Awakening and taking a stand

I don’t normally post political stuff, nor reveal my location, but the city I live in is quite unique.

Firstly, it has been a bellwether for the past umpteen years, correctly voting for the presidential candidate who won.

Vigo County, with about 107,000 people on the western edge of Indiana, long had some mysterious mix of quirky politics, demographics, geography, religion, labor and luck so that it had become America’s most reliable presidential bellwether.

Since 1888, this exhibit boasts, the county voted in line with the nation in every presidential election but two. It missed in 1908 and 1952, then remained a perfect predictor of the U.S. mood, a rare place to toggle between Republicans and Democrats in harmony with America.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/midwest/ct-vigo-county-indiana-election-results-20201118-acloioedyrhtvadtl5ejdpsdb4-story.html

We have a representative and unbalanced spread of races, economic backgrounds, and cultures that are a microcosm of the entire United States. We are a mini US. Our rural to urban populations are even representative. Our population’s age and metric of voters seems to be perfect for prediction. Until this year. Why? We are too white.

The largest local news station here is highly red (republican) and sadly continues to fear monger. (Recent news story on the increase in gun sales had the reporter say and I paraphrase – Though Biden has not said he will abolish the 2nd amendment – aka come for your guns – The report and video is missing from the website. )

The newspaper is only slightly less biased. I myself was interviewed for a school article and I, as a teacher, was told it was about navigating the challenges for special ed students and I sent a page long essay and spent 2 phone conversations with the reporter, only to find out it was half of the piece. The story was about how a man fired from the corporation felt that special education students were getting shafted, even though he is not even in the school system any more and has no direct knowledge at all. I’m proud to have been defending teachers, but disappointed my answers were not framed in a way to help the reporter and the article.

In light of the omission of the truth and twisting of the news to get the sensationalist titles and reads, the voters here went pro police as the sheriff they voted for posted all the drug arrests they’ve made on social media. The BLM protesters went unmolested as they passively marched or spoke passionately at a local park. https://www.facebook.com/102882011461103/videos/929727154140274/ (the stories are moving) It was like ‘see? we are good police’ Recent pro-Trump rallies were given the same apathy. The people in charge ignored all the commotion as we always have done with a ‘this too shall pass” mentality that has served us well.

Or has it?

When an inmate died of Covid in the local jail, the sheriff hid behind procedure, insisting he followed the Health Department’s guidelines. I’m sure he did, since this health department said the virus would not spread in schools and all you had to do was socially distance the kids and stay home if you are sick. The Health Department didn’t (and still doesn’t) have enough staff to contact trace all the people who got sick or exposed by November and they shut down in-person learning. I myself was quarantined 4 days after a student had attended my class who had potentially exposed us all to the virus.

We should sit back and let everything pass? Apathy has allowed those in charge to remain in control and remain rich.

Our former school superintendent, once shot at in his own home for alleged infidelity, is awaiting trial this year for alleged embezzlement. This on the heels of a money embezzlement scheme happening under his nose in the school administration building (https://www.tribstar.com/news/fennell-finished-with-his-federal-sentence-now-free/article_20a7f2d8-51bb-11ea-bfde-171194d4ccd3.html) AND a corporation settling in court to pay back 1.25 million to the school corp for overbilling for services. https://www.tribstar.com/news/vcsc-will-get-1-25-million-from-former-vendor/article_e011c974-5f88-11eb-bc42-f7af66cdc258.html

When the water/sewage treatment plant was found to be mistreating water, the head of the department supposedly committed suicide rather than go to prison. https://www.tribstar.com/news/update-subject-of-federal-probe-found-dead/article_81cbf9ce-7955-11e7-9d4a-e74241d9aa87.html It smells much better now over there. We used to be called “the armpit of America” because of the sewage treatment plant and the paper mill.

These things have been building for a long time. The rich rule. Now the rich are bringing a new Convention center and a casino here. The convention center is supposed to be paid for by a food and drink tax. https://www.tribstar.com/news/local_news/food-beverage-taxes-up-while-convention-center-on-pause/article_60547bb9-adff-539f-be4a-06b4d4b604cb.html It’s not even built yet! The food and beverage tax expires Dec. 31, 2043. On the backs of the poor buying a burger on the dollar menu, this city will build an event center where the stars will come to perform with ticket prices higher than the poor can afford to pay to enjoy it.

You wonder why school enrollment is down? People can’t afford to live here anymore. The mall is dying. Most jobs pay less than a living wage. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Location=Terre-Haute-IN/Salary https://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/45460 Rent is double what it was in 2011. https://www.rentjungle.com/average-rent-in-terre-haute-rent-trends/

No one is going to a concert here. No one is buying mall clothes (the stores are closing anyway). Except the doctors’ and lawyers’ kids, of course.

Here is a well written article on the racial disparity here in my town. It talks about school districts, the local jail, and money.

There is a change, an awakening here. There are two new Facebook activist groups since the BLM reform movement, one for schools and one for the county itself. People are learning it’s okay to be angry about something and it’s okay to do something about it within the law. People that I went to high school with are speaking up and taking a stand. It’s about time.

For me as an educator, I can’t get political or I might lose my job. I see you, though. I see you advocating for me and my children as you advocate for yours. I see you awakening to the signs of the times – as am I. I see us, an underground movement, after work, in the shadows, and it is beautiful.

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