Dear Governor Ducey,
As you know, although I think you’re older than me, growing up in the ‘80s was its own kind of curse. I wore a headband all through sixth grade to hide my forehead pimples because Olivia Newton John permitted such a look in her music/aerobics videos. I imagine you’re more of wristband kind of dude yourself. Sweat makes your tennis racket slip. I picture you as a high school tennis guy, a wall of hair so well-plastered it didn’t move even when the wind did.
During that time, I felt pretty saturated by the literal and figurative ideas of walls. In the mid ’80s, it was all Pink Floyd’s The Wall and “We don’t need no education”—the lyrics of which must have really saturated your point of view. It took me a long time to piece together the point of that song. Why would we not need to get smarter? Why wouldn’t we need to learn things? But I think the kind of education Roger Waters was singing about is more the type that you and the Koch Brothers look forward to for public schools. The links between low student funding and high incarceration rates are clear. Pink Floyd’s “We don’t need no thought control,” was the kind of education fed to the masses as cheaply as grey beef. “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding.” What I understand from how the Koch Brothers Education Centers will work is that those who can afford it or who can afford the time to motivate for it will have their kids sent to private and charter schools. Public schools will be so defunded the only model will be 1,000 kids in a classroom. Worksheets. AZ Merit Testing. Worksheets. Grey meat. Worksheets. Fail the AZ Merit? Well, at least in prison you can get peas and meat.
Pink Floyd alluded to the literal wall of the 1980s, the Berlin Wall. I read the Communist Manifesto, still sporting headbands. Communism sounded like a good idea. Authoritarianism did not. I wanted the wall to come down. I also wanted the hypocrisy of the west to take a break. As a kid in middle school, authoritarianism already seemed like a possibility. Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and their trickling economics. “The rich get richer, the poor are getting poorer,” John Lydon sang from his post-Sex Pistols days. Reagan’s economic policies had begun to lay the bricks for the figurative walls between classes. “All in all, you are just another brick in the wall.” Of course, we’re building newer and more literal walls in Arizona. Thanks to your friend, the president, we’ll have a wall longer than Berlin’s. Longer than Germany’s. As big as all America. A safeguard? Or is it a trap? Who will be on the inside and who will be on the out?
I read W.S. Merwin’s poem about a door that figured as a wall. “Do you remember/how I beat on the door/kicked the door/as though I/or the door were a bad thing?/ Later it opened./ I went in/nothing/starlight/snowing.” Later is the word I cling to. When I was a kid, reading about the holocaust or slavery, I had read through them, teeth clenched, telling the narrator, hold on. It will be 1866 soon. It will be 1945 soon. You will be liberated. It is a comfort when reading history to know that, at least for some, there will be a later, when thinking of the six million Jews who died or the millions of enslaved people who died in slavery. Well. You try not to think. Still, the walls did come down, eventually.
Some argue the teacher strike didn’t get much done. It did. Two hundred million dollars in new funding that was not allotted before the strike has been budgeted for schools. Still, you added no new revenue sources, and your dream to expand private school vouchers persists. But look, the teachers, they knew what was up. With a state legislature so solidly against raising taxes, so fundamentally convinced that real education makes “liberals” out of babies, with a governor so convinced that private and charter schools should serve the lucky and the strong, well, the teachers knew they were beating their heads against the wall. But now that some of us have looked inside the abyss of Arizona politics, we know that later, the wall becomes a door. In the elections. We are looking forward to opening that door.