Hammers create. Hammers destroy. Depending on what side of the hammer, I can either nail boards together or slowly peel apart rotted wood clasped with rusty nails.
I have used hammers to shatter the wood. With the sheer force of my fury, frustration, exasperation, I have torn apart a dog pen because the dog who used to inhabit it had to leave. He tried to attack my son. I was destroyed by letting go of my first dog. But I was not going to let my child be hurt because of my selfishness.
Recently, I have been having an email conversation with a parent about a student’s grades. Nothing bad. Nothing angry. But in the course of the digital conversation, the parent described her daughter being destroyed by a teacher’s negative words. And I remembered my son’s own struggle with a teacher refusing to help him with his math.
Words are like hammers, they can create. They can destroy as well.
By the end of the email-conversation, the parent confessed to nearly weeping. I had described how much I valued the student and that my grading decisions were based on logic, not emotion. I described the student’s best attributes and promised to write a letter of recommendation in 18 months when the student is ready to apply for colleges and universities.
I’m not a great person. But I like helping people when I can. I can be a very good hammer.
My daughter, though, is the person I am referring to more and more as the Hammer. She was mad at me for not taking her to Washington DC for the women’s march. The Girl is not anti-Republican. She is not anti-government. We both do not care for Trump as our president, and it’s not because of his political side. In conversations about politics, I have tried to teach the Hammer about positive Republican, Democrat, and Independent leaders. I have tried to show her that no matter what political party a person has aligned him or herself is immaterial to the content of the person’s soul. She must have an opinion that is based on education and logic, not emotion. She must also express that opinion with diplomacy and respect, regardless of who is listening to her.
I am distressed. I am absolutely distressed about the current political climate and the dissension and anger and hostility that is rapidly shifting from a simmer to a boil. I watched as much of the inauguration speech as I could given I had a classroom full of students and the class change happened towards the end of the speech. I tried to force my original opinions into the back of my throat and see if maybe my opinions were based on flawed media perspectives.
I’m still not even certain as to what is being accurately portrayed on or by the media. I will say that hearing Mr. Trump describe education institutions “flushed with cash” was hugely distressing. I am assuming and hoping that he is describing the ridiculous costs of attending universities because I can tell you that I am certainly not a teacher whose school is “flushed with cash.” Not when I’ve bought two class sets of novels in order to make sure that I could teach books I knew my students would appreciate.
Not when I have watched teachers spend time at a store dedicated to teachers and will literally give away supplies because we really can’t afford to do much else.
Not when 60% of teachers have second jobs to be able to maintain a decent quality of life. Not when I can’t send my own children to college because I haven’t been able to put away enough savings.
I’m ranting. Please forgive me. I don’t mean to rant.
I have done my best to give Mr. Trump a chance to show me that he is not the person who was presented as a candidate. He scared me then. He scares me now.
It scares me to read about “sanctuary cities.” It scares me to see on the BBC news that a North Korean defector knows that Kim Jong Un has no problem with invading or attacking America. I still live with the emotional residue of the Cold War and 9/11 shivering on my skin. My son will be sixteen in March. God help my son, he will turn 18 while Trump is still president.
What is going to happen?
Maybe I’m just worrying over nothing. Maybe I have no reason to fear.
But I do. I do fear. I do shiver in this bog and stare at my children and stare at my students and wonder about their futures.
I have a hammer. A hammer that can create. A hammer that will destroy.
I am raising a hammer. My daughter. My son. Both of my children are people who will (notice I did not write can. I wrote and mean “will.”) have incredible impacts on the future. Both of my children are people who have been raised to treat others with compassion and respect. Both of my children are people who have been raised to think for themselves. Both of my children have been raised to be ready to speak out and to stand up for others.
I will not rest these burdens on my children’s developing spines. I am standing here. Standing Mr. Trump. I will hold you accountable.
For the last three months, I have stopped watching the news. I have barely been aware of what is happening around the world. But in doing so, I have also been passively allowing whatever to happen to happen. In doing so, I become the people who don’t speak, who allow suffering to happen.
No more. I am raising my hammer. I am raising my Hammers. I am raising my voice. I will not destroy. I will not decimate. I will not shatter.
I will build. I will construct. I will stand.
I am standing. And in my stand, I am building. I am constructing. I am pulling together everything I can that will help me create a better world in which everyone can live. In which everyone can play nicely in the sandbox.