My Daughter Had Her Own Governor Brownback (update)
By now, you've heard the story of the high school student who is being harassed by Governor Brownback to apologize to him for disparaging him in a tweet.
Other than the obvious problem of a grown man, a politican, being upset with a high school student because she said something mean about him, the questions of the power of adults over teenagers is not one to be brushed aside lightly.
A few years ago, my daughter encountered her own Governor Brownback in the guise of a middle school principal. While Twitter did not exist at the time, I have no doubt he would have carried the campaign further if he could have found a way to get away with it.
Here is that story:
When S. was 12, she and a group of her schoolmates made a decision that they were not going to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, as is mandatory at their school every morning. The reasons for their decision will become clear as the story goes on.
I knew nothing about this. S. knows my political views, but I don't preach. So, imagine my surprise when I'm driving home with S. from school and the following conversation takes place.
"Mom. I have to tell you something."
Me, arching eyebrow.
"Yeah. I wrote a letter to the principal today."
"I think I might get in trouble, so I thought you might want to know."
At which point she reads me the following. I'm sharing it with you because I took that letter out today, this day when a Kansas governor has gone mad, and I found myself wondering, what would happen if we raised an entire generation of kids that were willing to question authority and ask important questions? Could we avoid the next war? The next financial collapse? It's my hope.
So here, without further ado, and with all the 12-year old grammar and spelling intact (and, I must admit, a bit of flinch-worthy language), I give you the letter.
I have different beliefs about our country than you do but that's not the reason I am writing you this letter. I would like to point out a few things to you.
You said that our country had so much liberty, that kids can get breakfast at our school for free. But why can't they have it in the first place? The very government you're pledging allegiance to! Over 20% of our country is in a state of poverty becuase their jobs don't supply healthcare or there is not enough money because of the tax cuts for the rich to even SUPPORT a medicare system.
I am very sorry that your friend died in Vietnam, but this was unprofessional of you to bring that up. I am also going to point out that the people who issued that draft, was the government. The great, tremendous and free government.
I am a Unitarian Universalist. I do not believe in god so I found it DEEPLY offensive when you said this nation blessed by god. Okay how do you even know that there is a god? Does she/he speak to you? I believe that god would want to bless other countries besides the US that have taken better care of the beautiful creature that she/he created (planet Earth).
I know that you have the freedom of speech and to say the Pledge if you want to, as I have to right to write this letter to you. Guaranteed to us by the 1st amendment.
People in our school stood up for what they believed in. They used their BRAINS. They thought and discovered political opinions. You as a principal should be supporting our learning. Instead, you CRUSHED it by pulling at our American heartstrings with your speech.
Overall, I found your speech a cry for pity, one-sided, and against our religious freedoms.
The principal's response to this letter? He went to my daughter's basketball coach and tried to get her kicked off the team. When that failed, he stopped. But he never spoke to my daughter about her concerns, just regarded her as a troublemaker for the last couple years she spent at her middle school.
So, I say to Emma: "rock on."
And to S., I say. "You make me proud each and every day. I love you."
(S. in 2010 in India, where she was part of a learning/service community. Among her experiences was working in Mother Teresa's hospice, and teaching girls in northern India.)