When I studied poetry with 9th graders, I told them to look for the “shift” in a poem. “Shift happens,” I’d declare. The poem may begin with a young girl crying over a loss in her life, but then end with an epiphany about acceptance of life’s impermanence. “Notice where the poem changes course,” I’d advise. There they could discover the poem’s kernel of truth.
Making sense of this recent political shift is a challenge. I read one comment that stated, “The people have spoken. Deal with it.” However, the popular vote did not go with the guy who won. The majority of voters SPOKE for Hillary. How do we all deal with the discrepancy? I do not believe the election was rigged or flawed, but I feel utter disbelief and confusion that so many voters supported a person I consider a bully and an instigator.
I taught public school for 34 years, and I saw kids from ages 5 to 17 who acted like this person does. I dealt with fearful, ignorant bullies who mimicked and insulted other students who were different. I handled these public assaults by counseling both the bully and his/her target. Other times I dealt with trouble-makers who tried to start fights in classes and in courtyards by using prejudice and hate to spur others to violence. Often these ringleaders would stir up the more impressionable or discontented kids in an effort to create chaos. These were kids and teens. How do we deal with adult bullies and instigators?
Calm and rational words do not tame people full of unpredictable bluster and unnecessary tantrums. How did a person who blurts out immature insults and encourages others to chant asinine threats gain the most powerful position in our government? And how do the people who voted against him handle our new reality? There is no ISS (In School Suspension) or expulsion for this bully. We are charting new territory now. Teachers often guide students who have opposing views to listen to one another and to learn how to compromise and collaborate. Who will guide this self-obsessed bully?
Let me remember that “Shift happens” in life as well as in poetry. Our country has felt a monumental shift. I have given up on predictions and likelihoods. Anything can happen. Right this moment fear and worry rule my head, yet I do not know what this major shift will bring us. All of us need to be observant and vigilant. Instead of whining and crying, let us use intelligence, wisdom, and strength to outwit instigators and out-maneuver bullies. Bullies may sometimes be beaten with hate and violence. However, blustery bullies may also be subdued with clever elements of surprise. If we reach out and connect with those whose views are different from ours, if we seek to understand and to learn from our differences, we may navigate this frightening shift in productive ways. The shift HAS happened. Now let us seek to understand its message. I am still confused, but I do know we all need to learn from each other and work at finding new American epiphanies. More of us have to come together and cooperate to navigate this new SHIFT.