This is the fourth and final installment of the Post Office Protest.
I Don’t Issue Assignments Any More
Now I must conclude the saga of my protest in downtown Laytonville. This public display of churlishness, on my part, was only in response to private rudeness from the editor of the local paper. I chose to make it public, because my writing was presented in her public forum, and her newspaper behaved unprofessionally. I felt I owed it to my community, to clarify the issue, so that I would not once again, tell grieving families one thing, while the publication presented an alternative. To have this same circus act repeated a second time lighted my bottle-rocket, as one or two of you may have noticed. From my vantage point, I felt that it merited a magnifying glass.
I hate having egg on my face, because it gets stuck in my mustache, and you know how hard it is to scrape hardened egg yolk off of anything. But I have to tell you I am going to try, because I owe it to Jamal. That’s one thing about this whole business; I owe a lot to Jamal. Besides an explanation in the first place for the act itself, I owe Jamal the right to expect that his village will look after his family, a labor of love, that Jamal would have been thrilled to perform himself. He’s not here to do so; hence, I am willing to hook a brother up. I am fortunate to be able to do this, and I leave it up to you, as to whether or not you choose to join me in this public commitment to Kaiden. Are you interested in relentlessly pursuing an avenue, which best ensures that he will be attending the college of his choice, when he is ready for that avenue to open?
You must understand that this is not an assignment. I don’t issue assignments any more. I am publicizing my personal statement of commitment, merely to keep you abreast of my thought process. Since I have been doing this since July, on my blog, I figured I would just take it one additional step, and take it public in the parking lot in my community. I hope that others will hear my voice, consider all factors, and reach a conclusion that works for each individual, depending on level of commitment. I think everyone would agree, that beginning with lofty expectations, is expected.
I know our middle school staff had high expectations, for many of you reading this essay. And you fulfilled those expectations. You have been doing it all along. As I reconnect with countless old friends, I find you all over the world, and the accomplishments of you all dazzle me. I am referring both to those of you who have established new zeniths of educational acumen, but equally importantly to those of you at home, furnishing the kinds of environments, which exude warmth, family and support for community. I see so many references to academic enthusiasm, and I see it as an extension of the enthusiasm, I used to see, every day I taught, right inside my classroom. Do not let that get around.
My students exhibited enthusiasm in my classroom, and now they are doing so in their respective homes, creating a generation of kids who recognize the importance of education, and the need to create a fun and safe environment. Yes, we had high expectations for your performance, and you never let us down. That’s why I do not feel that I have to do anything else now, but casually mention, that I think we all owe Kaiden, big-time.
Roland returned, again appearing smooth and mellifluous, in his use of words, a dove attempting to intermediate between a couple of angry jackdaws. I admired Roland, because he thought I was wrong, but he didn’t get in my face [much], and his vehicle was calm, even gentle, and I was desperate for an out anyway, so I gave this diplomat my undivided attention. I am glad I did. When we finally doffed coats and hats, and squared off in the ring, we got down to it, without delay, using plain words, with a single objective: clarification. It went like this. I did not record it on a tape machine, because I thought to hit the “record” button in my head. It amounts to the same thing.
“So what is it that you want?” Roland asked, flatly, our discussion having finally reached the top of the staircase, with no more room for maneuvering.
“I want to be able to assure our community, that there is no additional agenda here, besides unprofessionalism.” Frankly, I did not view it as an unreasonable request.
“Well, what is it that you’re saying?” Now any notion of objectivity was gone, Roland’s features hardened into an implacable glare, his dove feathers ruffled, an unusual state of affairs for a dove.
“I am not saying anything. I am asking a clarifying question.” I kept my voice modulated. I have spent a lifetime emphasizing that almost inevitably, in a confrontation, the calmer of the two antagonists, is the one in control.
“Are you asking if racism is involved? Because if you are, you’re wrong. We were all friends of Jamal. Me, Jayma, Susan, everyone. Do you know that Lucy and Susan are good friends? That they are close? Did you know that?” His eyes drew my attention, blazing, focused on mine, his features registering revulsion at the suggestion of impropriety.
Now it was my turn to retort, rather sharply myself. “Dude, how could I? How would I be expected to know that?”
Defiance. “You said you were Lucy’s friend.” He left the thought dangling.
“Yes, when our kids schooled together up on the mountain, yes, when Lucy came into my class to discuss how hard it was for Josh to put those vocabulary words into an essay, and I listened. I listened because that’s what got paid the big bucks for, and because Lucy and I had worked together at Wellspring.” You better believe I listened. I listened when we had a nice series of discussions/conferences with the principle parties involved, when Jamal and a classmate, obviously flexing their seventh grade muscles, got onto hot water, for being a little lax, in their approach to appropriate conduct within the classroom. Excuse me. Chatty? Seventh graders? Jamal? You think?
So this is it. I didn’t see any defense mechanism kicking in, when I spoke with Roland. I saw righteous anger, I saw disgust for any conclusion other than an honest mistake, and I saw an earnest effort to resolve this conflict. I am not acquainted with him, other than my exchanges, on the blacktop, in front of the post office. Therefore, those of you who know all parties can evaluate things the way you deem best. I labeled Susan’s actions incompetent, based on the newspaper’s inability to simply present our language with proper punctuation and grammar, and I can’t be faulted for that. Why would she refuse to correct the eleven mistakes on the one page of information, that could serve as a gateway into our community?
But being inept, is still a human trait, that crops up upon occasion, and is not grounds for a federal case. Therefore, not anxious to be associated with the feds on any level, at this rocky juncture in time, I rest my case. After my case is rested, I am going to rest my knees. They’re acting up again, and I need to rest them because I will need them when I am attending Kaiden’s college graduation.