Alternative facts vs the beautiful truth

Friday was the inauguration. It was bleak. We should all be amazed and alarmed—and if it weren’t coming officially from behind a presidential podium, even amused. Like a batting machine that’s stuck on high speed, Donald Trump & Company keep pummeling us with “facts” that bear little resemblance to our experiences or even what we see with our own eyes, and boldly declare: My inauguration was bigger than your inauguration.

Since taking the oath of office, we’ve seen the steely-eyed focus of this administration in action. My fans are bigger than your fans. My parade is bigger than your parade. The press is just trying to make me look bad by reporting facts and stuff. We’ll just make it up, and if the president says it, then it must be true. Like saying in the inauguration speech, “Public schools are flush with cash…” It’s just an “alternative” fact.

Which is to say, a lie.

So yes, we are amazed, alarmed and not at all amused. It’s bad enough that we, as adults, had to listen and absorb all of this. What’s worse is that our students will inherit this administration’s policies and pronouncements and, if we are not engaged, a more insular, less welcoming, paranoid nation, and schools and educational opportunities diminished by this “you’re on your own” world view.

But the weight of Friday’s fiasco was lifted 24 hours later with a sublime Saturday. I was there with my friends, family and NEA members who traveled from as far as Indiana, Ohio and California to take part. I was one of those millions on the National Mall and in communities around the globe who marched. I was struck by the fearless truth of the women and men and children who marched for justice, common sense and fundamental decency.

The beautiful truth is that although the Women’s March crowd dwarfed the inauguration crowd, I did not see anyone at the march boasting about it. There was no bravado. There was simply a solid strength of purpose in speaking truth to unspeakable threats by unimaginable power. But there was also humility of heart in those marchers. Each one marching in solidarity with others for racial justice, public education, women’s rights, voting rights, immigration rights, workers’ rights, rights for those with disabilities and retirement security.

Some were sounding the alarm about ignoring climate change. Others were calling our attention to handing our schools over to a voucher-obsessed education secretary. Many were protesting the effects of dismantling the fragile health care safety net we’ve only begun to build and the intentional rigging of a tax system to benefit a handful of mega-wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

We did not come to a parade. We came together to find each other and see with our own eyes that we are not alone. We came to give birth to a movement of justice. The threat is clear. But our path forward is also clear. Our courage to fight back lies in our truth and in our solidarity with all who believe in justice, appreciate the strength in our diversity, and now that we wield amazing power.

As I marched, I realized that there was no way we would all simply go back to our homes, watch the news and resign ourselves to “the new abnormal.” We are determined that this will be a movement that advances our nation and not simply a moment in time.

Some of the women I saw will run for office, from school board to governor, and even president. Some of us will register hundreds of new voters. Some will take on projects in their neighborhoods, such as ensuring that students have safe schools, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern textbooks and community support services like health care and nutrition.

Through our NEA family, there are many ways we can stay involved. You can tell your senators that Betsy DeVos is unqualified, inexperienced and ill-prepared to be our next secretary of education. You can urge Congress to increase investments in education, particularly for Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You can raise your voice to demand that we protect—not punish—undocumented immigrant students.

Most importantly: You can stay informed on all the issues we face in your states and nationally, and share the information with colleagues, friends and family members.

Our march was organic, authentic and beautifully true. Now we move forward in unity buoyed by a pink-hatted sea of possibilities.


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