Saturday, December 2, 2017

The End of the Beginning


John Oliver, speculating about pending indictment, pleads, eyes twinkling, “Let it be Jared! Let it be Jared!”  I scream, “Yessss!” at the TV. The dumb Trump spawn are too easy although Ivanka in Orange is the New Black is a pretty picture. But, Jared's doughy-faced smugness makes me want to slap him around. The next three years will be rough. But I am optimistic that for the nation that elected Obama twice, the pendulum will swing back. Perhaps the shame of being duped by a conman will engender an ultra-scrupulousness and sense of urgency to return dignity and integrity to the highest office. With both parties on life support it is important to get it together and ferret out squeaky clean potential candidates. Let's hope.

It is obvious that Trump is beholden to Russia in a big way. I have no crystal ball but my gut tells me that Flynn's plea deal will lead to revelations of dirt beyond our wildest expectations. As Trump's sheer buffoonery becomes more and more evident, it looks like he's been selected and groomed by Putin and that the process is in play long before the trip down the gilded escalator. I imagine it will also come to light and become commonly accepted that cyber interference absolutely determined the results of the 2016 election.

Plain spoken Lindsey Graham states clearly that the pending tax boondoggle is designed only to appease rich donors. When the hoi polloi lose their health coverage and suffer through other cost cutting measures that this giant Christmas gift to the uber rich will require, anyone one who has anything to do with passing it, and every politician who holds his nose and supports Trump, will be ruined. Let's hope.

These times will be fodder for artistic inspiration for eons. I try to visualize the mini-series. Farce? Arrested Development comes close but the show is anchored by a likable, reasonable hero and there are no likable characters in the White House. Atramentous black comedy? While Walter White in Breaking Bad evolves into a despicable character, his back story of being screwed over, engenders some compassion and, with feelings of guilt, the viewer ends up rooting for him. Political satire? At least the corrupt politicians in Veep and House of Cards are smart and witty.

Perhaps the angle I'd take is to chronicle the debacle through the eyes of one of the children, maybe Barron or that little girl of Ivanka and Jared who's such a hit with the Chinese based on the video of her singing a song she learned from a nanny. Here is the real collateral damage. The underage offspring will inevitably be scarred by the unraveling of the family-wide malfeasance that may even ultimately result in charges of treason. It is only the children that muster an iota of compassion for the folks who brought on one of the greatest con jobs in history.

I am sent a new student. He arrives toting some well worn plastic bags. Pedro is my age. There is an address on his registration form but it looks like he hasn't lived indoors for a very long time. His long, graying hair is matted and dull. His eyes are so bloodshot it's hard to tell the iris from the sclera. Pedro communicates a bit in English with a sandpaper rasp. He sort of keeps up with the class. There are no overt signs of mental illness. He doesn't reek of alcohol. But he reeks. Pedro smells bad. The seats around him are the last to fill. I stand at his desk and help him practice a conversation or check his written work but then, on some pretense, open the classroom door and grab a lungful of fresh air. When we work in groups or with partners the other students are compassionate and good sports. They nod at me, (It's OK Teacher.”) sensing my reluctance to stick them with Pedro. I dream of a social worker swooping into my classroom and getting Pedro sorted out but our social services and safety net are pathetically underfunded and not getting better in the near future of the congress has anything to do with it. For now, Pedro's treated like any other student. Perhaps learning a bit more English will improve his life somehow but inevitably in a much smaller way than I would deem ideal.

There are two Ethiopians in my class. Except for eating on Fairfax I haven't had any contact with Ethiopians. I know it's not right to assess a whole culture based on two students, but both of these students are particularly warm and the other students truly like them. The groups with an Ethiopian member accomplish so much more. The students are all friendly and do their best to communicate in English with their non-Hispanic classmates. They don't fall back to Spanish. The conviviality of being in the same boat makes it less threatening than when I'm grilling them and breathing down their necks. I wonder if I would get in trouble if I requested enough Ethiopians so I could have one in every group.

Once in a while I have to shriek, “Speak English” at them, which breaks them of the habit for a while. Their phones ring sometimes. They have fancy rockin' ringtones. A phone rings and the students grouse. A student, in a shrill mocking voice pipes up, “Donde estas?” The room explodes in laughter. I cannot help myself and there is another round of laughter when the students, except for the Ethiopians, see that I too get the joke.

I use a worksheet from the last trimester. I vaguely remember that there'd been something wrong with it but it looks pretty good so I run it off again. There are three apartment ads from Craigslist and questions. like which apartment has a ceiling fan and which one has a laundry. I've labelled the apartment ads using numbers and the question option using letters. I have a bunch of early birds. It gets dark earlier and it's chilly outside so I open my door a half hour early and they come in and grab a worksheet. Then they finish before class even starts and I have to make up things on the fly for them to do. When I discover the number/letter disaster with my homemade worksheet, one of my students grabs a pen and hand corrects the stack of xeroxes. I am embarrassed by this stupid oversight. “It's OK Teacher.”

I find a great website that has a wonderful collection of short films accompanied by lesson plans for use with ESL students. There is a beautiful little film about colors that actually gives me an opportunity for some vocabulary drilling. I plan a nice little lesson. One night I have to dismiss early to attend a meeting. Another night I have to do a power point presentation for orientation and then have them fill out a very complicated two-sided form with four places they have to initial. Some of it is school rules and one is a release for appearance in photos and video. It is a bitch to get them all filled out properly so I don't get to the movie that night either. Wednesday, there's time for the little movie. I turn off the lights and then notice a strong burning smell. I kick the students out before I can run the film. They still don't know what the cause is, but the room is fine on Thursday. I think they like the movie.

We are on the chapter that describes different rooms and household furnishings. We are working on “There is” and “There isn't.” We all describe our dream houses. The girls say “There is a big kitchen.” “There are big closets.” The boys says, “There is a three car garage.” “There is a gym and a media room.” I ask them whether their dream house is in the USA or their home countries. The Ethiopians don't hesitate. They're here for good. The Hispanic students are split down the middle.

I expect a backlash, the darkest hour before the dawn. Men's attitudes about women are changing. Perhaps, after a dangerous spate of nationalism, women will edge towards political parity. Maybe I'm fooling myself but it seems that female leaders might demonstrate more compassion and remind us that ultimately, we're citizens of the world. Poor Pedro I'm afraid is beyond hope but for the rest of them, I hope they're able to build their dream houses in the land of their choice.

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