My sixth graders have recently come up with a game. Before class begins, they hide just inside our classroom while I wait outside the door greeting each student as he or she walks in. While I’m doing this, the students inside the room jump out and yell, “Boo!” And then they laugh uproariously when I turn around slowly with my eyebrows raised, completely unfazed.
What my sixth graders don’t realize, among other things, is that part of teaching middle school means constantly being prepared for anything and taking it all in stride even when you aren’t.
The first time this happened, the kids asked in awe, “How are you not scared?”
I replied simply, “I’m not afraid of anything.”
They were stunned. One student spent two days listing off different events or activities that might scare me (i.e. a tarantula in my bedroom, climbing a mountain, skydiving) and consistently expressed surprise when I disagreed that each would be scary. While a tarantula in my bedroom might be uncomfortable and concerning and skydiving might be nerve-wracking and exhilarating, neither strike me as remotely scary.
“Things” don’t scare me. They never have.
Truth be told, however, I am more afraid now than I ever remember being.
With Donald Trump as the President-elect, there’s a lot to be afraid of.
And I am.
I am a woman, a naturalized US citizen (and I vividly remember the anxiety in our house when we applied for and received our Green Cards), and a religious minority. The vast majority Trump’s rhetoric and early policy proposals hit right where it hurts.
I have been inappropriately touched, spoken to, and spoken about on the subway. More than once. More than twice.
I have seen swastikas spraypainted on more than a few buildings.
My status as a person has plummeted and I no longer feel safe when I go running after dark.
I care deeply about the well-being of all people all over the world and of the health of the planet itself, so just about everything else Trump says is also cause for concern. My heart goes out to everyone who is a victim of the hatred caused by fear, which is a constantly increasing number. America promised to stand for the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and I will. I purposely smile every time I see a women in a hijab and men holding hands on the street.
I am afraid of the rhetoric that half this country has deemed acceptable.
In short, everything about the recent US presidential election scares me.
And I need to keep bringing it up because I refuse to sit by and wait for history to repeat itself. We know what happens when fear gets the better of us. We fought World War II already. An estimated 50 million to 80 million people died.
These are irrelevant compared to the much more significant discussion above, but I’m going to include them anyway. If my fears about the political state of this country and the world are enough for you, stop reading here. (No hard feelings! Come back soon!)
Otherwise, here we go:
I’m afraid of being alone forever. I’m afraid of never being able to express my love for others with the depth, intensity, and care that I desperately want to. I’m afraid no one will love me enough to keep me.
I’m afraid of not making a difference in this world. I’m afraid of not making it better.
My sixth graders ask, “How are you not scared?”
Bu my sixth graders don’t need to know. They are already far more attuned to racism, sexism, violence, xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-LGBT sentiment, discrimination, prejudice, and other issues than I was at their age. They live in a world dominated by fear, and this is where that fear has brought us.
Afraid? Very much so.
Giving up? Not on your life.
Now more than ever, I am committed to understanding the concerns of those around me. As I do so, I will continue working to build a world that is truly sustainable, better, and more peaceful for all who call it home.
Please join me.
Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom. – Bertrand Russell