This is a tough one to write because I have no answers.
We traveled around Boston the last week, seeing the sights, reading the stories, and learning more about the Revolutionary War. As we were walking on the Battle Road Trail, we talked about how our education as middle/high schoolers was a good one, but we’ve forgotten so much about this point in time simply because there’s more stuff we’ve learned.
The Battle Road Trail is that trail where the Minute Men and the British fought their first battle. This is part of the British march and retreat back to Boston. I did not know that the local militias grew so quickly that a second force from Boston had to be sent out to “rescue” the first. I did know this is where the first shots were fired. I did not know that militia and British forces had been nose to nose a couple of times before without shots being fired. Again, much learning.
I’ve been playing a kind of “Where Is Waldo” with our pictures, just posting with a little blurb underneath. When I posted pictures I wrote:
The true birthplace of our country.
I believe this to be true because without this incident, people don’t see freedom ahead. Until this battle took place, there was a lot of bluster, but no action. Afterward, the colonists started to see themselves as more than just that. This wasn’t meant to be anything more than just what I felt after seeing these place in real life.
This is where the hard part comes in. I’m sure I’ve written about it before, but my first year of teaching was in the a rural Alaskan village. The kids there were amazing and even after 27 year in education, I remember them very distinctly because they were so thankful for the little things. As I’ve grown older, some of my very first learning about race came from these kids, their parents, and the elders of the community. While we were welcomed by the students, many parents were wary of us because of the stories told by their parents. Their were elders who respected what we did, but others simply looked upon us with distain, and rightfully so. Some of the stories were heart-breaking. Us being minorities in the village gave us a small insight into what race was all about in our world.
So, when I post this my pictures, a former student from that Alaskan village replies back with this comment:
The true birthplace of the colonization of the people that were already living here.
What can I say to this comment other than, I cannot argue with you about it because it’s true. As we have these conversations about race, this one came out of the blue. Did those first Pilgrims understand what the ramifications of their arrival to a “new world” (a world all ready thriving with tens of thousands of people)? And the Native Americans, if they’d known what was going to happen, would they done things differently? Would colonization have happened so easily?
As I continue to learn, continue to read, those who lit that spark to start the Revolution were amazing people. Amazing, but flawed. They changed the world in ways they’d never truly understand. They’d fight an army, an empire, eventually create a new country, and in doing so, shock the world. They’d pull off the upset of upsets in a time where things like the Revolution simply didn’t happen or if they did, they did not end well.
In the backdrop, a system of Native American nations, all thriving and full of life. They couldn’t know what was coming towards them over the upcoming decades.
The Battle Road Trail, heck, Boston as a whole is an amazing place to visit. But that one sentence from a former student altered my vision of this place forever.
And while it’s tough to swallow, it’s lesson that was needed.
This was a tough one to write.
June 30, 2021 at 9:09 am
First of all, thank you. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable with the inner conflict and struggle you’re experiencing. There is a definite pull between pride for our nation and our culture, and the recognition that it was built on the backs of others. And I’m grateful and glad to hear that you’re willing to learn from the experiences of others. It’s all any of us can ask, right? That, and the commitment to keep doing better, to keep BEIING better…
June 30, 2021 at 9:09 am
June 30, 2021 at 8:03 pm
I’m preaching to the choir with a topic like this, but I also know in Northeast Iowa, it’s not always that simple. Just keeping myself aware is difficult enough in a place where many “controversial topics are now outlawed by state lawmakers. So we continue to learn, to change, to grow, and to be better.
By the way, that’s my mantra for this upcoming year: Be a better human. It’s truly all we can do! 🙂
July 1, 2021 at 10:24 am
Being better – it’s all we can do. For what it’s worth, I taught in a district where I often walked a delicate line – the community was a Klan stronghold for many years, and there were still echoes throughout my time there.
June 30, 2021 at 10:46 am
I appreciate the Messi you’re learning and the disloyal are struggling with. Good can come from good struggle. It can also go sideways. The fact you are so aware of the difficulties makes you more sensitive to those in the conversation. Amazing all we can learn. So much.
June 30, 2021 at 10:47 am
Woah, lots of autocorrect I missed there! Let’s try that first sentence again: I appreciate the lessons you’re learning and the dialogue you are struggling with.
June 30, 2021 at 8:08 pm
First, autocorrect is the bane of my existence. Somehow, I’ve changed “maybe” into “mb”. How did I do this?? Why?? The better question, how do I change it back?? 🙂
I like how you put that, that good can come, but it can also go sideways. There’s a balance for sure. Lately, I’ve been testing those limits online because, dangit, we can do better. The idea of pushing history away is not doing better (in my mind).
If we ignore history or just take the parts that make us look good, we are ignoring the stuff we can truly learn from the most. That’s what makes me the most emotional
We can do better. It’s all about if we want to do the heavy lifting or not? 🙂
June 30, 2021 at 1:17 pm
As we always say at our house, “It’s complicated.” The way we interpret history today will be different than how it will be interpreted 100 years from now. And, there are so many pieces to the puzzle. It is so good to converse on these topics and to consider all the viewpoints — to listen and ask questions. Thank you for sharing.
June 30, 2021 at 8:11 pm
I like that: “It’s complicated.” That’s how I felt when I saw the comment and have continued to feel since the post. We have much to be proud of in our country, but to discount or worse the parts of our country that are messy and unsavory, it diminishes us. Talking, questioning, and realizing we may not agree is what’s lost right now. I teach my students to do all of these things with the hopes that they will lead us.
I can hope. 🙂