Teaching Opinion

Whose Help Don’t We Need?

By Deborah Meier — May 08, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Deborah Meier continues her conversation with Mike Klonsky today.

Dear Mike,

Count on me to continue to corrupt you. Or at least try.

So, here’s my dilemma. If we are to prevail (on almost any of the many equally dangerous roads we are traveling down), we’ll need to win over people we very much disagree with. So that means one has to ignore some of their unsavory views in order to move them to better understand their own self-interest ... or something like that. (Not to mention their interest in fairness, equality, decency, anti-racism, and a good education.)

Yes, there are racists who ought to be on my side and whose prejudices blind them to their best interests. Do we want to cement their racism or make them a little more uneasy about it? Do I want to push them further into the arms of their real enemies? It’s why I thought it a mistake to call the cops bad names in the ‘60s, since even cops ought to be on my side. Not to mention some other unwise tactics some of my current allies and friends once engaged in.

I know people who still think that the Hitler-Stalin pact was a necessary temporary alliance, that dictatorship is sometimes necessary for the greater good and who justify the murder of many innocent people in the name of “any enemy of my enemy is my friend,” BUT who are today on my side on most issues. I’m sometimes uneasy about that. Less uneasy about those who have gradually dropped such views, although not as adamantly as I’d like. In fact, some of my best friends are former enemies. I could go on and on about how under different circumstances we have forgiven former enemies, or at the very least agreed to a common front.

The rampant paranoia on the extreme right is not entirely unjustified. I, too, am afraid of a government with too much power, even one I “like.” In fact, I’m in an alliance these days with some pretty unpalatable “allies” in the Democratic Party on some issues. Sometimes I support the lesser evil—which requires a temporary alliance with evil!

The other day I met a couple of religious right-wingers. As they described the state of the nation most of what they said was realistic and pretty much as I would describe it. They knew my politics and I knew theirs, and they are friends of friends so we avoided certain themes. One could, if listening in, have found it a productive discourse between allies. I didn’t push, but I suspect that there is a place and time when I could see them making a leap in our direction. I may be fooling myself.

Still, if my house were on fire, I’d not reject the help of a neighbor whose views I otherwise despise. I think our nation is on fire. The real power on the “other side” is prepared to sell out not merely democracy, but America, too—if need be. Their money is truly international. Those are the enemies I really fear. Those are the folks ... oops, too friendly a term, I mean forces ... who bash our nation when it’s convenient and who have brought us to the point where we are no longer the flag to follow. We are a nation of greater inequality, a larger poor underclass than our competitors—all because we have the world’s worst schools, they dare claim. Teachers have lost their jobs and future livelihoods in order to carry out their so-called experiment in a different way to operate school—but haven’t found a way to fire the crooks who created the 2007-08 financial scam, much less jail them for life.

Yes, I guess, I am more worried than you and can’t talk myself out of it. I try. I keep a list of victories to share with my grandkids, and my brother is always reminding me of the positive advances that remain part of our culture.

I saw “All the Way,” a Broadway show about LBJ’s first year as president. By the end one can’t comfortably identify with anyone. We got the Voting Rights Act, et al—based on “deals” with devils. Or course, we also got the Vietnam War. (It’s a good show.)


P.S. And I managed to stay well under 800 words, my new goal. For 50 years I wrote a weekly letter to staff and families of under 350. So, this is a modest decision. With some dangers ...

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.