“Two dollars and you can have your own ‘Bring Back Teacher’ t-shirt,” I heard behind me.
Snatching my wallet, I handed two one dollar bills to the girl talking.
I was going to be an activist.
“Extra small for you, Mel?” she asked with a smile. She hadn’t actually been talking to me, so I could see in her eyes her surprise at my sudden about face.
“Yes, please,” I answered, a smile from ear to ear.
The white t-shirt with blue lettering “Bring Back Teacher” was simple, but we had our message. We had our demands, and they were going to be heard.
We were going to bring back our favorite teacher, Mr Teacher (not his real name).
So the next day hundreds of us wore our t-shirts. We were going to make them hear and see how important he was to us. We marched around the halls of the school, chests pushed out and fire in our eyes.
Our activism failed. Nothing happened. Not a damn thing.
That was the first and last time I was an activist, because one of the hardest things to accept is that sting of defeat, and the overall sense that you’ve just been ignored.
Unfortunately, it turned out I was on the wrong side of this. I had teachers and students surrounding me, telling me that he didn’t do what they say he did, but never once did I question it.
He had embezzled money from the school. For all his knowledge and drive to impart it, he had done something really stupid. He was caught by another teacher, and though he paid it back, stealing was stealing. He was officially let go, and we were stuck with a terrible replacement teacher.
So what do you do when you realize you’re on the wrong side of a cause? Do you admit you were wrong? How do you deal with that? Is it hard to switch sides? As it turns out, it can be. The teacher who discovered what Mr Teacher did was put on trial with all the students and faculty because she told on him. The snitching was worse than what he did because he was loved by all, and she was effectively driven out of town (remember, this is Paris, TX, folks) by the end of the year.
I remember telling my friends that what he did was wrong. I remember being told I was stupid, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that I should just keep my mouth shut. And so I did for fear of being pushed away as the teacher had been.
I held my belief, though, but I had no way of vocalizing it well enough for them to see the truth (though I doubt they would have anyway).
And to me, that’s the issue I personally have with activism. I’m not a debater by nature. I stumble with words, intent, and language. If I’m speaking, my mouth struggles to keep up with my brain, so I can’t seem to form proper sentences that make any sense. I do believe strongly in my stances, and I do admit fault if I realize a stance I have is incorrect. But I will always confess, I’m the last person you want to speak out towards a cause.
Therein lies the reason I don’t tend to write political posts or discuss subjects such as feminism, neurodiversity, equal rights, or even religion (and the hundreds of other causes that deserve equal discussion), because even though I’m a writer, I’m not always the greatest with words or expressing myself. I’m an ill-suited advocate of human rights.