Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fall 2010

Well, I'm "officially" an ESL teacher. In fact, I taught throughout the summer and am now into my first Fall semester at an English Language school in Times Square. Of course, I'm also in my third semester of volunteer teaching "America Now: Media and Writing" at the International Center.

My experience teaching has been challenging and rewarding. Everyday, I'm forced to be creative (whether I want to be or not). My hours with my students go by so quick; accordingly, my
"free time" is mostly dedicated to lesson planning, paperwork, and sorting through the fourty hours of emails I still put in a week at The New School. Yes, yes, ...again, as seems to be the theme running through every one of my "post" - for those living life, it's difficult to ever really take a moment and set the important experiences down onto the page.

Of course, there's a whole Mass Media machine operating around and through us; so why feel like we "need" to contribute or write at all? ...Good question. Of course, bad question too coming from someone who wishes to write more and teachers others to do the same. But, I can't ignore my thoughts. After all, why does Snooki have a published book? For the "working class hero", there is no time to really write about the personal, political and cultural events unfolding around us. And good riddance, most of our rambles are worthless anyway.

I suppose, the ultimate point is that there's no time to stop. We act and react. No time to write. Sad.

Anyway, this entry is a pathetic attempt to regain a bit of my voice again. To get these rusty gears working. Let's quickly reflect back on the past few months: has a lot happened? ...No not really: I went to visit my father and Ben in Vancouver, I attended Ena's friend's wedding in Seattle. We went to see M.I.A at Terminal 5. The Yankees lost their bid for the World Series. Jackass came out in 3D. I voted Working Families Party in this month's election. Did my laundry, walked the dogs, and ironed my shirts. Like a good capitalist - I even scraped-by to pay down my credit cards, taxes, and loans. I suppose, I'll leave the important words (and spending) to those with less menial duties to attend than mine. Besides, there are other, more adept, writers to criticize. Like Chris Hedges, for instance, he's always a good read. (Not always what I want to hear, but sobering as hell.)

Of course, Ena and I went to the Stewart/Colbert "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" last week. Much of our reason for going was because we love the Colbert Report and the ride down was free - thanks Arianna. We rode the Huffington Post "Sanity Bus" to DC and even saw Arianna that blustery, cold, morning waiting in line outside of Citi-Field. I honestly thought we'd never get on one of those hundreds of buses flowing through the parking lot, but we did. However, I definitely imagined myself (...more than once) back at home sleeping-in, firing-up some bacon, and watching the whole damn rally from cable TV.

Well, because, this is America. And sometimes, we do things in America for no real good reason other than it might look cool on TV. So, we eventually got on the bus. The ride there wasn't as painful as I thought it'd be. We napped, I studied Japanese, and when the bus stopped for a stretch, I bought our bus driver a coffee.

When we approached Washington, there was an almost giddy, pre-concert, excitement on the bus. Lots of folks checking their cell phones and texting friends already there at the rally. By the time we passed the NSA building on our right, it was difficult to contain the energy. I wanted the bus to start chanting, but we "maintained"; after all, this was the 'sanity bus'.

The bus dropped us-off two miles from the Mall. Ena and I marched fast, but by the time we ultimately got there, the three hour rally was half over. Nevertheless, the sight of the crowd of 250,000 on the Mall made it all worth the trip.

We inched our way through the crowd in an attempt to find a spot to listen. I kept stopping and laughing at the creative signs and costumes. The crowd was relaxed, there was no negative vibes (unless you consider irony a negative vibe). After weaving our way through the crowd, we found a spot to actually hear the speech over the speakers and get a glimpse of the stage from a jumbo-tron. But we listened to the closing remarks of John Stewart, which I will post below, because I thought what had to say was important...

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, (referring to the Jumbotron blowing in the wind) swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

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