Freedom

“Good morning, we just completed our first lockdown drill and I am so proud of my students! They did such an amazing job sitting so close together in the back of the room as we hid and stayed silent for almost 15 minutes. I blocked our door with tables and chairs and they all quickly and quietly went to the safe corner and waited. They all earned three extra points on the behavior chart today for doing their BEST! Again, I will always protect them and keep them safe. – Mrs. T*”

That’s a message I got this morning from my son’s kindergarten teacher. If that does not make you sick, there is something wrong with you. I knew it was coming, of course, and had prepared D for it. We talked about it last week, as it was supposed to be Friday but then school was closed for a snow day, and then we talked about it again yesterday morning on the way to school, and again this morning once I knew it was a go.

This comes on the heels of the discussion I had with him when we were driving around and running our errands, about the pilgrims and the native americans. Delicate subject to cover with a 5-year-old, that. I don’t want to completely fly in the face of everything he will be learning about and doing from here on out in school, what with the cutting out of turkeys and decorating pilgrims and such, but given our personal convictions as a family, he also needs to know some of what really happened.

He listens well in the car. It’s a good way for me to cover “important” things with him without sitting him down for a Serious Talk, and we have good discussion driving around town doing our errands. We dropped off recycling, took two big bags of stuff to the Goodwill, and bought a present for his Dad for Christmas. I’m trying to teach this kid right and wrong, you know? But in this country, it’s getting to be really hard. I pointed out some of the Native American things we incorporate into our lives – we go to pow wows every year, we listen to some native music, we incorporate aspects of earth religion into our daily life, the change of the seasons, the bounty of the earth, blessings to be thankful for and the cycle of the harvest, and how we give thanks this week for being able to prepare a meal from what the earth gives us, and share it with family and friends we love. Then I told him about the pilgrims, and how they came over, and the natives had to help them figure out how to grow food on our land and how to preserve things so they could survive the winter. There were no grocery stores and winter was hard, so they took these lessons and sat down together for a meal. But America was such a great place, more and more people came over from Europe, and they couldn’t agree with the natives on how much land they needed. You have all this land, we need it, you should give it to us, they said, and the natives, who worshipped the land and knew the buffalo needed large tracts to roam, didn’t agree. “Was there a war, Mom?” he asked. Yes, I said, there was. Not a formal war, but a lot of fighting over the land, and eventually there were more “pilgrims” from Europe than there were natives, and so they pushed them into small parts of America and took the land from them. “Are we natives or pilgrims?” We are from the pilgrim people. Our ancestors came much later on, but we are from Europe, like many people who live here. The native population is very small now. “Is anyone in my class native american?” No, and possibly not even the whole school.

“What’s the lesson?” I asked him. “It wasn’t nice for us to take the land from them and have a war,” he said. Even a child gets that. Yes, I said, and that’s why we try hard to respect their customs and traditions and participate in the small ways we can in things that continue those customs and traditions, as a sign of respect.

Thanksgiving and pilgrims. And a lockdown drill, because Newton. And Mike Brown and Trayvon and so many others. And the almost panicky feeling I feel about how far race relations have regressed. My Mom agreed things haven’t felt this bad for a long, long time on that front, and I can’t believe it’s been all this time and we still have people calling our president the N word.

It becomes very, very hard to try to teach my son that this is the best country in the world. Because really, it isn’t any more, and that’s so very sad. I hate how we look to other countries, and I hate being in a country where little children have to participate in a lockdown drill.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

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