Whose PTA Is It, Anyway?

palin_norsefolk.jpgas part of a blog linkup “Ghosts of Blogging Past,” I’m re-publishing my very first-ever blog post, featuring this stunning photo of Sarah Palin. Doesn’t she look lovely? Click on the button at the bottom of the post to see other first-time posts!

This post was first published September 4, 2008.


I’d been shilly-shallying around with starting this blog, equally afraid that no one would read it … and that everyone would read it.

In fact, I was going to write an entire post — the inaugural post — about that fear, about being trapped between fear of going unnoticed and being noticed. It’s a rather a tricky line to walk as a writer and so I was handling that tricky balancing act by … not writing.

Not writing is, of course, a time-honored way to handle writing dilemmas.

Whitman — from whom I’ve borrowed the name of this blog — didn’t suffer from writers block that I can tell. Edition after edition of Leaves of Grass … endless iterations and revisions of his ideas and his visions of the United States. Whitman loved the infinite variety of this country, loved the infinite variety of faces he saw as he walked down the streets of Mannahatta, gazing across the East River towards Brooklyn.

whitman_log_tp.jpgWhitman was a cosmopolitan, like the man with whom he is often paired on literature syllabuses: Herman Melville. They saw difference as an opportunity to be explored, not something to be papered over, ignored, or — feared.

And it’s fear of difference that I see spraddled before me — paraded before me — on the screen of the Republican Convention tonight and that prods me out of silence.

Sarah Palin parades her family in front of us all, smiling and snarking at her opponents. She smiles when she says that she started as a PTA President; she smiles as she talks about her small town; she s`miles as if she doesn’t realize she sounds like an extra from Fargo.

I’m watching all the smiling pink faces gazing back at Sarah’s pinkly white face, and Sarah’s pinkly white family, and — WAIT — there was a black man! And wait–another black man! Oh, wait, that black man is a singer, the entertainment.

But I digress. I wonder what Sarah would think of Cindy’s ranch in Arizona, where the sycamore trees have ceiling fans (seriously, it’s in the interview the Barbituate Barbie gave to Time magazine). Did Cindy ever serve on a PTA?  Did Cindy’s kids go to public school?  Somehow, given the sycamore/ceiling fan juxtaposition, I doubt it.

Sarah’s experience on the PTA may have prepared her for the city council in Wasilla or whatever it’s called.

But my family lives in New York. My children, whose white maternal grand-mother remarried a few years ago to an African American man; my children, whose paternal grandfather was born in Karachi; my children, whose other grandmother was born in the Philippines; my children, who have a gay uncle and — perhaps even worse — another uncle who is FRENCH!  (And one from Long Island but that is neither here … nor there).

My Pan-Asian children, my Asian-fusion children … my children go to a public school in Manhattan–a school where Whitman, gay inconclast that he was, might have felt at home.

Our public school, where there are any number of single parents, where there are many more than an handful of gay and lesbian parents, where Spanish, English, and Mandarin mix in the halls; where the children are equally at home playing tag in the playground or painting self-portraits in the art room …

This public school — it’s a great school, mostly due to the parents who do everything from re-wiring the sound system in the auditorium to cleaning up after bake sales. We have a great principal and a terrific energetic teachers who manage to do great things with our kids, despite working in the crazed, through-the-looking-glass-world that is the NYC Board of Ed.

In many ways, this school avoids many of the horrors we hear about New York City schools — no rats (some small mice, maybe), no violence, not too crowded. But in other ways, it’s not that unusual in its mix of families and demographics, rich and poor, brown and white.

I’m not just a parent at this school, however. Full disclosure: I share a bond with Sarah Palin.  Which horrifies me, but here goes:  I’m co-president of the PTA at this school.

I handle a budget probably about the size of the budget that Sarah Palin dealt with as mayor — at least, before she got all that money from her congressional lobbyist (who used to work for the captain of the Bridge to Nowhere … which Sarah first strode across and then skittered backwards like a scared jackrabbit when it became clear that she was standing in the middle of nowhere, supported only on piles of taxpayer money).

There are about 500 families in my school, about 600 kids.  That’s … hmm … that’s like 10% of the population of Wasilla.

Here’s the thing, ultimately, that gets me off the couch, repress my fears, and out into the blogosphere or whatever you want to call it.

There are PTAs and PTAs. There are PTAs that look a lot like most of the country and there are PTAs that look like … only some of the country.

If a PTA president is going to be the proverbial heartbeat away from that other presidency, then I would like her (or him) to have been president of a PTA that looks like all of us. Not just some of us.

 

It’s ghost of blogging past AND lovelinks! Click to lovelinks and read funny smart posts by interesting writers–then come back on Thursday and vote for your favorites! Me and jiminy cricket think that it would be a great idea if, among those three, you voted for moi …

 

 

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