Why People Are Tempted To Keep Quiet

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I share a birthday with Michel Foucalt and Fredrick Nietzche. I feel like I may have told you that before but the reason I thought about it just now is that my day is coming to a close and my day started with watching documentaries on my two birthday brothers.

I feel sort of depressed. The band director at Walker asked me to take down the YouTube video of my speaking to the band because of what I said about quarterbacks and homecoming queens. That shouldn’t really affect me as much as it has but– well, it has. I’ll get over it of course. It just comes at a time when I’m not feeling 100% emotionally y’know? Mom, for one thing. I’m still hurting pretty bad about that. But that’s natural I think.

So yeah, he sent me a message on Facebook and asked me to take down the YouTube of me speaking to the band. In my fantasy, other kids who need to hear that message will watch the video and feel better about themselves. I do regret the “quarterback and homecoming queen comment.” That’s why I made a comment to that effect underneath the video. I politely declined to take it down but offered instead to make a public amends in the description on the video– which I did. I also made a post on Facebook with similar sentiment– well, very similar because I basically cut-and-pasted the comment and— ugh. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It brings back bad memories.

I pulled over to listen the band– when was that? Two days ago? I pulled over to listen the band because– well, for a couple of reasons. One is that even though high school was pretty much a living hell for me, conducting the band was a highlight– that and being in plays. You can imagine how these two things made me very popular with the “in” crowd. For those of you who’ve forgotten to read, that’s what we call in the biz “irony.” See? That wasn’t very nice. You’re reading right now! You’re reading my blog and I should be– and am– grateful for that. Hurt people hurt people. Sorry for being a shit.

That really did a number on me when he asked me to take the video down— oh! because– and that reminds me of the other reason I pulled into that parking place in the first place. People love to complain about public education. They love to shit-talk the teachers and the schools and the programs or the lack of them. The list of what people are willing to complain about when it comes to educating our youth can go on ad infinitum but how many people offer to actually help? I’m good at that band stuff. And I thought, “You know what? I’m not going to be one of those people. I’m going to offer to help.” So I did. I basically just said to the drum major that if I could give him any pointers or anything I’d be happy to. I had great salutes and fancy myself a good conductor. He won the billet himself so clearly he’s able to do the job. Plus this is his second year. I’m sure he does a fine job but thought I’d offer anyway.

When the band director asked if I’d like to speak to the band, I was honored. I told all of them I’d be happy to help them if I could too. I left feeling great and like I was “being the change” and all. Then came his message asking me to take down the video and it was like I had been kicked in the teeth.

It’s hard to stay positive in times like these. Any of you who’ve read my blog more than a couple of times know that I’ve struggled with this. I feel like I’m doing my best to make changes for the good in my own life and in the world around me. I get what he was saying about the quarterback thing and actually had already amended the comments on the YouTube to reflect that. It first occurred to me because I started thinking about my brother (a quarterback in high school) that I realized I was just taking a broad jab and all of the kids who are– well, basically the type of kids who are portrayed as the villains in a movie like Revenge of the Nerds. I was a nerd. But of course all quarterbacks and homecoming queens are not villains. Anything but. I was using humor to make a point.

The band director said that he’d been trying to build bridges between the athletic department and the band program and I respected that. That’s another reason I went the extra mile with making that Facebook post and amending the comments. I’m all for bridge building and my friendships with people in my adult life who are– or were I guess I should say were the kind of kids that generally shunned kids like me– I think I’m building some bridges of my own now.

Here’s another thing: I also mentioned when I spoke to the kids that I was bullied for being gay when I was in high school. I wondered if the band director wasn’t a little afraid that some band parent would see the video and say, “Hey! What are you doing letting the gay agenda guy come in here and try to pervert our kids for?!” Don’t laugh. It happens. And as I’m sitting here typing this, I can’t help but believe that that might have had at least a liiiiiittle part in his request. And for that reason I would especially not take it down.

As you can imagine, there are a disproportionate amount of kids in the band who are gay. The Arts have always drawn my tribe. I don’t know why but it’s true. I just wonder how much self-loathing I could have avoided to have had someone like me stand in front of my high school band and just admit to being gay without seeming to be embarrassed by it. You may think I’m being hyperbolic but I really do think if more people did that, fewer teenagers would off themselves. Gay kids kill themselves at a disproportionate rate as well. Anyway– the talk wasn’t about “gay,” the talk was about seeking in the music what one might otherwise try to find in drugs and alcohol, that people from places like Jasper can go on to do good things, and that Artists are important people in the world even though in high school it’s easy to get the opposite impression.

Another reason I feel so defeated by the whole thing is that here’s this band director (I think he’s a very nice man by the way and my sources corroborate that) who’s rushing to defend quarterbacks everywhere! You know who already defends the athletes? Coaches! Trust me, the athletic people, the rich kids, the beauty queens, they have not historically had a hard time finding adults to advocate on their behalf. Please, please somebody stand up for those who have oftentimes been outcast and disenfranchised! Oh wait! That’s what I was doing!

Yeah, I regret my choice of words. I’ve made amends and I even offered to come do it in front of the band if he wants me to. I even offered to bring my quarterback brother. But let’s face it, if we took a poll of the kids that heard me speak to see how many of them thought that I actually meant that all homecoming queens and quarterbacks go on to “sell trailers” or that (when I told the band they were the most important people at Walker High School) that I actually meant they were more important than any other kid– I’m sure the number would be very, very low. They got the humor. They understood my message. It was fear that made the band director make the request of me. And y’all know me. I do not bow to fear– in me or anyone else.

I may struggle like hell at times but I am a free man. Really free. I’ve fought against the system when it was oh-so-not-popular to do so simply because I will not give away my inalienable rights. You know those can’t be taken away, right? Inalienable means “not able to be taken away.” They can only be given away. And I’ve watched my nation give away their individual rights like they were worthless ever since I became an activist and sought to be more aware of such things. Maybe that’s part of what’s fueled my sadness and anger around the whole “speaking to the band” thing. It makes me wish I’d just kept driving like most everyone else does. “Let them figure it out on their own.” “Not my problem.” “Let someone else help.” All that crap.
Only problem is, I was raised by parents who taught me better than that. And I’m not going to stop. Even though it takes an emotional toll at times.

See y’all tomorrow.


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