Dear Mr. Gaddafi by Danielle Bennet

Click To Listen, full text below.

Dear Mr. Gaddafi,

Congratulations.

You’ve managed to receive more attention from our government in six months than my students have in six years.

My 12th graders hardly know the names and situation of our 50 states

Or where your country is on a map

but they know your name

know that they shouldn’t like it

but do not know why.

My students heard our government sent a task force after you

Hunted hard to protect people against you

Have you heard that there are people here

that do no feel protected?

Did your faux royalty afford you an education of our country, sir?

If so, could you define segregation?

If so, could you explain why a recent report from one of our most prominent universities

found Latino and black students attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago?

In case you have not picked up on it, sir

The faces I spend the majority of my days with

Are all shades of coffee darker than mine

Like the ones in that report

Our country came after you so quick

But there is so little that is so immediate about the way education is handled in our country

Why is taking down dictators so easy to stand behind

While building up our own future leaders is not?

Tell me what the cry of the rebels sound like in Libya

I’ll tell you what ours sound like,

Like hope in disguise

Now the things that are killing the hope the once wore

Get stuck in stories at the fold

While your name won’t rub off A1

While they are young and under resourced,

they are not stupid.

They are cracking into the age of realization

Where they start to notice things their country is saying to them

Are hypothesizing why Kobe, their president, and you

Are rotating turns on the front page

The last time my kids got national attention is when

we treated their graduation rates

like a death toll

And you may know that better than I think

You may have already seen that the faces representing our best

Are often the best representation of our worst flaw:

Take King,

Take Clinton,

Take Woods,

Proof that we try to take on the world

without taking care of our own home

We are bleeding nurses,

Shackled freedom fighters,

Broke bankers,

Slave-owning, well-intentioned abolitionists

But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression

I love my country, sir

I politically socialize its youth every day because I believe what we’ve got

Might be the best that we get in a world as broken as ours

When I first started this job

I promised myself I would never use my students’ stories for poems and letters

Their stories are their poems

But this

Is about my story now

About how sick I am of hearing your name on the radio

On my way to work

A subliminal message that there are more important things than the graves we’re digging in our backyard

For the young men and women I give my everything for

Mr. Gaddafi,

Because I cannot shake your name from our news corps

I will not be able to avoid you in my classroom

So what am I to teach them about you?

They have already labeled you “bad,” sir,

Tossed you in a bin with Mussolini and Hussein,

But what else?

I am writing to solicit your help

Because I imagine neither of us care for your news coverage anymore

I just pray

That my students

Don’t have to adopt your tactics

To gain back their country’s

attention.

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