As the country prepares to take a hiatus from the hope, dignity, and white knuckle ingenuity that has made it the unrivaled greatest country in the world to be "Great Again," I want to reflect on a sign of progress that, until now I sort of took for granted.
Yesterday, while picking Naomi up from the computer coding program she attends I got the chance to go in the makeshift computer lab, a neatly appointed room of desks, chairs, and laptops in the back of our local Library, (shout out to NYPL) to have a look at what she and the other children were about. Now, I'm not easily impressed - my New Yorker cynicism, Samurai like stoicism, and bitterness of one balding too soon provide ample defense against excitability, so my jaw didn't quite hit the floor but rather hung somewhere around my knees when I saw what they've achieved in just two sessions. They, each of them, had created unique animations with sound that were interactive. The spilt screen layout on the monitors displayed lines of code next to working animations. I was thoroughly…, I mean, yeah it was alright. Ahem! Once I managed to shift my jaw, and my inner Luke Cage, back into their respective sockets I started looking away from the digital creations and at the creators. DING!
I can’t say I was surprised nor was it particularly remarkable that 9 out of 10 of the creators were girls most of them Naomi’s classmates, all of them in her year at school. The one boy was in fact an older brother of Naomi’s friend. What makes this worth reflecting on is what happens today – the inauguration of a genuinely unqualified, untrustworthy, and unpleasant boor of a man to the office of the Presidency. For only a moment, upon seeing what Naomi and her friends had created, I was a kid again just wanting to join in on the action. And then, without warning, I was hoofed back to reality when one of the girls joked about learning to hack so she can “Dump Trump.” They all laughed in agreement, I squirmed. That’s what I get for daydreaming. There it was, exactly what is at stake – our girls. It didn’t matter whether the coders were boys or girls before HIS name was mentioned, but it is impossible to feel comfortable with a man who thinks about women in the way one might think about a steak dinner and not worry for our girls.
Growing up in my family I didn’t need telling that girls are equal to boys. It was and still is just the way of things. Just the way of things. As matter of fact, I grew up with the quixotic notion that girls are inherently smarter than boys. Hmm, wherever did I get that idea? I also have an older sister who delighted in tormenting me, though, to be fair she was and, I’ll admit just this once, still is clever.
That Man, however, doesn’t show any such signs of respect for girls and women, or anyone and anything that doesn’t orbit his grand ego for that matter. Neither is he the kind of person to surround himself with people who might upstage him. Not surprisingly, his nominee for Education Secretary is a nugget from the very bottom of the barrel of qualified candidates. The person that will likely be appointed to the post of Education Secretary has exactly the sum of 0+none experience working in Education. Moreover, through past acts – generous financial contributions to Private and Charter School lobbyists – she, Betsy Devos, has shown a severe, and I mean absolutely menacing, disdain for public schools and everyone associated with them. In her appointment hearing she refused to affirm that all schools whether private or public, if they receive federal funds, should meet the same accountability standards. She said that we might need guns in schools because, and I kid you not, Grizzly Bears. You what? She even flaunted the idea of defunding public schools (I really hope she spends her entire term chasing that shadow). But the one admission of the threat this new administration poses to public schools and public programs is Betsy Devos’ flat refusal to say whether she will continue to uphold the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) known for insuring equal education for children with disabilities. The amount of harm she could do in four years is not to be underestimated. When the words equal and education are used together in debates of such magnitude everyone should take note, particularly girls and women. Equality is still a work in progress, even a far-fetched ideal to some. It seems to me that whenever equality goes through the machinations of politics, economics, culture and all the other cogs and gears in this grand machine we call civilization, it emerges with women being somehow less equal, regardless of the context of which it went in.
This is a message of hope. The changes about to occur are very worrying but I don’t believe they will be impactful. Consider it a pause from sensible progress for a moment of reflection and contrast. I’m hopeful because of what saw at Naomi’s coding group yesterday. Encouraging girls to drop their dolls and bedazzle tools to pick up hobbies like computer coding is still a novel proposal. So, I consider myself lucky to witness nine capable girls being taught to code by a female Polish/Swedish expatriate, who you know must be a feminist and socialist, and enjoying themselves. Their cheerful celebration of their accomplishments after just two meetings, roughly 4 hours of coding, served for me as appropriate defiance for the times ahead. I witnessed the inexorable course of progress. This administration could possibly undermine some of that progress, but they cannot stop it. The will of our girls is inevitable. You can try to put off the inevitable but eventually you stumble upon the place where inevitable goes and waits, to be avoided no longer.
Therefore, as the country prepares to take a hiatus from its higher values and status as greatest country in the world to be “Great Again,” whatever that means, we are going to be all right. There will be difficulties, no doubt, things have a habit of going awry when morons and devils are given authority. Fortunately, a lot of people still remember what is truly important, an entity that wields a passive but arguably the most potent power – the next generation. So, whether it be free pop-up computer coding classes for the duration of this new administration’s “management” or protests or, most importantly, getting out to vote next time round, reasoning people who like progress, and even those who like looking back from time to time, will succumb to the irresistible pressure of the next generation. I’ve had some insight into their dynamic; they want to make good things happen and they will not be denied. If you’re looking for a leader, a president, look no further than the dreams of your children, or your neighbor’s children if you don’t have any. They will challenge you and demand that you give your best and they will give you hope and make you a better person. Those are first rate leadership qualities. So as the country inaugurates a president, I’ve chosen my own. Her name is Naomi. She dreams of becoming a Doctor, Scientist, Teacher, Philanthropist, Environmentalist, and Software Engineer. Lead on.