I should have realized years before that I was an alien, but I was always in denial. Growing up in Southern Indiana in the 70s, I thought I didn’t fit in because I was the only Jewish kid. But it was more than how the others treated me; I didn’t like anything the other kids were into. All the other students would attend the assemblies to cheer on the football team. I’d slip into the band room office, stack plastic chairs onto a desk, push open a ceiling tile, pull myself up into the crawlspace, and sneak my way over the assembly hall to wait it out. I never got caught because no one ever noticed I was missing.
When I went off to an Ivy League college, I was the only kid into punk rock; everyone else was a deadhead or a Doors fan. I thought graduation would make a good time to protest corporate greed, so I mixed up a giant vat of fake blood and stood at the front of the line of marchers asking my classmates to dip their hands in the blood of the victims of US corporate crimes in the developing world, as a symbol of their successful training as a cog in the machinery of capitalist oppression. No one took me up on the offer. I had also built a coffin, draped it in the flag of the African National Congress, but no one would help me carry it on stage. So, I was alone.
I became a teacher in rural New Hampshire. Not only was the Pledge of Allegiance mandated by state law, but teachers late to school, caught out in the hallway, would stop and put their hands over their hearts during the Pledge – even of no students were there to see them!
Before becoming a teacher, I trained as a leader of workshops in nonviolence. Part of the training involved a so-called values clarification exercise, where participants would discover that everyone – all humans – shared the same values. I assumed that was true for me as well, but when I got to my New Hampshire school I had the painful realization that it wasn’t the case. Outside of a general agreement not to kill and eat the kids, I had nothing in common with my colleagues. They chatted about sports; I was opposed to all competition. They led celebrations of our nation’s “heroes” on Veterans Day; i was opposed to all wars, even wars allegedly of self-defense, and I didn’t support the troops. I didn’t support anyone who joined any military organization for any reason. I was opposed to all the basic practices of my profession: Homework, testing, the elimination of recess and free time, grade levels by age, the school calendar….
I even found myself in opposition to all the newest, best educational practices. They seemed like shams. Differentiated education? Sounds great until you realize that it’s goal isn’t to teach students where they are but to use better techniques to force them to all know the same same things at the same time to pass the same tests. All of the most progressive non-punitive discipline approaches were actually punitive discipline approaches that changed the language: “Bad” behavior became “unexpected” behavior. No matter how cutting edge, every school I observed was designed to get kids to that point that my college friends were at on graduation day: cogs in a self-perpetuating machine meant to protect and increase the wealth of the ruling class.
On in-service days, when the school staff stayed in to train to control kids in various new ways, I couldn’t even eat the food provided – i was the only vegetarian working in the district. As far as I knew, the only vegetarian living in New Hampshire.
And that’s when it finally hit me. I don’t even eat the same food as people on this planet. I’m not from here. I want to go home to my world. I know I’m not from a horror show planet where organisms kill and eat one another. I’m not from a place that glorifies organized mass killing. I’m not from a planet where the most fully self-aware species knows its destroying the environment but doesn’t change its behavior because it likes money. I am writing this in the hope that any passing spacecraft might pick up my message and stop to give me a ride to the nearest civilized planet. I don’t know how I got here, but I’m done with the Earth. Please take me home.