I live in Mendocino County in Northern California; aka Bernie Sanders’ Country. In June, Sanders’ garnered 66% of the vote in the California primaries and there is still a significant “Feel the Bern” impact that is felt around Ukiah.
This means that the Trump Presidency is basically the end of the world.
The day after the election was not fun from many different angles. As a government teacher my job is to remain neutral while teaching the inner workings of the American democratic system. I had to do this while actively loathing the idiot that managed to win the 2016 presidential election. I managed to do it pretty well. Not all teachers did. Apparently some teachers broke down in class, made passionate pleas for resistance, criticized Trump supporters, and created a very detailed picture of the impending American Holocaust. Besides being wildly unethical it was incredibly unhelpful. I spent much of November 9th talking students off the narrative that tomorrow all Latinos were going to be deported, all gays/lesbians/transgendered students were going to lose their civil liberties, and that Christian NAZIs were going to roam the streets hunting people that weren’t ideology pure. Trump’s rhetoric was primary driver of the fear but the opposition to Trump has done a masterful job of manipulating that rhetoric into sheer terror.
Fast forward to Inauguration Day. The anxiety is still there but the response to issues has changed a bit. Yesterday some students were protesting in San Francisco but most were in class where I did my duty as a government teacher and showed every class the swearing in of the President of the United States and his inauguration speech, something I’ve done since 2005. While it seems that the Inauguration has been something of a controversy in other schools around the country, it didn’t create any administrative pressure in Ukiah. One of the vice-principals even sat in the live version of the speech. We had a conversation about the speech while witnessing the reaction from students within my classroom, which was fairly muted for the most part. Classes engaged in writing and reflection and the students responses were fairly standard from a generation that hasn’t witnessed many inauguration speeches; most thought it was focused on the people, most saw the speech as aggressive, and most hoped that Donald Trump would actually make the perceived economic conditions better in the future. Many students that didn’t like him before weren’t at all swayed by the speech and some students were so angry at the new President that they actually left the classroom and returned when the speech had ended.
All in all it was a rather exhausting day.
Apparently I also gave up my political opinion during the morning because a colleague told me that a student witnessed me holding the bridge of my nose while shaking my head during the live speech. This is likely because I felt the speech was terrible. It was a nationalistic diatribe that detailed “American Carnage” and a dystopian vision of a country that has been bought into by both Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters. While Sanders troops see a country full of misogynistic, racist, white supremacists; Trump troops see a country full of drugs, gangs, and blighted inner cities that are one step away from Escape from L.A. The speech was nowhere close to unifying, instead it was laser focused on Red states while slowly drawing in the margin by mentioning factory jobs that people in their 50s will never see again. There was no sense of hope from my sphere at all.
But the education continues. I will continue to educate that 300 years of democratic political culture doesn’t end with one man. I will continue to educate that much of the hysteria perpetrated by Trump’s opposition is almost as false as many of Trump’s own misrepresented narratives. I will continue to educated that most politics is local and that change occurs when differing opinions stop talking, listen to each other, and take the time to compromise.