Chapter 6: Mrs. Dorsey

So much has changed since my youth. New York was totally different when I was a girl growing up here seven decades ago. America was so different. At my advanced age, I have the luxury of looking back on a fine life and long career in public education. Memories of the many thousands of children who have been taught in schools under my administration warm my heart. Now, as Principal of I.S. 406 however, I’m faced with the responsibility of preparing a new generation of children in ways never implemented before. I believe my purpose has never been more urgent. And now I have the means to make radical changes.

In the 1950’s, my parents were happy people in a country growing by leaps and bounds. We knew everyone in the neighborhood and you could count on one hand the number of kitchen tables and backyards for three blocks in any direction that I and my two brothers hadn’t sat around and played in. That was the America I remembered, filled with people of every origin: Irish, Jews, Greeks, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Africans, you name it, we had them. That was life in North Flushing, Queens, in the city that never slept. Dad’s New Yorker war buddies from three years of fighting against the Nazi horrors in Europe, and the GI Bill, convinced him, a Midwestern farm boy, to return with them to the Big Apple to try his luck. But my life story began much earlier than that. My great-great-great-grandparents on my father’s side, Elias and Amelia Sharpe, had come from a village in the midlands of England in the early nineteenth century, poor tenant farmers with no hope of a better life there, lured by the promise of plentiful, cheap land here. With hard work and a strong faith, good health and a ton of luck, a family could accomplish anything. They had arrived in New York and after a few years of working for seed money, headed to the Midwest to farm, well before the Civil War. They’d gotten rich in Iowa after 20 years of farming, buying land and extending their holdings. They lost some children to disease and misfortune, raised more to adulthood, and those begat many more, and so it had gone on and on for over 100 years. As America’s fortunes grew, so did the family. I still had family in Iowa, Nebraska and a half-dozen other states.

Since the end of WWII, we thought we’d made the world a safer place. We were only fooling ourselves. We were so flawed that we couldn’t handle the awesome responsibility. We were rotting from within, ripping ourselves apart because we didn’t have the ability to change or the faith that only with change could humanity find respite from its ceaseless and sadistic cycles of hatred and destruction that are inbred in our DNA as a species. Our instinctual flaws made us betray the potential the Maker had provided for us to find Eden again.

The world is too large and chaotic now. Too many choices, too many opinions. We stand on the brink of epidemics, climatic shifts and disasters, and impossibly unbending opinions, convictions and divisions, all of which threaten to rip asunder the basic fabric of life as we’ve come to know it. Demagogues whip up public sentiment and exploit deep-seated prejudices into explosive hatreds that let loose the most horrible instincts in the human animal. Some say the great experiment we called America is being exposed as a sham, nothing but what it probably always was, from the early 1600’s to now—a financial venture meant to enrich oligarchs and their money-hungry investors. Political parties polarize around vastly conflicting ideals that splinter the entire population into warring factions. Anarchy looms if we don’t root out and cure the cancer of human nature.

Now, for the first time, we have the tools to create a type of harmony and stability—a lasting and constructive and all-encompassing happiness—that never existed in the past. We have the technology to eradicate bias and prejudice of every sort. We can fashion a society which runs smoothly and where people are genuinely compassionate with each other, where we all think in the same, useful direction. We can finally set things right. It has to happen. It will happen. The alternative is awful to contemplate.

G88, published by Bilbo Books Publishing