My last day as a public school music educator was not a celebration.
Although much anticipated, many times over the years, when the day came I was only aware of a couple, key feelings: exhaustion – and, readiness.
In the years one would have called my prime, I would arrive every morning in full, theatrical costume. Every class was its own creation, my body frequently the illustrated lesson. My students and I were perfectly attuned; discipline was a non-issue. If I didn’t have every child, mouth agape, in the palm of my hand, I wasn’t doing my job.
Time cloaked me. Over the years, the scene changed; once too often my perceived role was marginalized. My dear father, well into his ninth decade, moved in to be under my care. Well past my own half century mark, I found myself counting the months, and then the weeks. The Land of Diminishing Returns had worn me out.
Taken in totality, my contribution to public related arts education had hardly been scant or sparse. Ten fully staged extra-curricular drama productions; 250 beginning violinists, en masse, across several grade levels; instrumental ensembles of every conceivable permutation; competitive marching band; adjudicated concert choir and choruses; general/vocal music, K-8; mixed elementary chorus; focused curriculum for the hearing support. But, 25 years was a good, solid run; on June 9, 2011, I was done.
Today, Jared Kushner was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on GPS. As President Trump’s senior advisor, he outlined the litany of accomplishments achieved by his father in law’s administration. Seven million new jobs. Trade deals, unprecedented. The dollar, strong. The endless war between Israel and Palestine reaching an also unprecedented mutually satisfying potential for resolution.
What makes related arts teachers distinct from the rest of their colleagues is the sheer measurability of their efforts. Everything they do with their students is readily observable by anyone. Art teachers produce student work which lines the walls of the school; music teachers create and direct performances open to everyone connected with the district. Their product is the direct result of their daily effort.
But, any teacher working past his/her point of positive affect becomes a liability. Good intentions are overtaken by fatigue; good judgment loses its edge. Children, ever intuitive, begin to resist them; administrators try to find ways to move them out of the building.
Given the past two years of the present Presidential administration, the glaring allegations, the deceit, the endless self-contradictions, the blatant lies, and the swarm of negative emotion generated, a great divide is now fixed among the American people. A clear half of the population of citizens wants nothing whatsoever to do with this President. Far beyond mere political ideology, the man himself is openly reviled. There is palpable hatred afoot, across wide swaths of the nation – hatred, for the President of the United States, by just under a majority of his people.
The recent impeachment trial has left half of America emboldened, and the other half utterly slain. People can hardly look each other in the eye, fearfully wondering what is in the mind and heart of another. The climate, the prevailing mood is one of enmity. Were we at the mercy of the horse drawn carriage and musket, very little would restrain man from taking arms against man, woman against woman, child against child. All of this, over the person of the President of the United States.
Perhaps, instead of charging ahead like some Roman conqueror, President Trump should stop. It might be time for him to pull the lens back, expand to panorama, and take a candid look at the America his presence has created in the minds of its people. If he cannot do that, either because he is unable or unwilling, then he negates the very lives of those who are repulsed by him. He expresses virtual ethnic cleansing, reducing half of the population to zero value.
If he were not to stop, preferring instead to lead his faction into a future fraught by his own amoral, craven appetite for supremacy, the rift between himself , his following, and the rest of the nation would only grow wider. He would, by remaining in office, entrench the divide between the two Americas – perhaps beyond repair. In the face of and in spite of economic prosperity, he would single handedly destroy the soul and spirit of the entire country.
President Trump, don’t make us wait until November. Collect your laurels; accept your prize. Take your once in a lifetime lucky strike, and put it on the shelf with the rest of your shrine to self.
It’s well past time. Time for you to go.
© 2/2/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Please respect the rights of those who produce original material. Do not copy, reconstitute, extract, or otherwise dismantle and distribute this piece without express, written permission of its author. Thank you.