I stood in my classroom on Monday morning, worn out from awaiting President Barack Obama’s announcement, waiting for the Pledge of Allegiance. Growing impatient with the pledge, I began to twirl the chalk in my hand while my students also reluctantly stood there. Anxious about next week’s math test, I scribbled the Objective and Do Now on the board when a student looked at me in her bubbly naivete and asked, “Mr. Vilson, what happened yesterday?”
“Not sure what you mean.”
“Well, like, something happened last night with something, like, really big.”
“You mean, Osama bin Laden?”
“Yeah, something like that. What was the big deal?”
I had to forgive her immediately. When the really big deal happened, she was only 3-4 years old, still piecing together the world presented to her. She couldn’t understand how tons of steel and cement decimated into rubble and ash would demolish the lives of thousands. She was only four years old when our country’s leader at the time launched us into a crash course towards a new-age imperialism by way of warring against ideas. She was just getting her own memories when that leader also told the rest of the country that their mission was completed when it was far from accomplished. By the time she had any understanding of what a president might do and how that person affects her life, that president wasn’t really concerned with the whereabouts of the purported mastermind of the really big deal.
Naturally, I had every intention of infusing the facts with my own opinion, knowing that this was a prime opportunity to get her and everyone else within earshot to question the things she was learning how to trust, as we all had to learn how to trust. Patriotism is implicitly an exercise in trust. Even when we don’t believe everything our government says, those with any inkling of patriotism or nationalism believe that the government and its people have the best of intentions when they run the country. For anyone who took a deeper look at the story of Osama bin Laden’s death, one has to question many aspects of what happened, but even those who do still trust that Barack Obama and Co. did the best job possible.
Unfortunately for that crowd, I dissent there. 9/11 happened. Osama bin Laden’s death happened. People died needlessly. People continue to die needlessly. Young boys are playing grown men’s games for them overseas. Everything else leaves me questioning everything else. So instead of celebrating on the streets, I tried to get some rest for the the next day.
All morning, it left a bitter taste in my mouth that logic has given way to whatever our government has said about Osama’s passing. Yet, when I looked at the students’ face, I didn’t give much away, so I said,
“Well, Osama bin Laden was the person the government holds responsible for making the plans for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.”
She giggled, “Oh yeah! Well, I don’t remember much about that.”
“Yeah, you were so young then, like three or four right?”
Jose, who still meditates for peace …