How Taking Action Heals

Full disclosure from the start… I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. To be completely honest, I lean to the liberal side of the spectrum and probably wouldn’t have voted for any Republican candidate in the Presidential election.

What has horrified me in the days after the election is the behavior of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. While I find Donald Trump to be a detestable human being (or a “Turd Tornado” as he has been labeled in my house) I respect the process of American democracy. It’s not perfect (40% of the Presidential elections since 2000 have resulted in the person with the second most votes winning the White House) but it is the system we’ve had for 228 years.

But watching the news, I’ve been upset by anti-Trump Americans protesting in a not-so-peaceful way in American cities, and disgusted by the number of hate crimes that have been reported in the past 72 hours. It pains me to know that my Muslim, Mexican, and LGBTQ students feel like they have a target on them. It disgusts me to hear about students at other schools marching the halls with Trump signs screaming “Sieg Heil!” and “White Power!”

While I haven’t witnessed anything of the sort in my junior high, I am not naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen. Children mimic what they see, and if they see hate and disrespect at home, on TV, or from their favorite political candidate, it’s not a leap to suggest that they might copy that action.

Today is Veterans Day (or Veterans’ Day or Veteran’s Day). My school district has held classes on Veterans Day for the past ten or so years, and my school has celebrated the holiday with an all school assembly honoring veterans. In the past, it was one teacher putting it together – and she did a great job. This year, our 8th grade social science classes took the lead, and well, they did not disappoint.

The chorus, band, and orchestra all played patriotic songs. Two veterans, one a teacher at our school, spoke about their experiences (one served in the Korean War and the teacher in the Navy during Desert Storm). But students ran the show. They introduced the speakers, transitioned the assembly, and explained what we, as a school community, can do to honor veterans.

Each student was given a sticker this morning with a handwritten name on it. The name was a soldier from Illinois who didn’t return from the Vietnam War. Eighth grade students wrote out these stickers and asked us to think about that person today – nearly 1000 men and women being honored for their service and sacrifice.

The eighth graders sold “Buddy Poppies” to raise money for our local VFW and allowed students to wear hats for a $1 donation to another charity for veterans. They introduced students to the “22 Kill”pushup challenge that raises awareness of the average of 22 veterans who commit suicide each day. They created their own memorial outside. They collected supplies for active duty troops.

It was an amazing example of students TAKING ACTION. And in a week that saw so much divisiveness, anger, and fear, the half hour we spent together in the gym reminded us of what is RIGHT about our country and gives me optimism that we CAN come together again.

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