Monday, December 17, 2012

The election

This is old news, but it was a big event this year, and I've been meaning to post about it since it happened. I think I needed a little time to get over being upset before I recorded it here.
In November, the election was held. It seemed a very big election...and a very divisive election. People I love and respect...as well as strangers... were saying some pretty ridiculous things about the election and about what would happen if President Obama won or if Mitt Romney won. It seemed to me that there was a lot of anger and vitriol and far too many people were no longer being rational. I posted about this a little bit on Facebook. This is what I said:

"I have kept my opinions to myself...but I am so frustrated with the current political climate. People have lost friendships over this election. So much mud slinging has occurred...by followers on both sides. My beautiful daughter was told by classmates that she is a horrible person because in a mock election she voted for Romney. I am disgusted by this...but not surprised. If we as adults can not agree civilly and respectfully, how will our children learn to disagree respectfully? I voted for Romney and have what I think are good reasons for my choice. But I think both candidates are decent human beings who both want to do what they believe is best for our country. Their ideas differ, but I don't think that makes them ...or their supporters... evil or stupid or even that people are voting against their own interests. I know good, intelligent people on both sides of the issues. We have different ideas on the purpose and responsibilities of government or on the direction we want our country to head...but I believe that truth, in most cases lies somewhere more in the middle...if we could stop being so divided along party lines and could compromise (that just happens to be a vocab word this week in my second grade class...wish I could show them some good examples of that happening)... Then I think our country would be in much better shape. I love my friends and family no matter who they vote for...and can see why they would make the choice they made. Obama has done some good and made some mistakes ...and the problems of this nation neither began nor will end while he is President. Let's keep things in perspective..."

I studied the issues. I, frankly, didn't think either candidate was a perfect candidate. (None of them ever are...they are only human). I didn't particularly care for either of their platforms when it comes to education. However, after studying the issues I decided to vote for Romney. I feel like I had good reasons. But I know and love people who voted for Obama, and many of them had good reasons as well. Some people said that anyone who voted for Obama is lazy and wants to be given handouts. That is not what I see. Most of the people I know who voted for Obama are hard working, talented, intelligent people who care about others and want to be certain that those who are less fortunate are taken care of. In addition, teachers and other government workers have legitimate concerns (in my opinion) about whether we will have a decent retirement. Historically, teachers have not received high pay (although it isn't as terrible as some make it out to be...but it isn't high either). but we have received good benefits and a good retirement. But our benefits, at least in my district, are not that great anymore. Insurance is ridiculously expensive...I don't take district insurance...it is more than double what we pay to get insurance through Alfredo's company and it covers about the same as his. And there have been many threats to our retirement programs. Personally, I was blessed to have parents and some other adults that taught me to plan for my own retirement. So I have been saving money in my own account for 12 years now (I began 3 years after I started teaching), separate from the 401K that the district contributes to. So I am going to be okay even if they mess around with my retirement. But 20-30 years ago, when many of my fellow teachers began teaching, the expectation was that if you taught for 30 years, you would have a good retirement. Few of them began saving until recently. And if you are just a few years from retirement, after giving 20 or more years to teaching, then it is unfair and scary that you could lose that retirement. On the other hand, our country is in a deficit that is becoming increasingly frightening and I do believe changes need to be made. And some of them may hurt. These issues and so many others are difficult. There isn't an easy answer. There is truth on both sides of the issue, and as I said, I think that we'd be more successful as a nation if we could listen respectfully to people with different opinions and learn from them and try to understand their point of view. But so often, our gut reaction as human beings is to blame, insult and ignore those who believe differently than us.

This election hurt me especially because it hurt Michelle. Her class held a mock election a few days before the election. It was supposed to be done in private, but someone saw that she voted for Romney. They told her she was a terrible person for voting for Romney. They said that Romney planned to ship all Mexicans back to Mexico and that if she voted for Romney, then she hated Mexicans. (Which, of course, is not true. But is a terrible accusation when you are in a dual immersion class and at least 50-70% of the students in your class are Mexican.) Michelle told the teacher, and the teacher talked to the student. But on the day of the election, at recess, a whole group of kids surrounded her and began telling her that she was evil and a terrible person for voting for Romney. Michelle found her teacher and told her teacher what had happened. Her teacher handled it beautifully. When they came in from recess, she grabbed the flag and talked about what the flag means/represents. She talked about the freedoms we enjoy and how this country is a land where we can have different opinions and we can vote for who we choose and that no one should ever be made fun of or insulted for expressing their opinion. She cried a bit. Then she had the class do a writing assignment. Michelle wrote about how she would forgive others even when they hurt her. (If I can find her writing assignment, I'll post her exact words). And her teacher wrote a nice response back. And things got better quickly. It's been over a month now, and Michelle occasionally mentions this event, but not often, and she is surrounded by friends now.

Here is what I also wrote on that day on Facebook:
"Right now, I'm so, so sick of this election and all of its arguing. And so sick about how my sweet Michelle has been treated. Today was a really, really bad day for her. Her teacher handled it beautifully, but she feels very isolated and picked on right now because she had the courage to vote for who she thought was best. It was a really, really bad day for her. And to tell a 9 year old that they are evil because of who they voted for just makes me sick on so many levels. Her teacher had a wonderful discussion with the class about the blessing of being able to vote, to enjoy the freedoms we have, and how important it is to be respectful of others views. I could not have handled it better ...and in fact had a similar discussion with my class yesterday and today. And the children are just repeating what they have heard adults say. There has been a lot of fear and hatred spread this election which makes me sad for us as individuals and as a nation."

I must say that despite the anger and so on that the election caused, so many people commented on my post to agree with me and to show love. And within a week or so of the election, most of the anger, fear and so on were gone. Life is back to normal. Michelle's hurt is healed, and so I can let this go. I did feel like it was an important event to share though.