Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm Twenty-Six and Tired

I’m tired. Not in the faux-Bill Cosby “I’m 83 and tired” sense, but tired all the same. I’m tired of reading and hearing about the gay rights struggle, not because I don’t support care or don’t support it, I do, but because I still can’t understand why it’s a struggle. After twenty-six years, most of them, I think, spent fairly educated about the world around me, I still can’t understand why we, a supposedly civilized nation in the twenty-first century, are still debating over whether or not rights are actually rights: inalienable protections to be enjoyed by all people who are citizens of a particular country. Most of the arguments I’ve read, seen, and heard against gay rights, particularly gay marriage, are religion-based, which, considering the United States is not a theocratic state, seems preposterous to me. And I’ve read some interesting arguments based on religion, both for and against gay marriage. Those against it take a few verses from the Bible, mostly Old Testament and some Pauline epistles to specific groups of people struggle with specific issues during a specific period of history, and use them to argue why gay marriage should not be permitted in the United States. Interestingly enough, I’ve read several well written essays that use those same verses and argue against them, using those particular verses (those from Leviticus seem to be a favorite of writers) and argue how they should be viewed contextually, which requires research of the time period in which they were written, the social climates of the people to whom the writings were specifically addressed, as the academic naysayers whose points are used as starting points for academic and intellectual discussion. Most people, it seems, don’t want to take the time to conduct said research, instead blanketing all peoples of all time under the umbrella cast in a particular verse. A particular favorite of mine is the argument that claims that if we are going to ban gay marriage based on  a verse written to the Jews wandering in the wilderness because it appears in Leviticus, well, then, we may as well ban shrimp and lobster, because they are banned in the same book. And I especially like the meme that has appeared since the West Wing’s time on the air that shows Martin Sheen’s President addressing several of the obscure laws and orders in the Bible that we no longer follow: selling our daughters into slavery, killing a woman who is raped in the city but doesn’t cry out, and wearing clothing of mixed fibers, to say nothing of shaving or cutting our hair. Which is all interesting and good, I suppose, until we remember that we are, in fact, not a theocratic state, thus seemingly, one would think, negating the religious argument for banning same-sex marriage. But apparently I’m wrong.

I’m tired of war. The United States has been in war, is some form or fashion, with someone, in at least one country, since I was a freshman in high school; I finished my undergraduate degree three years ago. There are those who are against the wars, those who are for the wars, those who support the troops but not the wars, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is unlikely any side is going to change the views or mindset of any other side. When I was in college, I sat through what was supposed to be a polite, respectful, academic debate. I remember one student, a guy a couple years older than me with whom I had gone to high school, jumped up in the middle of the poli-sci class and yelled, directly at another student, “DO YOU WANT TO GO TO WAR?!” with a few expletives thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, that debate ended abruptly, and there went what should’ve been my first encounter with intelligent debate in an academic setting. It was a shame, too, because it would have prepared me for the debates that would follow the next term in my ethics course, all of which were peaceful and controlled, if lacking at times in an academic edge.

I’m tired of hip-hop, rap, and modern R&B. I’m not trying to be funny, and don’t get me wrong, I like some hip-hop (Childish Gambino is one of my favorite artists of the past few years, and I was elated when J5 got back together over the summer), but I’m tired of the way it has so permeated our culture. I’m an old soul; I have more records and/or CDs by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, and the Platters than I do have by anyone else (unless you count musical soundtracks, both Broadway and Off-Broadway). I’m not wishing hip-hop to go away, not by any means, as my father at the turn of the century suggested it would. I merely would like to see something else compete with it. I can’t listen to commercial radio (not that I really want to; I much prefer public radio) without hearing remarkably little other than hip-hop. Trying to watch the VMAs makes me feel as though I should be drawing a pension. Recently I bought my son a pack of short films, cartoons that were based on Despicable Me, Hop, and The Lorax, two of which involved musical numbers. Both of them were largely hip-hop-dance based. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect the Glenn Miller Orchestra to score modern cartoons, but I also don’t want to always feel as though Miley Cyrus could be twerking with the rabbit in my son’s short animations. Even Reese Puffs, by far my favorite cereal of all time, has a rap Mad Lib-like game on the back of the box. And I’m tired of missing four-part harmony in modern music, outside of southern gospel and Broadway. I’d give anything to see a resurgence in true doo-wop and barbershop quartets. Having said that, I’m all for using rap in the classroom as a means of teaching poetry—students connect with it—but can’t we maybe throw some James Taylor in there too?

I’m tired of reading about education changes. I’m tired of hearing about education reformers, and deformers, and all the other associated lingo with the debates going on inside of modern education. I’ve said several times that modern education is nothing like the education when I was in school, only ten short years ago. I’m tired of the Common Core Standards and the associated high-stakes tests that go with it, and I’m tired of the debate surrounding them, with some praising them while others willfully fight against them and criticize them. I’m tired of reading about how high-stakes tests are draining the morale of students and teachers alike, of how the idea of being college-and-career ready is explicitly linked to how well a student does on a standardized tests, and I’m tired of thinking that maybe things will change and education will return to what it once was: a system that allowed students to be creative and expressive while trusting that the teachers were the smartest people in the room, or at least the most educated, and likely knew what was going on and how things should be done. I’m tired of seeing art programs and recess cut in the name of more test prep, and I’m tired of seeing practice tests for the practice test for the real test. I’m tired of hearing that a student’s intellectual and academic worth are tied to the score he/she earns on a test that no teacher has seen but that is supposedly linked to standards that are, at times, rather vague and would likely be covered even were they not in place, at least by any teacher who knew what he/she was doing. I’m tired of schooling that suggests students need to know less and do more. When I was in school, I had to actually know something about William Shakespeare, Faulkner, Anne Tyler. I had to know about their lives and how their lives influenced their writing, and I had to critically analyze works based on my knowledge of the author’s life and how his/her life influenced the work. But such knowledge really has nothing to do with the Common Core, unless the student explicitly reads a biographical passage and has to answer multiple-choice questions about it. I’ve come to hope that I never have to compete with a recent graduate for a position that requires little more than filling in Scan-tron bubbles with little creative thinking, for surely that will be a position I will lose. And I’m tired of thinking things won’t change, no matter how many people actively and passively fight for change, and I’m tired of being so pessimistic and tired.

I’m tired of holidays bleeding together. Part of me likes that I can get pumpkin cookies in August and Christmas tree cakes for Halloween, but the majority of me wishes each holiday was displayed, commercialized, and celebrated in its time. It annoys me when I can buy a Halloween costume and back to school supplies at the same time. I’m tired of seeing Halloween decorations at Hobby Lobby in July, of seeing Christmas trees (or holiday trees—whatever you want to call them) alongside Frankenstein’s monster costumes for those awkward few weeks when both holidays inhabit the same section of stores, merely an aisle apart. Never mind Thanksgiving, which seems to get lost in the mix, not just because it comes between the two. There’s a two week run of turkey sales, and all the while, the stores are telling you to stock up for Christmas while you’re at it.

And I’m tired of waiting for others to do good when I should, thinking that others will pick up the slack and be the change I want to see in the world. Just recently, Holden and I passed what appeared to be a grandmother in a wheelchair, holding a small baby in her arms; they both were being pushed by a girl no older than nine or ten. They were nearing the highway, though we soon passed them, so I have no idea where they were going or where they would wind up. My first inclination was to pull over and offer assistance, to offer them a ride to wherever it was they were going. My split second debate with myself led to my driving past them, watching in my rearview mirror, hoping and praying they weren’t headed for the highway as I feared. I managed to convince myself that surely the grandmother knew what they were doing, had perhaps even done it before; it was a common practice, I thought to myself, as absurd as I knew this was. I convinced myself that someone else would pick them up, for after all, what good could I do? I had only one car seat, devoted to Holden, so there would be nowhere for the child or the baby to sit safely. I considered calling the police, the highway patrol, to alert them of the potentially dangerous situation, but I convinced myself that I was overreacting, something at which I have had a lifetime of practice, so I did nothing, just continued to drive home, though as I sit here writing this, I can’t help but wonder if that small family is okay. I’m afraid to watch the news for fear of hearing that some travesty has befallen them, when perhaps it could have been avoided had I been the kind stranger I was convinced someone else would be. And this is but an example of the times I’ve regretted not going out of my way to help a stranger, a person who seems to need help in a particular moment, thinking that someone else will do it, and then wondering if anyone actually did.

I’m twenty-six and tired. And I’m tired of much more than what I’ve written, but for now, I’m tired of thinking about how tired I truly am. So there may be a part two…

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