Pretend for a moment, I meet you in a cafe, and we are waiting in line for coffee. We strike up a conversation, because you notice that I am especially attractive in my yoga pants and fluffy sweatshirt, and I notice you are drinking the same fru-fru coffee as me. As we talk, and we begin to run out of topics, I turn to the weather. I say, “Isn’t it a lovely? It’s such a beautiful day, under the big, green sky out there.”
This makes you stop. “Green?” you inquire.
“Yes. The sky is a gorgeous green today,” I say. “More green than it ever is, normally.”
It’s not green. It’s blue, or at least looks blue. But I say it’s green.
“Don’t you mean blue?” you ask, assuming I have made a mistake.
I laugh. “No, it’s green.”
“It’s not green. It’s blue.”
“You mean the clouds are blue?” I ask.
“No. The clouds are white, and sky is blue, because of the way the sun reflects off of …(something sciencey-sounding here) … Anyway, it’s blue.”
“Well,” I huff, regretting our conversation already. “I think it’s green. You can think what you want, but to me it’s green.”
You’re okay with this. After all, “safe spaces” are real and “microagressions” and even “trigger warnings” to conversations are real. You don’t want to confront me.
And after all, as I point out to you in the very next instance, “I’m not hurting anyone by saying the sky is green.”
Your silence is silent approval of my grand logic. I am happy, you are okay with how we have ended that portion of our conversation. In fact, you never have to talk to me again, most likely, and you are glad. You might even allow yourself to think I am delusional, but at least I am not hurting anyone but myself.
But then, the barista tells you, after I am gone, skipping and happy and carefree with my coffee, that I am a teacher. That I have actual, young, impressionable students in my classes. Sometimes, she tells you, my students come in and talk about how I am teaching them the sky is green, and anyone who tells them they are wrong clearly doesn’t get how important their own opinions are to themselves.
That those who disagree with them are phobic of their individuality.
That others who will confront them hate them. That they should have every reason to fear they are being personally attacked, stripped of their dignity, and denied their personal human freedom rights to believe the sky is green.
She continues to tell you how she hears how I’ve said I loathe teaching how “some people” think the sky looks blue because it is a “majority” opinion, one that has been there for many years, maybe even mentioning it was taught mostly by a specific gender of a specific color.
She also mentions how I think, as a minority opinion, my opinion should be protected as sacred, and that it should not even be up for debate. How I think the laws should be written to cater to me, because since they don’t, I could easily get hurt by one of the kids’ parents or anyone else who disagrees with me.
She tells you you’re lucky I didn’t sue you, since you obviously hurt my feelings with your “biased” “facts.”
She mentions all the students she sees can’t tell her the science behind why the sky is green versus blue, or any other color, or even green itself. When things get too hard, they just tell her “It’s just green,” because I have in my classroom, a panel of 300 opinions from several of my friends with whom I work. When you ask about others’ opinions, she tells you there were several thousands of other people who were asked to complete the survey, but barely anyone else turned it in and the given deadline’s past, so I am not accepting any more.
You begin to wonder how I still have a job. How it is possible I think I am not harming others besides myself. How I am dividing people with my attitude, how I am deliberately only looking out for only my own well-being, but hiding behind a personal, individualistic, subjective perspective, and all the optional philosophical, moral, and intellectual high ground I can imagine.
But what can you do? Seriously, what can you really do?