Just One Bad Thing…!
Tuesday definitely topped Monday. I think that the art clearly suggests that.
I’m going to stay as short form as possible on this post. There’s just…a whole lot of content to get through, and I really don’t want to write a small book for today’s post. It has been a LONG day, after all. I both drew the art, and wrote this post, on Tuesday evening, to make this magical Wednesday post happen.
I was prepared for Ordinary Levels Of Nonsense. Interim Standardized Testing was going to be happening for half of my students, letting half of them actually attend my class. That meant that Tuesday was more or less going to be a “filler lesson,” because any material covered on Tuesday with half the class would have to be retaught the next day, if it were new material. This is not a way to execute testing that places any kind of emphasis on actually teaching kids, but…that’s really not what the post is about. I had planned on this, I was ready for it, and was having a pretty good day.
Lunch happened, and we had the final direct elimination game in round one. It was fun to watch, and FAST. Then the club played a huge multiplayer game, and we adjourned for Fourth Period. Fourth is my conference, so I usually walk a bunch of students to class, and supervise campus for a bit. That happened.
After that, I went to the main office to follow up with an Edu-Lord about a few security issues lately out in the Badlands. I also conferred with a teacher of one of my seniors…a guy that might not graduate. I got some advice, since he is pretty much at the End of the Line, and I then relayed it to him. Again…we are good so far.
Walking back to class, I saw that there was a new poster on campus, out in the badlands by my classroom. It was really large…like six feet by six feet, and hand painted. It was an obvious product of the leadership class, they make these hand painted posters all the time. It was emblazoned with the year of the class (2018), and said, “Graduation June 6th: How We Feelin’?” It also had an image of Pepe the Frog, in cap and gown.
Pepe the Frog.
Let’s be fair…I read the news, and pay real attention to politics and pop culture. It’s possible that you, Gentle Reader, have no idea what I’m getting at, so lets do a brief history lesson.
Pepe the Frog is a pretty popular Internet meme. A green anthropomorphic frog with a humanoid body, Pepe originated in a comic by Matt Furie called “Boy’s Club.” By 2015, the character had become one of the most popular memes used on 4chan and Tumblr.
By 2016, the character’s image had been appropriated as a symbol of the controversial alt-right movement. Quickly, the Anti-Defamation League added certain incarnations of Pepe the Frog to their database of hate symbols in 2016, adding that not all Pepe memes are racist. Since then, Pepe’s creator has publicly expressed his dismay at Pepe being used as a hate symbol.
So…we had a character commonly used as a mascot for racism and racist groups on our school signage. A character closely associated with anti-Semitism, posted near the classroom of one of the few Jewish teachers.
I asked a friend from off campus what he thought, while I looked up the Wikipedia article, and an LA Times piece on the use of Pepe as a mascot for hate groups. I figured I was going to need to print these up, and hand them to someone before the hour was up, and I wasn’t wrong. My friend said that yes, it was “definitely offensive and inappropriate.” Just to be sure, I went to another teacher for guidance. I can over react, it has been known to happen. He also concurred, so I was off to find the Principal.
I arrived at his long lunch, and waited patiently. When he finally had time, I rapidly introduced the topic, with a picture of the poster. “I don’t know that frog, and really don’t know what you’re talking about. Really? Are you sure?” was the response.
Immediately followed by dropping the two printed sources on the table.
“Yes, sir. I’m sure.”
A few moments of reading ensued, followed by incredulity, and a brief check of these facts with an AP. After that, he wanted me to send him the image.
“Or you could come out to the Badlands and see it yourself, sir. Also, I don’t have your phone number.”
At that point, I was pretty much dismissed. I walked back to the Badlands, and sat down, to think out the next move. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen this principal be slow to act on things. While I was thinking, he came out to the area (I was surprised) and asked me to show him the poster.
“You know, I really didn’t know that the Pepe thing was so negative. You learn something new every day, I guess,” he said as he took it down.
“You know…not knowing something is racist isn’t an excuse for letting it slip by. The office put its stamp of approval on that, sir. When you do that, that makes you okay with everything that the image represents.”
“But I didn’t know.”
Frustrating, that. Like talking to an adolescent, who we all know probably did have some inkling that they should have made better choices. He took a few moments to explain to me how cosmopolitan he was, to outline his world travel, and to let me know, without a doubt, that he had friends who were Jewish. All of the things that I don’t want to hear, and aren’t about responsibility.
I took a moment, and pointed out to him that at the beginning of the year he spoke about a climate at school where the adults talk about their issues, and work them out. I told him that I had taken that seriously, which is why I talked to him, instead of going directly to a superintendent or the school board, who would have really frowned on it. As a result, I expected that he would comport himself with responsibility, instead of passing the buck.
It was a hard but fair message, which he pretty much chose not to listen to. There was some follow up, and an “incident report” in the system, but the actual important message really didn’t become any more clear.
The poster was down within ten minutes of me seeing it. That’s a small win, for sure.
An inquiry of sorts took place on campus. Again…a small win, for sure. It became clearer that some sorts of things weren’t going to fly.
The underlying problem…not even close to resolved. I don’t know if it even is resolvable. The whole way that we judge ourselves, I think, might be in how we deal with unresolvable problems. If you read tons of comics like I have, you think that there’s a real value in dealing with the symptoms of those problems when they come up. That’s what I accomplished today…not any more, but not any less. Sort of a “holding the line,” which lately is harder and harder to do.
Obviously, that’s what the art is about today. Some weird Nazi bastard about to brand some right wing signage onto a pretty cool looking lady, who seems powerless to stop it (because somehow that eyebrow guy got her hands tied behind her). Cap and Pony Torch will have NONE of that nonsense. They are stopping that @#$% immediately, with a Mega Punch from On High. They haven’t made that guy not some sort of Nazi anymore, they haven’t ended Ultra Right Wing Madness. They have just stopped One Bad Thing from happening, in the moment.
If everyone stopped just One Bad Thing that they had some kind of influence over, with any kind of regularity, we’d have a much better world.