I’ve only written one blog post since the election. I haven’t written at all since the inauguration. I’ve been feeling inundated and overwhelmed by the staggering amount of information coming at me every day. I’ve been trying to keep up with the news, and the repercussions of each new ill-conceived policy, heartless executive order, and preposterous tweet. As soon as I feel I have my head wrapped around one piece of news, and feel that I have an opinion I’d like to flesh out and share… the next piece of news hits the wires… and pulls my heartstrings in a different direction.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I carved out a bit of time for myself. I wanted the luxury of an hour to think through and write about one topic. The thought that kept bubbling to the top was “Impossible Choices”. The Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up this weekend, where we honor the brave choices of female heroes. Vashti, who chooses to refuse King Ahashverus’ order to come dance for him, even though it results in her banishment from the her position as queen. Esther, who bravely risks a similar banishment when she chooses to tell King Ahashverus about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews.
I think about our current political climate and the impossible choices we are all either facing, or could face in the near future. If you are a victim of a crime, but you are not a fully documented American, do you report the crime and risk deportation, or do you suffer the consequences of the act inflicted on you? If you are poor, and you have to choose between health insurance and rent (or health insurance and the latest iPhone, as Paul Ryan would suggest), which do you choose? If you witness an act of aggression towards an immigrant, a Muslim, a Jew… do you intervene, and put yourself in harm’s way… or do you look down, keep walking, and pretend you don’t see what’s happening?
It was this concept of “Impossible Choices” that guided me towards my first blog post in quite some time.
I’ve known this day was coming. March 8- International Women’s Day. Leaders from the Women’s March on Washington are organizing a “Day Without Women”. Women across the country were encouraged to stay home from work if they can.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve struggled. I generally work from home on Wednesdays, so staying home from work wouldn’t be noticed. I could choose not to work today… but that would only end up making me feel bad… as the emails pile up, and relationships get strained when I don’t follow through on promises.
Then, last night, I heard this news. Prince George’s County, MD announced that they would be canceling school today. 1700 teachers, as well as 30% of their transportation staff had requested a personal day for today.
Wow. I began my teaching career in Silver Spring, MD. While Silver Spring was part of wealthy Montgomery County, we were just two miles up the road from the border of Prince George’s County. The demographics of my school (majority of students from low-income, minority families) more closely matched the profile of PG county schools, and not the upper-class, mostly white population of the greater part of Montgomery County (Bethesda, Rockville, etc… for those of you familiar with the area).
When I heard those numbers (1700 teachers and 30% of the transportation staff), I began to imagine myself on the other end of that decision-making process. If I was alone, choosing to take the day off would have no impact. But joining 1700 other teachers and shutting down the system? That’s powerful. Still, it would be hard a decision to make. The short-term impact on parents will be substantial today. All of us parents know that finding last-minute childcare is hard. I’d feel incredibly guilty as a teacher knowing that I was deliberately causing a hardship to my students’ families- especially families where parents’ jobs could be at risk if they didn’t show up.
If I was teaching in that district today, what would I do? The Trump Administration is rolling out legislation that is going to have devastating effects on our national security, our health, our environment, and our education system. The long term effects of these policies are going to be staggeringly painful to all of us, but particularly to the very population I’d be trying to protect by showing up for work. It would be a difficult choice to make- to knowingly cause short term inconvenience (and possibly harm?) in the service of long term goals. But this is the world of impossible choices that we are all being forced to grapple with.
So I fully support the strikes, the walk-outs, the boycotts, and whatever other forms of non-violent protest happen today. I’ve been hearing the phrase “we need to throw sand in the gears of everything” a lot lately. In PG County, 1700 teachers and a huge number of transportation workers made a brave choice to throw sand in the gears today, and call attention to issues that matter to them. I feel inspired by their actions, and hope, if given the opportunity to make a brave stand myself sometime, I will have the courage to do it.
But what can I do today?
Today, I’m wearing red in support. I’m blogging for the first time since the Inauguration. And I’m donating. Tonight, my husband and I have allotted some time to talk about the amazing women in our world, and how we can meaningfully honor their efforts through our contributions.