#repost – Tout et rien: A September 11th story

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11 September 2001: We watch the towers come down in horror from a classroom. I sit in the office at school; my mother is coming to take me home. We are all scared, and there are a million rumors flying about. All we know is that it is definitely a terrorist attack and the last plane, the one that came down in Pennsylvania, is the one that was headed to the White House. I write in my journal:

In praise to our Lord and Lady
Help us see the light through the smoke.
Help us in our quest for justice

For it is JUSTICE, not REVENGE
for which we are searching.

I am for the Operation Enduring Freedom. We are no longer allowed to wait for our friends and family at the boarding gate. My mother tells me that my grandfather was at the opening of the World Trade Centres.

15 March 2005: My very best university friend and I go to New York. We visit Ground Zero; it is a huge gaping wound that we stare at through a chain-link fence. We are both stunned, tears in our eyes. We stand and stare at the hole, and then walk on, shaken, saddened. It greys the rest of our day. (New York City itself was a wonderful experience. I can see why it it is easy to fall in love with the place.)

11 September 2006: I am in Lyon, France for a semester abroad. I am out with friends in an elegant café and there is suddenly a crowd of people demonstrating, waving Palestinian flags and carrying anti-zionist slogans. The year before there had been massive demonstrations in Clichy-sous-Bois, near Paris, and a few months previous there had been demonstrations across France. Both of my parents are nervous but I am twenty and fearless.

The demonstration scares my friends and me, and we nervously head to the subway and to our respective homes. I live in the centre of the city, in the Presque-Île. I call my mother from my bedroom, watching the demonstration from my window. She warns me to stay inside. I don’t even realise the date until the next day.

4 December 2006: I am at a house party in Lyon, sitting on a sofa. The man across from me is drunk, like I am. He keeps asking me questions about Bush, about Iraq, and I am struggling, not just in French, but with my ideology. I feel as though I must defend and explain the American psyche, even though I myself don’t agree with it. I spend a lot of time on the balcony, staring down the beautiful boulevard, confused and dismayed.

11 September 2011: I am in London. It is a beautiful day and I am walking home on the Edgeware Road. There is a police presence, and of course I am curious. There are men with long beards and taqiyahs and hijabi women holding signs that say America is at war with Islam and Muslims and anti-war slogans. I am filled with shame for having supported the strikes in Afghanistan, and I stand and watch the protest.

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Photo taken by the author.

My neighbour tells me that one of the bombs that exploded during the 7 July bombings was the tube station that is directly behind our flats, platform 4, Edgeware Road. It has been a decade for me, but only five painful short years for her. Britain was America’s first ally during Operation Freedom. I do not know anything any more.

Until we meet again. – SDM

This is a repost from my A-to-Z challenge, written in April. 

#weekendcoffeeshare: The Return

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It has been a long time since I have written a blog post. I feel enormously guilty. I feel as though I haven’t had friends over since April, and here we are. I would be shoving delicious treats your way, asking if you needed anything else. I’m still drinking my Wedding Breakfast tea; 250g makes a lot of cups of tea.

So, how have you been? I should give my excuses, but it’s been a mix of depression, lack of motivation and actually a very busy summer. I went to Iceland! I started my second year at the high school at which I currently teach (I finally have a classroom). And I watched the world of politics unfold.

First off, Brexit. What a miserable outcome for this. I’m anxious to see how it will play out. Theresa May as been handed a messy, uncertain mix of things that she must turn out to satisfy the Exit voters, but not alienate the Remainers. Though, honestly, what does she care about the Remainers? They’re probably all Eurotrash™ anyway. (Those last lines were sarcasm, by the way, in case it doesn’t read well through the screen.)

The US elections are just not at all in any shape to be commentated on, and yet, here we are, a little over 8 weeks until the elections, commentating. The era of False Equivalency must end: Hillary Clinton is in no way as bad as Trump, and the fact that her email ‘scandal’ is as bad as anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth. Trump is unfit to be president, and it is disheartening that there is any fight between Clinton and Trump.

I have been itching to write, and I shall go back to my weekly Friday reads and these Weekend Coffee Shares, and I am pleased to be back. So hello again, and my door is open again. I hope you missed me as much as I missed you! – SDM

NB: Read the other WCS posts here!

#atozchallenge: Youth in Action

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When I teach about France, I usually mention their love of strikes. For most Americans, strikes are rare and shocking, and a sign of laziness. Or something. I think strikes are valuable tools against capitalist oppression.

In France (and I believe Denmark) students are allowed to unionise and strike with their professors or teachers. School policies don’t just affect teachers, anyway. I believe that young people supporting an older generation (or even someone in their own) is a way to build solidarity amongst the proletariat.

The state in which I work is a right-to-work state, which is just a political euphemism for ‘right to be fired’. We cannot protest against unfair working conditions. And lest one thinks I am just whinging from my cushy middle-class career of teacher, know that when I can’t protest, nobody can, even those who aren’t seen as whinging.

I applaud the right to strike and protest and stand in solidarity with any young person who strikes to be heard.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Mister Theatre

#atozchallenge: USA, USA, USA!

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One of the first things most visitors to the United States mention is that American flags are everywhere: in front of homes; in restaurants; in classrooms. The last one, in classrooms, is always disconcerting. It is a stark reminder of the weird patriotic symbolism of the United States: we are united under one flag, when we cannot be united under any other thing.

Saying the pledge daily is a compulsory activity, but not saying it is protected speech. I stopped saying the pledge in high school, for a few reasons. I was against the war in Iraq and felt that the pledge was compulsory nationalism, something that as a German made me uncomfortable. I also did not feel that America was just, or free, for everyone.

Now, as a teacher, I stand but do not say the pledge. I have had students ask me why, and I generally tell them that I didn’t feel comfortable saying it as a dual citizen. Sometimes I tell them that historically, compulsory nationalism doesn’t always end well. I obviously do not force any student to say it if they do not want to; it’s not my business to know why they aren’t saying it.

Patriotism is a choice, and the compulsory nature of the pledge denies choice. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by unsplash

#atozchallenge: Question Time with the Prime Minister

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When I finished high school, I had a whole summer before university, and I had a very hard time going to bed at any good time, or I would get up too early because my body was used to waking up to get ready for school. So when I woke up, I would switch on the television and flip through the channels. I usually just settled on something quiet that wouldn’t wake up the rest of the house. That channel was usually C-SPAN.

One particular Wednesday, I came upon C-SPAN whilst it was broadcasting the House of Common’s Question Time. For those of you who are unaware, the Prime Minister of England sets aside half an hour or so each Wednesday to take pre-approved questions from the House of Commons. It is a fascinating study in political drama.

When I was in high school, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister and was called, derisively, the poodle of George W Bush because of his decisions with regard to the current Iraq War. And if I recall correctly, the “proof” that had been offered up by MI5 and MI6 had been shown to be, if not wholly fabricated, at least incredibly misleading. So the Question Time was fairly difficult.

It goes without saying that I was hooked! I woke up early every Wednesday to watch it, and when I lived in England, I made sure that I was either home or around a television so I could watch it. Nowadays, UK Parliament is on YouTube, and I watch Question Time when I have the chance, and I have shown one or two to my students here in America, who are fascinated. I suspect it’s mostly the accents.

It is a wonderful piece of political history and theatre, so if you are so inclined, please do check it out. You won’t be disappointed. – SDM

 

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by the author

#atozchallenge: Politics in the Classroom

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This year’s election cycle is a popular source of conversation with my students. There are lot of big personalities and a lot of bombastic things that show up in social media. So many times, they try and pull me into the conversation. It is not moral or ethically appropriate for me to discuss politics except obviously if someone is saying something bigoted. It is very difficult to walk along that line.

There is also a lot of discussion amongst my students of colour (or non-white students, for those who want to nitpick) about what it means to be “woke”. Being “woke” is being aware of the problems in society and knowing that there is still a struggle in the fight for human and civil rights. I say this without bragging, but all of my non-white students have called me “woke” at one point or another. Often I want to point out that as a woman of colour, I have felt some of their struggles as well. But I just take the compliment and continue on.

One of the most difficult conversations I had this election season has been during the moments before a soccer match. My players, sitting together and chatting, began questioning one student’s choice on supporting Donald Trump. I don’t support Trump, but my students don’t know that–they could probably guess, but I refuse to say one way or another. I had to cut their conversation short because their questions were becoming aggressive and I didn’t feel like it would be a very helpful conversation.

Being a teacher means that you have to model proper behaviour at all times, even when you disagree with what’s happening, unless it is detrimental to the health and welfare of your students. It is so difficult to do so, but I have to say that it’s an important part of one’s job. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Brigitte Werner

#weekendcoffeeshare: Countdown

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I am exhausted this morning, and this tea has never been better. It’s Queen Anne, as always, but only because I’m very much looking forward to finishing my tin and moving on to Wedding Breakfast. I am a stickler for tradition, and on Saturday and Sunday I drink the tea at my tea station to completion. So if were were having coffee/tea, we’d be having Queen Anne and probably some French Roast that I hurriedly bought from Whole Foods.

There are 25 days left of school. My students all know this countdown, as do I. We are all breathless. The days are filled with state-mandated testing and final exams. My senior students are all ready for prom and graduation, and I am ready to explode. Soccer season ended on a win, however, and now I have whole wodges of time to myself. It’s wonderful. If we were having our beverages, I would ask you if you were counting down to anything, and what you are looking forward to?

We have a few more letters left of the A to Zed challenge, in which I am participating. I have been keeping up with quite a few blogs, and I have learnt many amazing things. I am not sure that my blog fits in very well with this challenge (it is not a writing or lifestyle blog) but I have gotten some comments and some interest, so there is that. I would ask if you were participating, and if you’re struggling or if you pre-wrote everything and are coasting easy.

Politically, my students and I enjoyed watching Prime Minister’s Questions from the 13th of April, which brought up so many questions about British culture, life and government. I find myself becoming homesick for a country that is not necessarily mine, but I’ve adopted. If we were having coffee (or tea, of course), we’d be talking about what life means for different cultures.

I hope you are doing well. Until next time! – SDM

NB: Check out the other posts here!

picture taken by author