Hey everyone today is Monday November 2nd 2020. November is Native American Heritage Month. America is a land of many cultures dating back since time immemorial to the original inhabitants of the land. History, heritage, or culture of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians are part of communities all across the country today. Native American Heritage Month is a dedicated time to share in the history and the continuing culture of America's indigenous peoples.
Which is why it is perfect that our Social Emotional Learning theme for November is Identity. As you heard us talk in the beginning, identity is not only about how we may see ourselves, it is also about how we perceive others, and how others perceive us.
How we see ourselves and how we present ourselves, the people we are, the people we want to be, the behaviors we choose, the things we say and do, where we come from, who we are friends with, our beliefs, our thoughts, even our feelings, will all play a role in our identity.
So will our skin color, gender presentation, gender ideation, sexual orientation, the material things we CAN buy, the material things we DO buy, the clothes we wear, the way we talk, the place we live, the places we visit, our values, our morals and our politics.
And on that note we need to shift into how we will begin talking about identity on Monday November 2nd 2020. Today is a strangely special day because tomorrow, Tuesday November 3rd our country will elect a president. Not many countries do things the way we do, and this year, with covid and social distancing things are a little different than usual.
Right now, in our nation, more than any other time than Mr. Manzo can remember, and he’s hella old, there is a very big connection between this election and identity. This very deep connection has been made and re-enforced by our social reality. That means it is not necessarily true, but that enough people believe it is so it is. Just think back to Mr. Manzo’s friend and the airplane. But what social reality also means is that since it was totally created by people it can totally be changed by people.
Here are the two levels happening right now. First there is a social reality belief that what is at stake for this election is the very identity of our nation. Both candidates and their most ardent followers. (Ardent means enthusiastic or passionate - you know we’re still a school so new vocab, whatevs) Both candidates and their most ardent followers have done a great disservice to our nation. And that disservice is that they have strongly and dangerously declared that this is not just an election of a president, this is in fact a reckoning for the very identity and future or our country.
Both campaigns have declared not simply that they disagree with the other side but that other side is in fact evil or dangerous or deadly. Apparently, they did not listen to last week’s podcast and have decided that it is better to play the man then play the ball.
Please let us be on the record as saying, this is simply untrue. America will not be destroyed by the outcome of this election. We’re too strong as a people. What is really happening is that we are allowing ourselves to be ruled by a cycle of social reality and the emotion information our brains are constructing.
So that is a level of National Identity happening right now. But also, there is a connection of personal identity attached to this election. Many people of voting age are thinking about who they are in relation to this election. Many people are thinking about the groups they share a sense of belonging with. Many people are thinking about the politics of their group as good and the politics of the other group as bad. The implication being that “my thoughts are good so I am good” and if I am good then they are bad.
Imagine if our school operated in this way. If there was a style of thinking that would allow us to become believers in the tiny, mad idea that some students were good and other students were bad. Or some teachers were good and other teachers were bad. If we held these beliefs it would be very hard for our community to function. It would also be very, very challenging to have a healthy sense of identity. Because, if other people could be quote/unquote “bad” for how they felt about something then that would mean that we could be bad for how we felt about something. And we don’t do that in schools.
No, we don’t. In fact, public schools are some of the only places where it is possible to learn alongside someone who feels different or acts different or whose family believes different things or whose family has different skin color, or religious beliefs, or money, or experiences, or even political thoughts. And maybe you are hearing me say that that makes us special, but look, it does so, there.
Right, not special in a “we are better than you” way, but special in a “sacred place” kind of way. A “rare opportunity” kind of way. A, diversity is a strength kind of way. In our school we are able to learn from others who have different identities from us. This is something very important. It is not something to be avoided, it is something to be encouraged.
This election will not be the end of nation because a nation is a term that categorizes living things and the social management plans, they create and use. Because it is in the nature of living things to change over time, and it is natural for a nation to change overtime. That’s not to suggest that change doesn’t encourage humans to construct emotion, it does. In fact, your brain may construct a great deal of emotion as it recognizes change. But the idea of a nation as a stagnant thing is outdated. A nation is fluid. And fluid things can take the shape of their containers. So really, like Bruce Lee said, “Be like water baby!”
So, whatever happens tomorrow, or the next day, or the next few weeks, we are going to continue learning about identity. We will continue to reflect on what identity means, on how it is built, on how it is perceived. We’ll be thinking about the groups we share a sense of belonging with. We’ll be thinking about the groups we do not share a sense of belonging with.
We’ll be talking about groups we share of a sense of belonging with but that we might not be included in. And we’ll be talking about groups we are included in but share no sense of belonging with. That may sound confusing, but you’ll see how that happens more frequently than you might know.
Whatever happens tomorrow will happen. Try to use your self-awareness skills to ask yourself, “what am I thinking?” Ask yourself, “how am I feeling in my body?” Ask yourself how you want to express yourself and ask yourself how you can express yourself in a way that gets your need met, without hurting those around you.
We are lucky. Our community is strong. Our nation is strong. We may face challenges. We may face a great deal of emotion information. But, at the end of the day, it is in our national character to work hard for the things we want. So, if we want a better society, it may not come easy. No matter what your political identity is, you may need to work for the things you want.
It’s important to also remember this final thought. No matter the outcome of the election some people will be feeling very pleasant and some people will be feeling very unpleasant. That is the nature of elections. There can be only one winner. But remember this, communities are strong not because of how they promote members who all feel the same, but how they protect those who feel different.
f you are feeling pleasant tomorrow, great, maybe take a moment to reflect on those who may not be feeling pleasant. They are still a part of our community. Until we recognize this, the cycle of division will continue. But that’s something for next time. Until then, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.