Just so we’re clear, I don’t actually believe that’s true. It’s just fitting considering I am teaching The Great Gatsby right now.
Value is so multifaceted, and even in my own definition, I can’t quite hold its place with one particular meaning. There is the intrinsic value I place on objects of significance, the things I own, and the things I make. Then there is the value that I place on my heart, my life, my thoughts, and my abilities. Regardless of it’s denotative meaning, value is something created, but never destroyed.
I value the people in my life, and though they come and go, for a short period of time, they taught me small fragments of what it means to be alive and happy in this world. The value given to those who enter my life is something that cannot be seen, but it is something more powerful than any possession I own. The people in my life are the reason I live, despite the fallouts, the fights, and the disappointments; they give me everything.
The people in my life come and go, and I will spend the entirety of my life working to show appreciation to those who place themselves in my path. However, I will not be a liar and claim that my only value is the people that come into my life, but I value myself as a human being. I hold a place in my heart so deep that demands that I value myself as much as I value another person. While I am not inferior nor superior to anyone, I am equal.
I am a sentimental hoarder. I keep letters, cards, ticket stubs, and plane tickets in a box for myself and my love. These are things that I hold near and dear to my heart because with each of those items, a little of myself is with them, and a little piece of our love is on each and every item. They may just be trinkets and tiny senseless things, but the value they hold is nothing less than priceless. I value the things that represent the people in my life, for they are the most important.
Of all the things to be valued in this world, I could not ask for a better experience. Giving value to something isn’t quantitative, it’s qualitative.
Here’s the deal, I normally don’t post things that will spark a revolution, an uprising, or a speck of civil disobedience, but today I have so many things on my mind about our current world that I can’t help but get it out into the world. I don’t want to be controversial, I don’t want to offend anyone-although, it’s hard not to offend anyone these days-and I don’t want to put a shade on some of the obvious injustices that have been brought to media attention within the last few years. With that said, I think it is important to realize that the amount of individualism we accept in this society isn’t nearly as broad as we pretend it to be. Because of the suppression of individuality, we have been forced to create an illusion of controlled and socially acceptable tolerance of one another.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote a transcendental piece called Civil Disobedience, and if you have ever read “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison, the combined works are used to create a peacefully beautiful reality of our society then and now with the idea that all it takes is a single being to stand against the machine, but a person acting alone will only get so far; Thoreau writes,
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others- as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders- serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few- as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men- serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.
As Thoreau states, those who are created in this world are created to become the machines of those who create it. That those in the middle class that serve the state serve the state, but are treated as animals. He implies that the legislators, our politicians, and others in authority have the intention of enforcing the good, but only enforce that of which will elevate them. On the contrary to those who act to serve, there are those who act to maintain the humanity we have left, and those men and women become martyrs to their task, and become enemies to the state’s agenda.
The state’s agenda, though debatable of it’s purpose, is said through policies and a corrupt legal system. A system that works to oppress minorities and those with fewer opportunities in life. While I have my own personal beliefs on the matter, research and statistics demonstrate startling facts that should not be, but are seeming ignored by the masses in administration.
While I do believe in Black Lives Matter, I also believe in All Lives Matter. I believe black lives matter, I believe Chinese lives matter, I believe Mexican lives matter and etc. But I also believe that my life matters. I am a white female, and I understand that I haven’t been wronged by a corrupt justice system, but what I also noticed is that as an educator, it is not my job to teach children that one life matters over another because all lives do matter. It is also not my job to teach my students that achievement comes in the form of oppressing your oppressor. That mentality makes you no better than them.
While I do believe it is in our inquisitive human nature to find answers, I also know that in order to ease chaos and find those answers we resort to categorization. Our drive to find logic and order to life is dissolved with our efforts as we put others into categories and further ostracize those who are no different from us in humanness.
It is my job to teach children to put down the label and see another person as their equal regardless of skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, religious dogma’s, and ethnic backgrounds.
We live behind a screen called a label. But if we take down the screen, we don’t see a label, we see a human being. We are all part of one race. Racism and prejudice isn’t innate, it’s taught. While I can’t speak for our forefathers, I can speak for myself. We need to stop teaching tolerance and this idea that we should “accept” others. The word accept implies that we are still acknowledging the things we shouldn’t even be taught to see. I believe a better word for this is embrace. We should embrace each other and learn from one another as a community.
For those of you a part of the movement Black Lives Matter, I believe your intent is clear. You deserve equality not just in the justice system, but you also deserve to know that not everyone is like those you stand against. And I believe you know that. As an educator I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do claim to be trying my hardest to do right by the young minds that come into my room by teaching them to learn from one another and support each other.
Things will never be achieved behind a screen of labels. Put the screen down and see each other and embrace your similarities and differences.