Friday, March 11, 2011

Rocking My Own Life Boat

I’m a boat rocker. I’ve been rocking all sorts of boats over the past 48 years. Some needed it and some probably didn’t, but I rocked them anyway.

These days I’ve been rocking my own life boat. I’ve been pretty quiet about the imploding public school system, the threats to arts ed programs, and the emergency status so many nonprofits have found themselves in, having to say “No” to the record numbers of people who have turned to them for help during this recession, because they no longer have the ability or resources to help. Through no fault of their own, many have had to shut their doors, leaving more and more people out in the cold.

I’ve been quiet because I’m heart broken and exhausted. I feel betrayed by those in control who are responsible for this whole mess, and I’m angry because they don’t seem to care. I’m frustrated with the masses who seem so numb and indifferent to their plight. In order to make sense of the whole American tragedy, I have turned to my own art to get me through it. That’s what I’ve always done when life has punched me in the face. My painting is my therapy. It relaxes me and makes me happy– letting me forget the never ending BS that plagues my city and our nation. And with my writing and cartooning, I can say things that aren’t really appropriate for me to say in my role as PTA President or nonprofit leader. If I can make myself laugh out loud with a new “ART” cartoon, I rock my own boat, and that’s good enough for me these days. I’m still doing my activism, but from the comforts of my own creation.

Sometimes though, like today, after doing a couple of cartoons on LAUSD laying valuable music teachers off (facing the very real possibility that the music departments in these schools could close) I feel sick……..really sick. This is very personal to me. I am an artist. I am a mother. I’ve dedicated the past eleven years to restoring the arts to schools in my community. I was one of those kids whose life was literally saved by art and music in school. This is too close for comfort for me. I can not believe this is happening. I feel so powerless. It’s so wrong.

So I draw some cartoons to expose the hypocrisy of the LAUSD, but I don’t laugh out loud. I cry. I want to take a shower because the whole thing is so icky. And I wonder, “How much more are people going to take? When are they going to rise up and say they’re not going to take it any more?”

I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, trying to pass on the gift of creativity, individuality and freedom of expression to kids, because so few seem to care. They’re numb and preoccupied. Why?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the failing education system in America is by design and that scares me. I’ve taken solace in the fact that I have gone above and beyond what is expected of an ordinary citizen to try and make a difference in the lives of thousands of kids in my community, and I’ve made sure that my own kids are OK. But what about their future? What kind of world will they be moving out in to?

I jumped ship at the end of the last school year. I found a life boat for my daughter and I, and we got the hell out of the way. She is safe in a magnet school for a couple of years. And me? I have survivor’s guilt, watching the sinking LAUSD ship behind me, and the people left on deck who never jumped. I can’t help them. It’s too late.

While I work through this crisis in my own, creative, constructive way, I hope that the masses will rise up and take on the Status Quo. Grassroots activism is the only answer. We need to take a few lessons out of the French Revolution Playbook and quit settling for day old cake!