OK

It is a Saturday morning in the Spring.  It is a time of year I normally would enjoy.  Were I in the classroom, I would be hearing from former students which of the colleges that had accepted them was going to be honored by their presence.  we would be preparing for exams - the AP exam would be soon, the state exam in government to follow shortly thereafter.  

Little of that applies now.  Oh, I hear from student, usually from Facebook.  It is not like having them come into my room.  Last year that process started very early, when one young lady came into my room with a big bouquet of fruit and candy, because she had gotten into Johns Hopkins early decision - I had encouraged her to apply, and had written her recommendation.  Later she was honored by the National Society of High School Scholars, and when I went to the gathering as the teacher she had selected who had had the greatest impact upon her, I was asked to speak on behalf of the teachers present.

That seems a lifetime ago.  And I miss it.

Now?  I take delight where I can, usually in small things, like our shyest cat actually letting me pick her up and hold her for a few minutes last evening.   Then, when I have a nightmare, as I just did, I can seek to understand it without it terrifying me.

My nightmare was personal.  The nightmare that America may be becoming is something far more serious.

I dreamt my wife had brought a lot of people in to help clean and fix up the house.  I was insistent I was going to cook breakfast for all of them.  But everything went wrong.  I was destroying the kitchen, wasting food, frustrating people.  That brief description does not come close to describing how horrifying it was for me, because I take pride on my ability in the kitchen, although it has been quite some time since I cooked for anyone except Leaves and myself.   Part of the meaning for me is not to let my skills atrophy.  Part of the meaning is to be sure I leave time to do things that are important to me, even if I am not offering them to other people.

Then I waken.  I remember that this week was the 30th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk, the report from the Reagan administration that began 3 decades of undermining, attacking and dismantling of meaningful public education.  I know I should write about it, and yet I find I cannot.  I am drained.  I fear my words will only add to the confusion.

Last night I was one of the myriad of guests at the Turkish Embassy Residence for one of the preliminary events for tonight's White House Correspondents Dinner.  The dinner itself is a fundraiser for scholarships for students of journalism, and it is one of the most important social events of the DC calendar. Rachel Maddow somewhat took it apart last night.  Don't worry, I am not important enough to be invited to the banquet itself, nor were most of the guest last night.  IT was paid for by Coca-Cola and sponsored by the Hill - one of the political publications in DC that focuses as might be expected upon the Congress and related topics.  I'm not quite sure how I got on the list - for some time now i have been on the press distribution list for the publication (as well as several other similar lists and way too many lists of candidates for office, publicists for books . . .).  It may be in this case because Markos writes for the Hill, as the editor-in-chief reminded me when we had a brief conversation.  

There were some clearly notable people.  Arianna Huffington made a brief appearance.  I think I saw Ana Marie Cox of The Guardian heading down the stairway.  Bill Press was there, so was notable lobbyist Heather Podesta, who drew a crowd.  I saw two people I knew personally, both from the National Democratic Club and both lobbyists.   And i met a nice young couple where he is Turkish she is American and besides his finance business he owns a Turkish restaurant nearby.

I felt very out of place.  Oh, the food was good, the setting was magnificent.  I had gone out of curiousity.  I wondered why I was there.  At least when I go to the Club I know people, I don't feel so out of place.   Remember, I am shy, and have trouble initiating conversations in settings like this, particularly when I feel out of place.

I think it was when I was driving home that I began to think about the nightmare America is becoming.  There are others who can articulate this far better than can I.  I listen to Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow, I read Paul Krugman and other columnists, i also read the pieces posted here by others.  I know the statistics of increasing inequality.  I see the deliberate destruction and undermining of public institutions.  I see an ever increasing willingness to demonize the other.  While I know better than to engage in false equivalency, because there is little on the progressive side that comes close to the destructiveness of the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and the Tea Party, there is enough frustration among people I do know that I hear discussion about attempting to destroy the credibility of for example Matt Yglesias for his very stupid piece on the Bangladesh tragedy.  

As a shy person I am often tempted to try to be something or someone I am really not in order to feel more accepted.  When I am "accepted" on those false terms it then becomes a struggle to keep up the facade.

And yet the fear is that if I am really myself I will be isolated.

As the health of my wife improves, I am again on the job market.  IF one looks at the document through which I present myself (although I write a unique cover letter for each application), under the word PURPOSE one finds the following text:

I am a retired Social Studies Teacher with a varied skills set who is seeking opportunities to continue to make a difference in lives of Americans.  Because I have both a pension and Social Security, while I would like to be fairly compensated, what I am paid is of lesser importance to me than how I can contribute.

This document is formatted somewhat differently than a traditional CV, because I am not a traditional candidate for positions.  It is an attempt to present me fairly to enable decision makers to understand what I offer and decide whether or not that is a good fit.

what I am paid is of lesser importance to me than how I can contribute

That probably gets to what I have painfully over time come to understand about myself -  I have to feel as it what I am doing is making a contribution, even if that contribution is not acknowledged by others.  

I understand my understanding of myself is not universally applicable, but I suspect in more ways than many readily acknowledge it is a part of the context of the lives of many:  they make sacrifices in some areas in order to be able to be of value in others.  

Insofar as we begin to evaluate everything by monetary measures we devalue things that do not directly create profit for someone.  In the process we begin to distort humanity.

America is becoming a nightmare because we have allowed economic measurements to override just about everything else.

If one's sole or primary motive is profit, then minimizing costs is critical, and it is to one's advantage to have a situation that creates downward pressure on wages, with workers experiencing increasing desperation competing against one another.  AS the one seeking profit you would wherever possible attempt to socialize your costs by passing them on to others and attempt to totally privatize all revenue above costs by avoiding the taxes necessary for the society to perform those tasks you are shifting on to them.  You don't truly believe in a free market -  you want unfettered freedom to do things that benefit you and you want strict government restrictions preventing anyone from challenging you.  You are willing to use the fears of others at changes in society they don't understand to gain control over the political processes that govern us.  Because so many have  been oriented to want to be part of the in crowd, to make the big bucks, you are able to control a sufficient number of aspiring types even against their own best interests.

I used to share a story with my students.  I did not create the story.  I remember when I first told it.  We had had a discussion about why when I could make much more money in computers (around the time of Y2K issues) I remained in a classroom at less than 1/2 of what I could make with computers.   From that came mention of a time a parent had offered me a very substantial amount of money to change a grade to keep her child athletically eligible.  We began a discussion of values.

Here is the tale I shared.

A man walks into a bar, goes up to an attractive woman and asks "If I give you a million dollars, will you sleep with me?"

SHe looks at him, he's not all that bad looking, and says "For a million dollars, sure."

Whereupon he puts a penny on the bar and says "Let's go."

"What do you think I am?" she protests.

"Madam,"  he answers, "you established that with your answer to my first question.  Now we are merely haggling over the price."

The woman in that tale has a choice.  Increasingly for too many Americans there is little if any choice.

Last night when we turned on the TV at one point what was showing was "American Winter" which is a devastating documentary on what the economic crisis has done to too many Americans.   It was too painful for my wife to watch.  As she asked me to turn it off, she remarked how lucky we are.

I know that.  I know that it gives me the freedom to choose among what opportunities there are, or even to survive and make my contributions by volunteering, by writing without financial compensation.   I have choices not available to others.

Soon I will turn 67.  I will then be about 20 years older than my mother was when she passed away.  I will be 17 years younger than my father when he passed.  In some ways my mother never lived up to her early promise.  My father spent the last few years of his life with his mind deserting him as dementia from Alzheimer's became severe.  

I suppose one could say of me as I did of my mother, that I have never lived up to my early promise.  It would be a fair remark as mine was of her.  I am more her child as my sister is in many ways much more like our Dad.  Yet both my sister and I, for all the external disappointments to which we and others can point, have successes which are also part of our life paths.  She has produced two creative and loving children.  I have been a part of the lives of several thousand young people, several of whom have for some odd reason chosen to follow the examples they were given and now themselves teach in public schools.  

It is because of those several thousand students that I do not give up.

It is why even when I experience nightmares that are personal, or realize I am living in what is becoming a societal nightmare, that somehow I find reason to go on.

Yesterday in this post I reminded people of an event on that date in 1937, one that produced one of the most moving, powerful, and influential artistic masterpieces.  Art challenges us, reminds us of important things.

Today, I remind myself of the words of a Welshman to which I have often turned when looking out at bleakness or sadness or anything other than joy.

It is with those words of Dylan Thomas that I will end this mental meandering, thanking you in advance for persisting through my lack of precision or focus.

To you I wish Peace.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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