Do you guys read Road Diaries? It's Anthony Mullen's blog; he's the Teacher of the Year, and he's a DAMN good writer. His post today is about breaking points - "the moment when remaining calm and appearing sane becomes harder to grasp than hugging smoke." It's an interesting story, and one I'd recommend you read, but I'm not posting about that overall. I'm writing about one line. Mullens was talking to someone about the situation in which they found themselves, and his conversational partner said, "People can take a lot of tings [sic], but not the lies. Not the lies."
And I was going to write about that (though not from Mullens' perspective so go read his too), just sort of a general thing because I try really, really, really hard not to lie to students; I don't like lying and I don't like to do it and I feel bad about myself when I do and so I just generally don't do it. It's awkward sometimes, because they'll ask me about things that I really CAN'T talk about from a confidentiality perspective, so then I have to find ways to answer without actually lying, but usually that works out in the long run.
So that's what I was going to write about.
And then I read about Constance McMillan, and the end to her prom saga.
Have you followed this? Constance, a senior in Mississippi, is gay. She wanted to go to her prom with her girlfriend. The school board said no. Constance and the ACLU sued. The school board lost and so they canceled the prom entirely rather than let her go. But then a private one was being put on! Constance was to go to that! A victory for reasonable, accepting, open people everywhere!
The new prom was fake. Seven students, including Constance, went. SEVEN. Everyone else went to the REAL private prom that night, at a location kept secret from Constance.
And my heart broke.
Because why would you do that? Why would you treat another human being that way? I just....I don't get it. She's a person. SHE'S A PERSON. A human being like all the rest of us. That's all you should have to say.
And what makes it even worse is that it seems some teachers and the principal may have been in on it, since they chaperoned the fake secret prom.
In my classes recently we've been discussing what it means to be an American, particularly in regards to race, gender, social class, and citizenship status. I wanted to include sexual orientation as well but I got shot down on that because it might be too controversial. And I deferred. And now I'm so angry that I did. Because if we don't talk about this kind of stuff, then nothing changes. And this bullshit keeps happening. And we're lying to ourselves about our society and our futures and our humanity.
See, the thing is, lying isn't just about saying something untrue. It's about not saying the truth when you know what it is. It's about hearing the word gay sneered at someone and not calling the user out. It's about letting a friend refer to a decision as retarded without correcting their language. It's about ignoring the dozenshundredsthousandsmillions of petty cruelties that we perpetrate on each other every single day.
Land of the free. Home of the brave. We should be brave enough to stand up for those who aren't allowed to be free to be themselves.
Anything else is a lie.
I hope that I can someday be as brave and honest as Constance McMillan. I try every day but I'm not there yet. But I'm going to keep trying. That's my truth. That's what I have to do, because I can take a lot of things, but I can't take the lies.