November 3, 2020
Four years ago I didn’t have a pussy hat. It wasn’t a thing I would have imagined so many women wearing. I know lots of people who thought my little group of friends in college were disgusting girls for wearing tampon costumes on Halloween. We just thought it was hilarious and provocative. But then shock humor comes naturally to me.
Four years ago I was worried that someone whose rhetoric smacked of so many things we’ve learned throughout history eventually results in genocide might become our next president, but I still assumed that our systems would work. And I still believed that more people cared about each other as much as they cared about only themselves.
Four years ago I talked to people who worked in the Colorado public school system every day. Kids were getting hurt in the school systems for sure. Especially the kids I look out for. The hard truth is that they always have. But something shifted in people four years ago and it was obvious to me within days after the last election.
I have worked with public school system administrators to resolve conflict for many years and I had only met a few who raised the hair on the back of my neck. One who was purely politically minded and offered to get me a job as a school district superintendent even though I had absolutely no experience or interest. (Um, what?!!!). And one who spoke disgustingly of a kid who clearly needed accommodations and wasn’t getting them. (That’s just wrong. Time to find a new field.)
Four years ago red flags became a huge wave in my line of work. I could feel the energy shift in our environment the morning after the election on my way into my government office. The darkness and gloom on the streets was visceral. I could sense the fear all around me all the time for the first time I could recall since September 11, 2001. I didn’t even have to talk to anyone to feel the fear all around me.
But my first actual red flag came less than a week after the election when people I actually knew began showing their true colors. I was talking to a school district administrator when the first red flag came up in my job. I’m an attorney working as a mediator and a special education policy expert and complaints investigator. This administrator was someone I had worked with as I investigated discrimination cases in their school district for several years. I knew them to be funny, charming, and I thought compassionate. I was either very wrong or something had changed. All I know is a regular friendly and professional conversation turned into what sounded to me like a school district witch hunt against a kid’s mother. She wasn’t doing anything but her job. It’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their children’s right to a public education. It is the law.
My 18 year old is a natural born linguist. When Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away and everyone was saying her name it got him to thinking. He was thinking about what the word ruth meant. He said everyone knew what ruthless meant. (We sure do.) But what did the word ruth mean?
On Merriam-Webster.com the definition of ruth is: compassion for the misery of another OR sorry for one’s own faults: REMORSE.
We have lost our course as a nation, people. We have lost our ruth.
Find your remorse. Find your compassion. Show your true colors as if you are not afraid. Show that you care about someone besides yourself and your small circle of people who are the same as you. That’s my best advice.