I sometimes see fear on the faces of my students. Or, is it just something I imagine?
Faces of my labor union students. Their spouses: mostly wives. Or, girlfriends. Partners.
Is it just imagination? Am I thinking of something that is not true?
I do hope it is not true.
It could be plain imagination. Because, nobody shows anything but brotherhood, respect and courtesy. I’ve been teaching my interactive, critical thinking workshop to my union worker students for so long that not only my face is familiar to them, but it is familiar to their wives and girlfriends and partners. I see them once or twice every year out on Long Island where the labor union I work for has built a beautiful educational center and retreat — out of a rundown, roach-infested motel, and they all come up to me and say hello. The junior workers and their spouses and even children who know me say hello. The senior workers. Supervisors. Retirees. The black workers, the white workers, Latinos and Hispanics, and the brown and yellow workers, the Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu and religion-indifferent workers all say warm words to me. They crack jokes. They do firm, strong handshakes. I have never heard anything other than positive things from them.
Yet, I see fear, apprehension, anxiety, stress and doubts on their faces, mainly because I teach them how to think critically, and that makes them nervous. They think I’m challenging them too much to make their “stable” lives “unstable.”
Or, is it that I only imagine it all? Who knows?
I teach global economics, the role and place of organized labor in this economy now completely taken over by the 1%, role of corporate media to drive the democracy away from the us the 99% by their slants, misinformation and half truths.
I teach the history of labor movements — past, present and future — happening all across the world. I talk about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Chelsea, New York City that killed young, immigrant American sweatshop girls one hundred years ago. I talk about the 2013 Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed 1200 poor, young women and men on a fateful, April day. I talk about the historic number of farmer suicides in India because of Monsanto and their GMO push. I connect the dots.
I teach the history of the 1930’s stock market crash followed by the Great Depression in USA, and connect the dots with what happened back in 2007-2008 when the big banks and financial institutions destroyed the U.S. economy, and walked away with trillions of dollars in bailout money — our money.
I tell them how Iceland also went through a similar episode, but then completely turned around their economy, and took constitutional and administrative measures so that type of disaster does not happen again. I tell them how U.S. and its two big parties decided not to do it. I tell them how the Koch Brothers, Heritage Foundation and Tea Party kept fooling the American people. I tell them how both the Republican and Democratic Party have cheated them. I show them, with objective information and analysis how income inequality has made the so-called “American Dream” impossible.
Do I make my students afraid by asking them to know the truth? Do I make them unnerved by challenging them to challenge the status quo — including this two-party plutocracy?
I emphasize nonviolence. I NEVER ask them to do anything unconstitutional or undemocratic. I insist that we worked under the constraints of the political and economic system we have. I never ever encourage people to resort to throwing stones from the outside.
Yet, I see fear, apprehension and anxiety under those warm smiles. I feel trembling under those firm handshakes.
Or, is it that I am only imagining?
Looking for an answer I can believe,
Brooklyn, New York