1000 Words: Heroes? Villains? Or Just People.

I learned this morning that May is Teacher Appreciation Month. This makes me think about the weird polarization that afflicts our holy land. Every single issue, every idea, every political stance, every societal question, every goddamned thing that exists, it seems, demands that we take an intransigent position and view everybody who takes a contrary position as a horrible human being.

Now, how does Teacher Appreciation Month play into this? I’ve been getting the sense that there are now two poles in this country regarding those who do two different jobs — teachers and the police.

Drive down any country road in South Central Indiana and you’ll see countless blue American flags signifying undying support for the police. Some homes even display a blue light outside their front doors at night for the same reason. Then, when you get into more populated areas, you’ll see red yard signs trumpeting the homeowner’s support for public education and school teachers.

You’ll never, ever, see the same home displaying both signs.

A hell of a lot of people see the police and teachers not as two indispensable professions that, together, help make society run, but as enemies of our side.

Dig this meme I recall seeing recently: It read, Raise your sons to be men before his teachers raise them to be women. This from a Facebook ad, the likes of which I’ve been swamped with of late. I have no idea why but every scroll down my preferred social medium brings me ads from something called MAGAmerica or some similar staunchly Republican, right wing, crypto-fascist, the-nation’s-going-to-hell-before-our-very-eyes outfit. I must have inadvertently clicked on the wrong site at some time in the last couple of weeks and now I suffer. Clearly, these people see teachers as commie rats who are dead set on de-masculating our boys, transforming our girls into dykes, opening our borders to terrorists and Muslims and Mexicans, in favor of providing monthly checks for idlers to sit at home and do drugs and have more welfare babies.

That’s what we do in this third decade of the 21st Century. We put people into one of two boxes: those who are good and those who are evil. Teachers today, for a large swath of the American populace, are evil.

And if you buy into that, guaranteed, you believe with your whole heart and soul that the police are always right and good and just. They are heroes valiantly standing between us and unspeakable terror. They protect us at risk of life and limb from commie rats, de-masculated boys, dykes, terrorists, Muslims, Mexicans, doped up constantly copulating idlers, and, of course, teachers.

There was a time, in the memory of our oldest citizens, when police officers were simply people who lived down the block, mowed their lawns, read the papers, paid their bills, and complained about their taxes. Just like everybody else. Now they’re superheroes, mythic figures fending off evil, titans battling archvillains.

Funny thing is, a lot of people see teachers in a similar archetypal light. Teachers are Christ-like, selfless, infinitely loving souls who’d sever their own arms and legs just to get your kid to pass her third grade math quiz.

The pressure’s on all of us to pick a side, to sanctify, to canonize, for chrissakes. We can’t just admire teachers for their good works; we must elevate them to divinities. Same with those who aggrandize cops. That way, the world’ll know where we stand and if the world doesn’t get it the first time, why then we’ll have to raise the stakes, to resort to hyperbole.

And, believe me, I know all about hyperbole; I’m the world’s foremost authority on it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I admire teachers. I respect them. Their work is vital. Their sacrifices commendable beyond words.

That’s the truth for the majority of teachers, to be sure, but not all of them. I went to school on occasion many decades ago so I know there are good, even superlative teachers but there are also lousy teachers, teachers who phone it in, teachers who hate kids, teachers who do the minimum for their paychecks, teachers who have no business being teachers.

Teachers are human beings. That means there are great ones, there are awful ones, and there are countless ones in between. In reality, teachers live down the block, mow their lawns, read the papers, pay their bills, and complain about their taxes. Just like everybody else. Okay, they get their news online now, not from the papers, but you get the point.

Another yard sign I see a lot when The Loved One and I take our weekly Sunday drives reads, A Hero Lives Here. Sometimes the sign is for a teacher and other times for a nurse. In either case, it’s all so unseemly. You’re not supposed to call yourself a hero; somebody else is supposed to bestow the honor upon you. But in today’s America, there are heroes and villains, not just plain people trying to do a good job, often succeeding, sometimes failing. We put people on pedestals — even if we have to climb up on them ourselves — and consign others to the fires of hell.

It’s one way or the other and if you don’t agree with me then you’re a horrible human being.


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