About fifteen years ago, I was the president of our local teachers union. We were on strike. It was not fun. But the most not-fun part about it was the number of people-- many strangers, but also friends and neighbors and even former students-- went out of their way to call me or look me in my eye and tell me just how little they value the work that I do, just how much they don't care about the school and the people who work in it.
It's not like any of it was news to me. But it's one thing to kind of know, somewhere in the background, that your work is not valued, that you are not valued. It's another to look that dark straight in the face.
I've thought about that in the last few days, along with my thoughts of the young people across Florida and the rest of the country. I think, for instance, of this picture:
That's a photo of some students watching the Florida legislature send a clear message, and the message was, "Your friends and classmates are dead, and while you may want that death to mean something, thereby giving their too-short lives some meaning and value, we reject all of it. We don't care. You don't matter. Your dead friends don't matter. We aren't even going to talk about it." They could, however, consider a bill that dealt with the evils of pornography. One GOP lawmaker noted
a connection between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, forming and maintaining intimate relationships and deviant sexual behavior
No word if any Florida legislators had discovered any connection between mental illness and holding a weapon of war while shooting a bunch of innocent civilians.
This goes beyond the mockery of an ass like Dinesh D'Souza or Ben Shapiro, who apparently believes that only he was given the gift of wisdom at age 17. This is beyond the attacks by the morons who claim this is all an act, that these grieving teens are crisis actors (as if that's even a thing in the first place).
It was more closely expressed by the poster on social media who stated bluntly, "My right to own a gun matters more to me than your dead child." Except that, of course, what's pouring out right now is being addressed directly to the children themselves. If it were, it would come out more directly in something like, "Some day someone may decide to shoot you dead, and I don't care. You can go die, as long as I get to keep my guns."
In many ways, there is no news here. Not in Florida, where the legislature has also been busy gutting public education some more so that private operators can have a better shot at making money by operating education-flavored businesses (while giving a boost to car sales-- I'm not kidding). Florida's legislator has shown in so many many many many many many ways that there is such a very long list of things that they care about more than they care about the education, health and well-being of children. Remaining unmoved and unconcerned about the actual deaths of those children is not a huge leap, or even a big step.
This has not been about, "We share your concerns, even as we have different ideas about how to best address them." This has been "Your blood might be the cost of freedom, and we're okay with that."
This is my biggest worry for these students-- that being forced to confront how little they matter in the political calculus of their elected leaders will be too hard to bear. But this is where we are-- our students face an unthinkable trauma, a horror that most of us can't even imagine, and as they stand up and cry out in their grief, a sizable slice of our state and national leaders belittle them as fakers and dupes, and another sizable slice looks at their grief and says, "You just aren't all that important to us."