Site icon A Piece of My Mind with Shane Phipps

Reflections on an Historic Day in Indianapolis

It was quite a day. My day got off to a particularly interesting start. I woke up around 5:30am. I didn’t want to be awake, but I was kind of wound up about the big Red for Ed Action Day Rally. I could tell I was awake for good, so I went ahead and got out of bed. I watched a little news on tv and then started getting all my electronic gear ready to go for the day. Then, around 6:50am, I got a Facebook message from Dave Smiley, the host of the morning show on Indianapolis radio station WZPL 99.5 FM. He said he’d been reading my articles and wondered if I would be available to do a phone interview for his show at 7:25am. That’s quite a wake up call. I had about 30 minutes notice and suddenly I was on the radio. The segment went about 8 or 9 minutes and it was all very positive. I was very impressed with how supportive of teachers everyone on the show was. Then it was off to the Statehouse.

My first impressions were a slow build. By the time I got up to the east lawn of the Statehouse, I was beginning to get a real good idea just how big this event was going to be. You hear numbers like 10,000, 15.000, 20.000, and they sound big, but when you see that many people (it turns out that low estimate was 15K and some reports were 20K) crowded into such a tight space, it’s almost indescribable. Add to that a cacophony of sounds; the chants—the drum beats—the brass band—the muffled voices of hundreds of conversations between old friends and colleagues who hadn’t seen each other face to face in years—the frequent of honks of support from passing vehicles—the spontaneous eruptions of cheering coming from all directions for reasons unknown—and you have yourself a uniquely thrilling atmosphere. Everywhere the eye fell, one saw camaraderie, unity, and solidarity–even when one looked skyward. A ten story parking garage was draped with people wearing red on all the floors all the way up to the top. Like waves crashing in from the sea of red were the ubiquitous signs held aloft from thousands of teachers from every corner of the state. Some humorous, some a bit sarcastic, some caustic, some poignant, all appropriate. One sign in particular stuck with me and seemed to me to perfectly sum up my main take away from the day. The sign read: “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” To that I say, amen.

This has been a whirlwind week for me, personally. Since I started this new blog a little over a week ago, I could never have imagined just how well it would be received. I expected that if all went well, I might get a few thousand people stop by and check out some of the things I had to say about this movement. As I type this sentence, this website has been visited over 150,000 times in its first week and a half of existence. That’s a number that is as overwhelming to me as it was to stand among the red throng today at the Statehouse. As is to be expected, when that many people read your work, some of them will come at you with push back and opposition. This week, I’ve been called a Socialist more times than I can count, mostly due to the fact that I dared point out that our nation runs in large part on programs that are socialistic. Public education, like all civic services, is a form of socialism. Some people don’t like to hear that. They associate socialism with totalitarian regimes. I never suggested we abandon the principles of capitalism, I just want to educate people on what socialism really means and how crucial it is to keep our country running as it should. By the way, the school choice vouchers that many of my attackers love so much–that’s socialism, too. They don’t like to hear that. But with all that said, the overwhelming majority of the feedback I’ve gotten has been positive.

Let’s get back to that sign again; The power of the people is greater than the people in power. It strikes me that phrase is America in a nutshell, or should be. That was what was so vividly on display today at the Indiana Statehouse. It was incredibly invigorating to be a part of such a grand display of democracy in action. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life felt so consciously aware of my American-ness. I imagine the feelings I was experiencing today are very similar to those experienced by the Patriots that rallied around the Sons of Liberty in Boston as they protested and burned King George in effigy. Our nation was literally built upon the exact same spirit that was so palpable in that rally today. It’s important to take part in events like today’s once in a while so that we stay in intimate touch with that uniquely American spirit. In these times when our nation is divided so deeply, as the impeachment inquiry hearings are dominating the headlines, as 15-20,000 teachers clad in red swarmed the streets of Indianapolis, it was good to feel that sense of pride in the realization that, yes, it’s really cool that we live in a place where we are still free to demonstrate when our rights are abused by our elected leadership. The power of the people must not be underestimated–in the end, we are the people in power. Today was a visible reminder of that and hopefully our lawmakers were thinking the same thing.

Nothing was officially accomplished today, not on paper anyway. But a gigantic statement was made. People saw it and they heard it. A message was sent and received. And a whole bunch of people, myself included, walked away feeling damn proud to be an American.

God Bless America and God bless public education.

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