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RTC Chapter Leader Column

It’s time to take action

New York Teacher
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy, Chapter Leader for Retired Teachers Chapter

Lily Tomlin: “Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.”

In the White House, the occupant has been whining, finger-pointing, dividing and complaining since Day One. Imagine having him in your classroom as a student. But the complainer in chief isn’t alone. We all indulge.

My message is: Complain but act. There are times when nothing satisfies like verbally licking our wounds. That works for a while but then we must take action to do something that makes things better.

From its earliest days, the labor movement has been optimistic, believing that problems created by mankind are open to solutions. But those solutions depend on moving from complaint to action. Campaign 2020 offers redemption to all of us who complain. Let’s take the opportunity to consign this national nightmare to the pages of history.

We face three crises simultaneously: the pandemic, the unresolved legacy of racial injustice and the economic recession.

Who among us hasn’t railed against COVID-19 and the thousands of lives it has taken? It’s unfair, scary and seemingly out of control. But as the virus rages, only fantasy emanates from a White House that politicizes what should be civic and divides when there should be a call for national unity. Science is sabotaged and facts are labeled fake. Our responsibility now is to act and to support the voices of reason and to follow the prescripts of medical experts.

You and I have spent our careers trying to prepare our students for a better world of social, racial, cultural and economic justice. These times of racial strife can make us pessimistic about everything we have tried to achieve. Young John Lewis carried Thomas Merton’s book “The Seven Storey Mountain” in 1965 when he was beaten unconscious in Selma, Alabama, as he helped lead the Bloody Sunday march for Black voting rights. The book supports the spiritual ideas of Merton, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian civil rights leader, that hope can show the way; that positive ideas can transform complaint into righteous action.

Economic downturns, like the one we are facing now, are fearful things. But we are not helpless. John Maynard Keynes said during the great depression that in times of economic distress government leadership is crucial and government spending can stimulate the economy. It’s the reason we took action and lobbied for the HEROES Act and the funds it would provide to get our country back on its feet and enable schools to reopen safely. Unfortunately, the White House belittles the needs of ordinary people outside its electoral base.

Yes, there’s a deep need to complain but there’s also a deeper need to act. Let’s turn complaints into action. It’s time to elect a positive president prepared to unify the nation with purpose, compassion and renewal. Engaging in Campaign 2020 has become a moral and political imperative.