By comparing his history of coping with peaceful protesters to his future actions against ISIS extremists, Scott Walker has put teachers in the same league as those who speak through savage violence. He has placed us in the same category as those with whom we are at war. He has compared us to terrorists.
I have a great job. I arrive at work each day with a smile, a slightly distracted smile that says, “I’m here, and I’m ready to rock. I have a lot to do, so don’t slow me down.” I’m in a position to help people and to make a real difference in the world. I teach. In Wisconsin. And I’m here to tell Scott Walker that I’m not a terrorist.
A few years ago, my profession was one of several that our governor, Scott Walker, knocked to the ground with what he called “Budget Repair” legislation, limiting our pay raises and curtailing collective bargaining for pensions and health care, as a way to balance the state’s budget. We’d tried letters, emails, and phone calls to persuade the governor this was a mistake, all to no avail. Governor Walker and his supporters turned away from teachers and other public employees, pretending not to hear, so we tried stronger tactics. Thousands of teachers and other professionals filled the capital building in Madison. Many brought families, showing children what it meant to peaceably assemble for a cause. Democracy, we told our young ones, is the ultimate participatory sport.
Still, Governor Walker ignored the message. “Divide and conquer” was his motto, and divisiveness and conflict were his friends. He pushed his law through, gutting public-sector paychecks and benefits, and in the process also destroying our public image.
That’s the part that hurt most. Teachers are the nurturers in our society. We’re the counselors, the caretakers, and the advocates for those who are too young to help themselves and too young to vote. The negative public perception was far more devastating than the financial losses.
And now Governor Walker has done it again. When questioned about the group known as the Islamic State or ISIS, Walker told an uber-consevative political crowd that he was prepared. “If I can take on 100,000 [union] protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
Make no mistake, people. By comparing his history of coping with peaceful protesters to his future actions against ISIS extremists, Scott Walker has put teachers in the same league as those who speak through savage violence. He has placed us in the same category as those with whom we are at war. He has compared us to terrorists.
The comparison hurts. It’s demeaning. It’s demoralizing. I felt my heart sink like it had once before. And then it dawned on me.
Walker may not have had any idea that he was issuing yet another put-down to educators and their public-sector colleagues. That thought might never have occurred to him. Walker is so caught up in his own importance that he still thinks that the rallies and the protests were all about him. And since he “won” his battle with the public unions and narrowly defeated a recall election opponent, he thinks his “toughness” should now frighten an international terrorist group. Foolish man, he still thinks the world revolves around him.
Teachers work to establish relationships and gain trust. Teachers establish order, a positive climate for learning. Terrorists threaten and establish a climate of fear. Teachers build, where terrorists destroy.
When Walker lumped teachers into the category with terrorists, I felt hurt. I felt angry. I felt like my time, my experience, and my training meant nothing. I felt that he’d made it clear that he valued education and those who educate not one bit. I felt disrespected and worthless.
Well, I’ve got news for our Republican governor who might run for president. Teachers are non-violent, but we’re still fighters. We’re intelligent, educated, and open-minded. We listen closely and we read between the lines. We care about the future of our state and the future of our country. I’m one of the nurturers, the caretakers, those who would rid the world of injustice before breakfast if we could.
Terrorists? Don’t put me in that category. I teach.
Tracy Ostwald Kowald is a teacher by trade and writer by nature. She started blogging in 2006 as a way to express herself and deal with everyday stresses. Using the blog as an outlet, she documented her journey through a deep and frightening clinical depression. She continues to blog as a supplement to therapy and an outlet for the creative writer that still raises its hand now and then and says, “Me! Call on me!”