I’m a long way from home (Part II)

I RETURNED to in-person teaching wearing a fresh pair of newly purchased scrubs for each day and a couple of T shirts  (I had drawers full of them already) and a pricy F1 style filter mask that promised to protect them from me, and me from them.

It took only two days for me to be quarantined after a music department colleague contracted the virus. Back to remote teaching, but this time some of my students were in school while the rest were at home.

I returned after  four days only to have to quarantine teach again when a student in my class tested positive. I had dodged two bullets and was becoming acutely aware of my environment and more of my focus was spent telling students to wear their masks correctly rather than teaching.

The election neared and the two candidates sparred (or not) as when Trump, (he of the Detol swilling/injecting, non-mask wearing believers), contracted the virus. Shock!

Clearly Covid, along with social justice, were going to be the rounds to watch in the debates.

Shortly after the November 3rd election it was apparent to all but the most stubborn of GOP ostriches that Joe Biden had won the electoral college by the same “landslide” number the previous winner had, alhough this time we were assured that it was only a slim number and would be overturned.

Cases continued to rise, ICU’s in some States were overrun. We had way more cases (150 as of today) in my school district than back in the lockdown. Soon after the election result we had so many teachers and bus drivers out sick we could neither get the kids to school nor have enough teachers to teach them. Back to remote teaching again.

No leadership from Washington

Still, with no nationwide guidance or policy, families traveled the length and breadth of the country to be together over Thanksgiving and Christmas. University students from high infection areas travelled to states with low infections and visa versa, and then of course the they travelled back again.

To the utter amazement of the administration infections increased exponentially. ‘Surely’, we all thought, ‘now we will see leadership from Washington’. Wrong, all we saw was a slew of frivolous lawsuits about fake/illegal/illegible/counterfeit/forged/false (take your pick, add to the list if you like) ballots. Nearly all were refused, even a court hearing, by mostly republican appointed judges.

But Trumpy wasn’t done yet. He enlisted the help of the country’s finest legal minds, one of whom was convinced it was all a dastardly evil plot recently conceived between  the voting machine manufactures and Hugo Chavez who after his death in 2013 had miraculously risen from his tomb for exactly this nefarious purpose.

The other legal eagle, ex NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, after perspiring through his hair die and having little brown rivulets of brown sweat run down his face, arranged for a press conference across the river from me in Philadelphia at Four Seasons. It wasn’t quite the Four Seasons Trumpy or the rest of us were expecting. Turns out this hastily arranged meeting took place in a rather dodgy area in North Philly, sandwiched between a crematorium and an adult book store, and was the back parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. The press conference actually took place. You just can’t make this stuff up!

You could feel something was brewing

Then January 6th happened. I had PBS on as we had all heard of the President’s earlier tweets of “big protest in DC on January 6th,” “save America” and “stop the steal”. You could feel that something was brewing.

I listened, horrified. But, perhaps even more disturbing, not surprised. Most of America was in shock at the incendiary rhetoric from a man that had sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. My 14-year-old students would tell me the next day it was clearly insurrection. That the White House and some members of congress would consider it otherwise either exhibited complete ignorance, or worse, approval of those actions.

I still consider myself English, and more of a visitor to the US than the citizen I became. But, 156 years after the last attempt, the sight of the Confederate States Battle Flag being flown inside the Capitol made me very uncomfortable. For my friends in the US I can only imagine it would feel like a swastika being flown over Buckingham Palace in my homeland.

Five people died that day in a violent attempt to overthrow a legally-elected and duly-certified government. The event was seditious and frightening. And for me, way too close to home, I had only ever seen this type of violent attempted coup on television.

But that day also had heroes. One in particular I remember seemed to represent the hope that still exists in this country. A single man facing that angry mob used himself as bait to lure the rioters away from the senate chamber. Ironically, he was an African American. He probably had more reason to fear for his life than his white colleagues; signs of white supremacy were everywhere in the mob, they had even erected a gibbet, complete with noose, outside the Capitol.

I saw his actions and thought there are still good people in this country, good people who are brave enough to do the right thing even though they may have been wronged in the past. Maybe, just maybe, when that narcissistic tyrannical despot has gone things can begin to heal

Joe Biden is not a young man. I’m not sure he will complete his first term, never mind run for a second. But the future of this still relatively young country shines with promise and hope.

We witnessed history as the first female, the first non-white vice president was sworn into office. There is a strong possibility Kamala Harris will be the next POTUS.

Young people are making a difference. Greta Thunberg has raised our consciousness of the damage we are doing to our own home, this Earth. Lyme’s own Evie Swire is responsible for the impetus behind raising 70,000 pounds for a statue of Mary Anning, bringing Lyme’s most maligned citizen the respect and status that was stolen from her by the privileged and wealthy men of her time.

And today a young girl, the USA’s first youth poet laurate, Amanda Gorman, filled my heart with hope and promise from the very same steps that only two weeks ago were filled with such hatred and violence.

If you have a chance read Amanda’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’. Better still, watch her stand on those steps and read it herself.

In the final part of his ‘Letter From America’, Lyme-born David Hercock assesses the great challenge facing new President Joe Biden.

Click here to catch up with Part I of our special guest blog ‘Letter From America’

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