On realizing you are Darth Vader

I am a relatively recent arrival to books in the Star Wars expanded universe. I picked up Timothy Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire” on a lark one day to read on vacation and then fast forward a few years and you have an informed opinion on similarities between Mara Jade and Jyn Erso. One of my favorite reads thus far has been Zahn’s “Allegiance” which is in part about an identity crisis among a group of stormtroopers who realize they aren’t doing the good they thought they were in the name of the Empire. That book came to mind as I withdrew my name from candidacy earlier this year for consideration by the town Selectmen [sic] to fill a vacancy for the Brookline School Committee.

I withdrew my name in response to some information that a friend of mine shared from an email thread about my candidacy for the vacancy. The emerging conclusion on the thread was that

“..we don’t need more school committee members who belong to, and import into the life of our schools, the approaches of the prefabricated consulting groups they already work for.”

And just like that, I’m a Lord of the Dark Side! Honestly, though, given where I work and what I do, I’m a minor Sith at best. I also think I detected a whiff of elite bias in my naysayers’ hasty outrage. I am fortunate that there are more than fifty hard-working colleagues in the organization where I work to support the improvement of urban public school education and the “anti” camp seemed to assume that someone on the organization’s short list of very accomplished — and all white — leaders was the candidate. That’s not to say that there aren’t people of color and minorities who do the very thing this group is most concerned about. And the criticism doesn’t much bother me; there is no point in doing highly visible and public work if you have thin skin (I’m looking at you 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue). What struck me was that the story of what I want and what I advocate for was being told by someone else and until the 11th hour unbeknownst to me.

Truth be told, I went into the whole thing knowing I had the proverbial snowball’s chance in you know where of being selected by the group convened on the evening of Jan 5. But with this being the year of the ascendance of the fringe right, I have been eager to move beyond expressing outrage on social media and through letter-writing. So during an evening dinner with some very close friends I agreed to throw my name into the hat, in line with the “grab a clipboard” suggestions from our outgoing President. Which was why the salvos from the education advocacy group struck me.

Stepping back from it a bit, I can’t much blame them for the polemic. The committee has a vacancy that needs to be filled and the town has a process for doing that. But for some it looked like “smoke filled room” kind of stuff. I am also aware that being selected through that process has the potential to send a signal of in-authenticity or having been co-opted and that’s not what I want either.

In sharing the slings and arrows experience with a veteran of Brookline politics I received some good words of insight about things happening in the back room versus the front stage:

“I love to see front stage action that’s authentic, it makes me feel like I live in a democracy.”

There is a very visible and authentic front door opening later this summer. Hoping that you or someone you know is lacing up their shoes and grabbing that clipboard.

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