Monday I found the Post Office closed for Columbus Day. It was not really Columbus Day but Mondays are the dumping ground for days off disguised as holidays. This is the most bogus of all phony American holidays since it celebrates the “discovery” of the West Indies. In three attempts Columbus never landed anywhere that would become part of the United States. Don’t tell the Post Office that others previously landed on our continent or they will want those holidays off too – celebrated on a Monday.
This year I’m grumpier than usual about this insult to those living in the real world. Native Americans have tried to get schools to hijack Chris’s day for Native American Day for some time. But this year it comes on the heels of a Lower Lake High School teacher’s demand that reluctant students join in worshiping the United States flag. A teacher new to Lower Lake High School decided to make all parts of this religious ritual mandatory. Those students who stayed seated were heretics and would be burned at the grade book stake. One silent protester was a Native American.
The protesting students acted much smarter than my past approach of going thru accepted channels. In 12 years of civil rights violations by local government bodies this has yielded me zero results. Leilani Thomas and another student went right to network TV and the ACLU. They didn’t waste time complaining to the administration who hired this teacher. Nor did they did they write a letter to the local “Goober Gazette.” Local media being another black hole for dealing with civil rights abuses. Within hours all national networks and a dozen internet blogs had picked up the story. I was impressed.
The Konocti Unified Schools Superintendent received an informed media assault as her first hint that something was amiss in the public relations department. The student had gone nuclear by recording the barely articulate jingoism of the teacher and we still don’t know what that teacher taught, probably “Mindless Obedience 101.” The recording of an ignorant teacher’s babbling was more serious than the civil rights violation itself, which most goose-stepping Americans were in favor of. In fact, sixty percent of the internet traffic was supporting the teacher’s action against Leilani’s silent protest.
The transcript starts out with the teacher saying, “Here’s the deal.” Then what follows is a very raw deal. The teacher sarcastically offered the student a chance to redeem herself by submitting a written argument in an “essay form” to validate her action. There’s an interesting catch. If your writing skills are poor then you have no civil rights. It sounds like the old literacy tests for blacks voting in the deep South. I know, people protest “Bad analogy. People should be literate to vote.” But petty tyrants gave whites a different test and their goober friends no test at all. I wonder what kind of civil rights essays this teacher is capable of writing – complete with legal case references.
Wait! The recording gets better, almost comical. Dissing the student’s reasoning that the flag does not conjure up warm fuzzy feelings in her for what happened to her ancestors by mobs waving it, the teacher responds, “Like why? Why, because here’s the thing; those people, those people, they’re not alive anymore. Your ancestors.” Such a profound exponent of penetrating incite and inspiring eloquence by a teacher must be defended in our public school system. Having sewed up the Donald Trump vote with this irrefutable reasoning, teacher then spoils it with an argument containing two false assumptions and one honking contradiction.
Paraphrasing: the Lower Lake Cicero explained that the flag represented the military and they “risked their lives for us.” Remember, in her previous breath this guide for the next generation trashed a student for arguments based on experiences of past generations. Now she is demanding that students stand up for generations of mostly dead military personnel. If you don’t think this is a clear contradiction then maybe you should be teaching school in Lower Lake.
I don’t know what college this credentialed embarrassment got her degree from but the flag does not represent the military. It represents this country’s civil society of which the military is subservient to, even though oddly, people in the military are on vacation from our democratically created body of laws. Their laws are called the Code of Military Justice.
The second false premise is that the military risks their lives for us. Who’s us? Were the hundreds of indigenous peoples that were mowed down and dispossessed by our military part of the teacher’s “us” group? What about the dozens of times our military went abroad in the blatant service of corporate interests (especially the banks), crushing popular movements in the process. Back home our military “ancestors” sided with ranchers against farmers and brutally suppressed the “Bonus Army” of veterans. The last time our military “risked their lives,” front and center, “for us” was the War of 1812. But what have they done “for us” lately?
The Super went into damage control mode even before she had caught up with all the facts. The traitorous students were moved to another class – probably “Watch Your Ass 101.” A one sided statement was issued that stated the teacher was being disciplined and that students don’t give up their civil rights when they enter the school grounds. This is not quite true but extra civil liberty restrictions on students must follow the Tinker Standard, a Supreme Court guideline that I’m certain the flag worshipping teacher knows nothing about.
The brushfire is still smoldering even though one school board member says the issue is over. There is still the remaining problem of a Konocti Unified High School principal and a department head that had agreed to hire this ignorant teacher after a lengthy interview. We need to look at the school administration’s bigger agenda and criteria for hiring teachers. Maybe we should look at the standards for hiring principals. This needs to be done before we vote on the local school bond in next month’s election.
Back to Columbus Day. Dump it. No we will not take away a day off from the lucky few. We will replace it with another far more important and neglected holiday. That day, which should be far more revered in our schools and respected by Americans everywhere is Bill of Rights Day – December 15th. It is recognized by Presidential Proclamations and used to be noted on calendars. Although some teachers and principals may disagree, I would trade a flag for the Bill of Rights any day of the week.