. I skimmed a few articles and tweets and Facebook updates and tried to be present for my kids, but they can see that my mind is elsewhere and that my heart beats weakly.

I played guitar at breakfast, almost broke down in tears playing Give A Man A Home by Ben Harper...

have you ever worn thin
have you ever never known where to begin
have you ever lost your belief
watching your faith turn to grief I put the sad songs away and donned a fake smile. We ate in silence. Got ready for the day. I lingered in the shower, watching the cold water swirl down the drain and disappear, my thoughts scattered and unapproachable.

At school, I covered a mentor class and we decided to take a break and do something fun. Let off some steam, so we did a #mannequinchallenge and after we decided to vent our feelings about the election.

The kids needed to talk and be heard and give voice to their anger and confusion. One boy came from a Clinton Trump family and said things are weird at his house, while another girl felt genuine dread for woman around the world. I didn’t say much. I just let them say whatever it was they were feeling or hearing.

Next, I had a lot of busy things to do: Discuss students of concern, send emails, write parent newsletters, plan lessons- necessary tasks and welcome distractions. I tried to stay of twitter, not read the articles. Let my brain rest and focus on the work.

At lunch we had a Daraja Academy meeting, and this venue felt right to talk about gender, rights, justice and peace. The kids in this group seemed shell shocked and upset. We had a lot of work to do, but I spoke about the power of activism and the resilience that we earn from set backs and how the work we do is endless and reward-less, but for the sake of peace, love and justice we get up and keep working. It was hard not to cry, so I did. We assigned committees and selected leadership roles. We carried on the work toward gender equality.

I taught two classes about latitude lines and climate zones. We spoke about globes and seasons. We laughed a lot. I put on a show, the grade sixes ate it up. The classroom is my stage and I like having fun. We left the election outside, didn’t feel necessary.

After school we had our lit magazine meeting. These kids looked like they needed to talk, so I spoke about the power of writing as a healing agent and as an activist tool. I showed them the Michael Franti video and told them to be strong and fight for what they believe in. To use the power of words to heal and mend and educate.

They wrote some short piece and poems. We shared them and their innocence was something spectacular and raw. It was hard not to cry, so I did. We got to work to publishing our next issue.

They worked hard and laughed and ate candy. I wrote this. I know it’s garbage:

Dear Trump Voter,

I am really trying to understand you right now. I should probably wait until my anger and disbelief die now, it is never good to write with such a heavy sense of sadness and rage. There are times throughout the day when I feel nauseous, just thinking about where we are headed as nation, as a planet. I wonder if you would have felt the same had Hillary been elected President.

Are you excited? Are you celebrating? If so I really want to know why? What has you excited? I am not here to be antagonistic. This election has hollowed me out and left me exhausted and confused. I am teacher and a father and I think about the lesson I teach the children I see everyday. For me, the lessons worth remembering are the simple ones we learn as children.

Don’t be a bully. Be kind. Love your neighbour; I am pretty sure those lessons are written in a religious book somewhere. I think about my classroom and watching my own children playing on a playground. I would want them to treat everyone with respect, if not with outright love. I would hope that they would not force some kids off the playground, but rather invite everyone to come play. I would hope that any walls would be used for climbing and playing not for exclusion.

So what is it about this president, this party, this future that fills your heart with joy? What is that when you look your children in the eye fills you with hope. I hope to try and move away from the propaganda talking points, but based on his own words how are you explaining his attitude toward women to your daughters, your wives, you mothers, your sisters, and if you are a woman to yourself?


Back home, my kids were tired and sluggish. Kaia had homework, Skye played with her dolls. I wanted to do something with her, but I skimmed articles on my phone instead, wallowing in guilt and anger.

Dinner was quiet.

“Daddy, is it true that Donald Trump raped somebody?”
What do you say to a ten year old?
“He was accused of it, but the trial has been dropped.”
“How can someone who raped somebody be president?”
“Well it was never proven in a court, so we cannot assume he did it.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was twelve and there were others.

“Why would someone rape another person?”
Really? On this night?
“Hard to say. They could be mentally ill, they want to show their power, they hate women.”

She quietly scooped up a spoonful of peas. The idea that some men hate women had never occurred to her before.

We talked a bit more about how she heard that Trump gave a speech and that his okay and normal now.

We discussed his policies, his cabinet and how we cannot normalise the things he has said and the things he has championed and how it is the work of all us to keep him honest and push back against his actions when they are oppositional to what we value: peace, love, diversity, understanding.

They went to sleep. I did a bit of work for tomorrow. It all feels pretty incoherent.

Tomorrow I am off to Jakarta for a literacy exchange. I will see some friends. I am giving a short talk to kick things off. I am excited to tell some stories. I don’t intend them to be, but I am sure they will be tinged with anger and sadness, like most things these days.

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