Monday, March 30, 2015

What We Can Say--Letter #27

Dear Governor Ducey,

There’s new legislation in the state house to outlaw superintendents, principals, and teachers from protesting cuts to public education.
I don’t want to sound paranoid. Or be paranoid. Or get all riled up when I know it can’t really be true. I don’t want to use the word “totalitarianism” when I think of Arizona, which was, once, at least Libertarian and the right to “say what you want” as well as the right to “shoot what you want” were equally protected. I don’t want to use the word “fascism” to understand how corporate interests paid for your campaign and now you’re paying them back by diverting money from schools to corporate prisons. I don’t want to use the word “double-speak” when I think of how you want to protect individual rights by making sure no city can pass a law promoting public good, like the bill recently passed to prohibit cities from prohibiting plastic bags because individuals are sacrosanct—or at least individuals who want to use plastic bags’ rights are sacrosanct but not those of the teachers whose lives are devoted to teaching our kids and who do more and more with less and less and now do not have the right to say, “please stop.” I don’t want to use the word “big brother” because it’s histrionic. Certainly no one is reading these letters. Certainly you are not. Unless you are and they irritate you. You would like to make these letters illegal like any regime who doesn’t want to lose  (they always lose, eventually, you notice) makes the voices of protest illegal.

I got in trouble, once, writing a short essay about someone I knew. I revealed too much about her story and it was her story and I felt bad so I asked the people who published it to remove it and I took it out of my list of publications. Still, I left it in my book. I changed the names and some of the details because the point of the essay was still true, even if I should have better protected the identity of the person who was the point. The point was, you can have a friend who has cancer and she can go to Mexico for alternative treatments and the doctors in Mexico can sic bees upon the cancer in her breast but the friend will die anyway because that’s how the story goes. But they couldn’t make the woman I wrote the story about be quiet. She willed her friend to stay home. She called her friend in Mexico every day. She told the woman who died’s husband she was so sorry and she told the woman who died’s children she was so sorry. And she told me this story, and she was sorry she did, but she shouldn’t have been because the point of the story is a good one: Each story we tell accumulates. You would like to shutter your ears against the noise. You think behind the big wall of corporate money, your compound would be soundproof. But each bee makes its buzz.  Each story has some weight. We are a state of sand. Each one doesn’t seem like much but if you add them up, the sand gets heavy. “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”  Robert W. Service said. Each letter is a grain of sand in your shoe. Each voice a grain. Each protest a grain. And you can try to make it illegal. Some might even lose their jobs if they keep talking, if things are as bad as the words I don’t want to use are in fact descriptive of the situation. But the letters will sneak in. The voices will infiltrate. I can imagine it. The grain of sand. It rubs against your heel. You stop to shake your sock out but the sand is really stuck in there. It starts to make a red spot as you climb the mountain of progress and work to tear it down. You stop again. Itch your foot. Eventually, the blister is a raw, open wound. You have to stop. You have to sit down. You have to take your shoe off. The foot is bad and you need two feet to take down the whole mountain. It takes awhile for the sand to take effect but all I see is your foot, naked and irritated, exposed to the cold, mountain air.

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