Sunday, November 13, 2016

"After Election" Thoughts from La Bloga Writers

Protest in San Francisco
Today’s La Bloga extends words of strength, solace, encouragement to nuestr@s jovenes who are new to tumultuous historical moments.  Last week was one such moment in this country. The day after the election, I decided I could not teach my classes pretending nothing had happened.  And actually, later that day, one of my students told me that when she did go to a class where nothing was being discussed about the election results, everyone seemed “like robots.  It was strange,” she said. 

The classroom is a place that is not isolated from the outside world.  How can a class read Shakespeare’s Macbeth and not discuss various levels of ambition using 21st century examples?  How can I teach Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao without making contemporary connections to power, government corruption, immigration, etc.  The discussion of literature is vital for understanding the human condition and how authors deftly place us in situations we would otherwise not be able to envision.  And so, last Wednesday, I invited the class to sit with me in a circle on the floor.  I said:  “I’m encouraging you to come and sit on the floor with me, sit in a safe space circle to respectfully listen and share your thoughts/feelings, ask questions regarding this election.”  For many of these students, it was the first time they had voted.  Thus commenced thoughtful and generous comments, the sharing of fears/worries, good questions about “popular vote vs. electoral vote,” about next possible steps in this process, about how this may affect their personal lives.  We broadened past discussions on privilege and diversity.  I was so impressed with them.  I believe that our young students are not apathetic.  Far from it.  They are actively committed, knowledgeable and aware!  And they want to engage.  My classroom is a place to critically think about our world, our lives, as we continue to read works of literature.  Nothing like this has ever happened before in the U.S. Now-- more than ever, it is necessary to reach out, stand together, unify. 

And so—today—the La Bloga writers gather to share their reflections and their messages to you.  Thank you to Pat Alderete and Scott Walters for the photos you sent me of the protests happening in Los Angeles and in San Francisco this past week. Also, La Bloga writer, Rene Colato Lainez, who invited his elementary school students to draw their feelings, shares some of them with us, (photos of their drawings below).

Gracias to these La Bloga Writers who sent messages to students and to YOU: 

Xánath Caraza
Being present with my students, letting them feel that I am with them.  I also need to feel that from them.  Our classroom is a safe place.  I am with them.  We learn from one another.  We celebrate and embrace diversity.  We express ourselves by writing. 

Rene Colato Lainez

The day after the election, Rene wrote on Facebook:  “My students were scared today.  I let them express themselves.”  Here are photos he took of some of the student’s drawings (see below).  For La Bloga today, he writes:  “We are not alone.  Let’s work together like brothers and sisters, like a big familia.  Let’s build  a bridge instead of a wall.  La unión hace la fuerza.”

Translation:  How I feel:  I'm sad because the new president is Donald Trump.
He is not a good President.  He is not nice.  

Translation:  I feel very sad, very sad because Donald Trump won.  I am sad because
he can send us to Guatemala and I don't want my family to be told to leave.  

Olga Garcia

Like so many other people across the country, I woke up on Wednesday with a deep sense of dread.  The hardest thing was getting up and going to work.  What would/could I say to my students, so many of whom are Latin@s and come from immigrant families?  I was raw and completely distraught; how much help could I possibly be to them?  I went to work feeling an enormous weight bearing down on my being, expecting attendance to be at an all-time low.  The campus looked empty and somber, but when I got to my class—there they were.  90% of my students showed up to class on Wednesday and then again on Thursday.  Yes, they too were distraught, full of questions, fears, disappointment, rage, etc.  Yet, they were there, and from the get-go, it was they who comforted me.  I didn’t even realize how much I needed to be in community until I was standing there in front of them.  The first thing a student said to me with a tone of deep concern when I walked into my first class was, “Ms., how are you?”  It caught me off guard because that was the first question I had intended to ask them and because in the concerned faces of my students, I saw a mirror of my own.  I couldn’t answer my student’s question immediately because I would have cried.  I had to breathe and I felt others in the room doing the same.  Another student came up to me and asked if she could give me a hug, which I desperately needed.  In all three of my classes, we spent our time expressing and unpacking our feelings and thoughts.  It was painful.  It is still painful.  Yet there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone.  We are powerful.  We don’t have to have all the answers right now (there is no way we can have them).  We just have to commit to looking out for, protecting, and loving one another in small and big ways.  As a good friend recently said to me:  “We can’t allow ourselves to normalize this shit.”  Everything we are feeling (as fucked up as it feels) is not only valid, it is necessary and it is fuel for fire, fuel for movement.  We all have the capacity and the responsibility to move forward, to fight, and not only survive this white supremacist bullshit, but to rise up and flourish beyond it.  We know it isn’t new—this hate.  We are just seeing the unveiling and the shameless parading/boasting of some of our country’s oldest and ugliest truths. Animo herman@s. Unidos con fuerza, conciencia, orgullo y corazón we cannot only resist, we can transform and recreate.  This I believe. 

Daniel Olivas

In 1980, I was old enough to vote for president for the first time.  My college friends and I could not imagine Ronald Reagan beating Jimmy Carter, but he did—in a landslide.  And then we were shocked when he was re-elected by an even bigger landslide four years later.  So many rights are at stake now.  Also, our country seems to be more divided by race and ethnicity than ever before. The silver lining?  Well, there were some great victories this election season on a more local level such as the defeat of Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona, the election of a Latina as United States Senator in Nevada, turning Arizona purple as records numbers of Latinos voted, to name a few. And though it may not feel like it, this was an extremely close election.  In fact, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote as did Al Gore in 2000.  In the end, our fight cannot stop.  True, we are angry, upset, and in shock. But that means we have to use every tool at our disposal to get our country back.  Part of that can be done at the grass-roots level, including making certain we continue to register in larger and larger numbers.  We have midterm elections in two years which means we have a chance to flip the Senate into Democratic hands in order to stop Trump’s wrecking ball legislative agenda.  The last thing we should do is start blaming each other.  The Republicans would love for us to do that.  We have survived many setbacks in this country.  We will survive this one.  We are still fired up and ready to go. 

Melinda Palacio
I’m very hurt that half the people in our country elected a man who lacks dignity and does not respect all beings on our only planet.  The attitude that burning down all our houses to fix our broken windows will suddenly clear the slate and even out the playing field for everyone doesn’t make any sense, yet many voted for an outrageous and offensive solution.  In four years, I can say, “I told you so.”  But instead of glaring and pointing fingers, we need to change the sea of red, we need to keep on carrying on as my yoga teacher says. We need to continue to vote and to be honest with each other.  Many of the people opting to burn down the house, did so in silence and the results stung and stunned.  In 1933 when Germany elected Hitler, the people were confident he wouldn’t be as bad as his campaign rhetoric.  How do we come together?  How do we prevent further hurt and destruction, and how do we heal? 

Manuel Ramos
For the students, I would only suggest two things: 
1.     We can’t give up hope.  Sometimes hope is all we have.
2.     Remember the lessons of history.  As Frederick Douglas said:  “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  The march forward is never easy, never a straight line, never without setbacks and detours.  But it does move forward eventually.” 

Michael Sedano
Dear Friends,
Hard work is its own reward, but only when the job’s complete.  The recent election illustrates there’s a long row to hoe.  The work, the job, they are not done, but only begun.  I was a college student in the 1960s and worked for Eugene McCarthy who was that era’s Bernie Sanders. We lost.  Then Nixon drafted me and I was none the worse for the wear.  Hubert Humphrey would have drafted me too.  Later, the job was the re-election of Jimmy Carter.  Reagan won.  Then the job focused on getting Bill Clinton elected. We retired GHW Bush.  Gore and Kerry came and went in short order.  ¡Ajua! We got Obama. Make of that what you will, better than a sharp stick in the eye, but nowhere near as good as we thought.
On the eve of another misbegotten presidency, here’s perspective:  Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush.  We dreaded, we chafed, we hurt, we healed.  Take a breather, focus on immediate goals of life, school, your own well-being.  Look to the mid-term elections.  Run for office.  Make the Dean’s List. 
Regards, abrazos, and peace.

I end this posting with a beautiful poem by Xánath Caraza

Hoy mujeres y hombres

Ciudad con campos de flores rojas.
Cada pétalo lleva
El nombre de estudiantes que conoci.

Hoy mujeres y hombres.
Ya no niños inocentes
Ni adolescentes rebeldes.
No hubo tiempo.

Hoy mujeres y hombres que demandan justa causa.
El derecho que no se debe de prohibir.
Derecho a ser educados.
A ser parte de la ciudad.

En las ciudades
Donde los derechos
De igualdad no han nacido.
Donde la voz de aquellos que atravesaron
La frontera sea tan válida como la de los demás.
Las calles están vacías.

Quiero recorder el color rojo
De los campos floridos.
El reflejo del sol y del agua. 
La fuerza de sus palabras.

Ya no hay niños inocentes
Ni adolescentes rebeldes. 
No hubo tiempo.
Sólo mujeres y hombres forzados a crecer.

Today Women and Men

City with fields of red flowers
Each petal carries
The names of the students I met

Today, women and men
No longer innocent children
Nor rebellious adolescents
There was no time. 

Today, women and men demanding a just cause
The right that must not be prohibited
The right to be educated
To be part of the city

In the cities
Where the rights
Of equality are not yet born
Where the voice of those who cross
The border must be as valid as that of everyone else
The streets are empty

I want to remember the color red
Of the flowery fields
The reflection of the sun and the water
The strength of their words

No longer are they innocent children
Nor rebellious adolescents
There was no time
Only women and men forced to grow. 

*“Hoy mujeres y hombres/Today Women and Men” is included in Poetry of Resistance Anthology: Voices for Social Justice
Protest in Los Angeles

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