So Donald “it is what it is” Trump and his sycophantic governors want students, teachers and support staff to return to school so that all will appear “back to normal” and the president will be reelected. Meanwhile, they are doing little to ensure that people will be safe.
Let’s put Education Secretary Betsy DeVos into this conversation since she is proving as derelict as Trump in preparing for a safe reentry. Her plan, as far as I can tell, is for school personnel to be heroes and put their lives on the line. This from a woman who regularly denigrates teachers, teacher unions, and the public school system in general. She deserves the anger that pours forth from Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy.”
Kipling’s speaker notes that the soldier is regularly maligned until “the guns begin to shoot.” Then everything changes and he becomes “Savior of ’is country.” The resentment is so thick you can cut it with a knife:
I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
Teachers, like health care workers, essential service workers, and so many others aren’t asking for special favors. Many are not even asking for hazard pay, although there are provisions for such pay in the Democrat’s “HEROES Act.” They’ll “wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.” But politicians who pretend that schools can reopen without incident are treating them instead as though they are expendable cogs and Trump’s reelection effort.
The poem ends with a warning: “An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool—you bet that Tommy sees!” Hopefully our Tommys will hold Trump and his enablers accountable come November 3.