In Light of Trump Presidency, A Student Asks if I Plan to Change My Socialist Teaching Agenda

Liz,

Are you going to change your socialist teaching agenda now that yours, and 99% of professors, have failed to convert students into sheep with Trump being our 45th president? #MAGA 

Dear Friend,

Sometimes questions pose genuine inquiries, and other times questions are actually thinly veiled comments. And other times, when a question is more of a comment, delivered with an undercurrent of hostility, it suggests to me that either the questioner has not integrated a particular position or practice with their core being—there is cognitive dissonance—or that there is a great deal of pain, pain which may or may not have anything to do with the actual question being asked.  I will take your question at face value, though first I will take a moment to self-define what I teach, rather than rely on your interpretation.

I do have an agenda when I teach, no matter the course, though it has never been referred to as a “socialist teaching agenda.” It is as follows:

  1. Deliver the content of the course, as outlined in the syllabus, in a thorough, engaging, thought provoking manner.
  2. Because my courses involve the study of ethical theory, oppression, politics, justice…I aim to help my students understand the dominance ideologies that inform our community/country/globe, and the systems that perpetuate those ideologies. I invite students to make the connection between dominance ideologies and the natural tendency of those ideologies to play out in violence against the group being oppressed by the ideology. For example:
    • Patriarchy, the idea that men and all things “masculine” are superior to women and all things “feminine,” perpetuated by the system of sexism, resulting in an epidemic of physical and sexual violence against women, and a culture that comes to tolerate it (consider rape culture).
    • White Supremacy, the idea that white people and their culture are superior to people of color and their culture, perpetuated by the system of racism, resulting in a culture of violence against people of color (Consider our nation’s history of terror lynching that followed “emancipation” in the South—nearly 4,000 lynchings over a seventy year period—that’s one-plus lynching per week, a history ignored (Equal Justice Initiative). Or consider the fact that there is even a need for a Black Lives Matter [too] movement).
    • Heterosexism, the belief that heterosexuals are superior to those who do not identify as such—and the denial of their civil rights and liberties, not to mention the psychological and physical violence brought upon the non-heterosexual community.
    • Unbridled/Corporate Global Capitalism, whose aim is a gross materialism: more/me/now…at the expense of the poor, children, and the environment.
  3. And finally, I experience each of my students as individuals whose true, authentic Self longs for the Good…which always leads to a reach for the well-being of all. I believe in nurturing the student—her confidence and his most honest sense of his true Self.

That is my agenda. Is it a socialist agenda? Let’s consider what socialism is (I’ll keep it simple):

  • Capitalism and socialism are somewhat opposing schools of thought in economics. The central arguments in the socialism vs. capitalism debate are about economic equality and the role of government. Socialists believe economic inequality is bad for society, and the government is responsible for reducing it via programs that benefit the poor (e.g., free public education, free or subsidized healthcare, social security for the elderly, higher taxes on the rich). On the other hand, capitalists believe that the government does not use economic resources as efficiently as private enterprises do, and therefore society is better off with the free market determining economic winners and losers (www.diffen.com).

 

Truth be told, I am not very savvy when it comes to economics. I have a basic understanding like most folks, and it is fair to say that my conscience, my heart, my faith, and my intuition informs much of my response to economic policy.  Having said that, I don’t feel comfortable identifying as a socialist, or even a capitalist for that matter.  I do believe in social justice, and I do believe that access to certain opportunities in our community should be equally accessible to all.

For example: our public education system is informed by a socialist model.  While there are privately owned schools, as a community, we have decided that all children have a basic fundamental right to access education—it is good for the individual, and in turn good for society.  I support this, and I imagine if you went to public school, you and your family support this socialist institution as well.

On to health care—like education, I do believe that all individuals in our community (our very wealthy, privileged, community) have a basic fundamental right to access health care. President Obama believes this, Bernie Sanders believes this, and Hillary Clinton believes this.  Are we all socialists for believing this?  No, not necessarily.  We simply advocate for health care to be socialized, just like public education.

When it comes to critiquing unbridled, global corporate capitalism, I don’t think I’m alone—in fact, I’m in good company. Pope Francis called us to task, as do environmentalists and economists and feminists and child advocates.  Bernie Sanders did as well, and I like Bernie Sanders, and he has been labeled “socialist,”  so does that make me one?  I don’t know, but if it does, it that a good thing or a bad thing?

When you referred to me and the other 99% of the professors (at Keene State College I presume) as Socialists, it was as if you were hurling an insult, much in the same way that women who resist male dominance are called “lesbian” or a person who works on behalf of civil rights is called “a liberal.”  You seem to take a neutral term and transform it into a demeaning one—why?

Now on to your enthusiasm for Donald Trump:

1.   I regularly work with girls and women who have been victims of sexual assault. Given you have taken one of my classes, you likely realize that approximately 5 or 6 out of every 10 girls/women has been a victim of sexual assault, and the usual course of action is that the girl/woman does not report. This is because:

  • She knows no one will believe her.
  • She isn’t even sure if what happened to her was a crime, because our culture doesn’t regard a woman’s body as all her own, and she has internalized that.
  • Even if she knows it was assault, she knows she will be held responsible for “inviting” the assault. She has blamed herself for what happened, leaving her humiliated.
  • She can’t bear the pain of talking about it over and over and over again.
  • She has enough to do to get on with her life and forget it ever happened.
  • She is too ashamed to speak

In my opinion, if you cast your vote for Donald Trump, you cast your vote for a sexual predator, and you became part of the problem, not the solution, re: the perpetuation of and the tolerance of violence against girls and women.


Under Trump, rape culture will persist, and the “boys will be boys” mantra will further intimidate girls and women into tolerating any and all forms of micro sexual aggressions.


2.  I have always been conscious of racial justice—I was fortunate to grow up in a family that aimed to practice social justice as informed by the gospels. I am now a mother, and one of my children is African American, so you can imagine that I am even more acutely aware of racist language, practice, as well as the denial of the White Supremacy that informs our nation.

In my opinion, if you cast a vote for Donald Trump, you cast your vote for a racist, and you became part of the problem, not the solution, re: racist practice.

Racists will feel emboldened under Trump—about their right to their privilege—about their right to occupy the center—about their entitlement.

3.  Because I attended law school, I had the opportunity to study the US Constitution extensively, and I am comfortable stating that I have a comprehensive understanding of the supreme law of our land. Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not, evidenced by endless remarks on the campaign trail: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/08/2016-donald-trump-constitution-guide-unconstitutional-freedom-liberty-khan-214139

In my opinion, if you cast a vote for Donald Trump, you are either indifferent to the US Constitution, or lack a genuine understanding of the Constitution, and such reckless disregard is terribly problematic when it comes to advancing and protecting liberty and justice for all, the bedrock, the heart, of a “great America.”

Consider the Second Amendment, which gives citizens the right to bear arms. This is an explicit right, one that should be protected.

But Trump and the NRA and its devotees’ all-consuming obsession with Second Amendment pieties is actually thinly veiled patriarchal aggression masking feelings of emasculation, and has little to do with genuinely wishing to have a means to prevent tyranny (oh the irony…).

4.  Donald Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, has been an advocate of “conversion therapy,” a therapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation from gay to “straight.” Conversion therapy is rooted is religious aversion to homosexuality, and is banned in a number of states. Worst of all, nothing could be more shaming, more psychologically damaging, than saying to a young person “you are not good enough as you are—you are flawed at the most personal and private core of your being.”

In my opinion, if you cast a vote for Donald Trump, you simultaneously cast your vote in favor of an ignorance and prejudice so great you put at risk the very lives of young people and others who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity. The President sets the tone…

This is not Christian, and it is terribly un-American.

I could go on, but I will not. I would, however, like to make sure I responded to your question:

I will continue teaching just as I taught you, relying on my teaching agenda as outlined in this response.

And let me add: The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States broke my heart.  I’m actually in pain over the turn our country took on November 8, 2016, and part of that pain centers on young people like you.  You have inherited a country that worships materialism and individualism.  When we worship the superficial, eventually we lose our clear sight, and the lens through which we come to view the world is a lens of fear and anger (anger is another word for pain) and we’ll sacrifice our soul to that fear.

Trump’s Presidency is proof that the United States of America is spiritually impoverished—not religiously impoverished, as there is plenty of dogma—but spiritually poor, and more money in the pocket will never, ever, remedy that poverty.    

You voted for Trump, which means we have at least one thing in common:  we are both fed up with establishment politics, and I am imagine we both care about the family facing profound economic strain, despite working so hard.  But it seems we part ways when it comes to envisioning community.  I want to live in a community that is consciously, actively, and in a “heart-informed” way striving for liberty and justice for all.  In my world view, we prosper in the deepest sense of the word when the “family” equally considers the well-being of all its “members.” The touchpoint for policy must be collective justice, not individual prosperity, and in a country that identifies as Christian, I am baffled that what I just wrote might be deemed foolish.

I also believe that if you consulted with the inner gingerbread person I referenced in class, you would find that you and I share the same world view as well—in fact, I believe if Donald Trump re-tethered himself to his inner gingerbread person, he’d be a great leader.

You ended your note to me with #MAGA: Make American Great Again, which implies:

  1. There was a time when America was great, and
  2. We need to go back to that time.

Being a teacher, I’d like to leave you with several questions:

  1. At what time in history was America great?
  2. What made it great?
  3. Was it great for everybody?
  4. How will you use your degree from Keene State College to contribute to the greatness of our country?

I genuinely wish you the very best.

Love, Liz

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