My Failed Rally to Keep Schools Closed

Friends, I thought you were on my side here. We were going to show up in force, take over the classrooms, declare in one united voice—for the safety of the community, we need to keep our schools closed.  And yet… there I was, all alone.

And it was a lot of money I spent, too. I had buses! I had lots of lots of buses that we were going to pack to the gills to get as many people out to the rally as we could. I even had separate buses for high-risk teachers and for kids who had recently traveled out of state. Okay, wait, I had one bus, for both of those groups. But still, crowded buses—for nothing.

And I had set up an amazing rally. We were going to have lectures in the gym—the smaller gym, not the bigger one—about the hazards of reopening, a communal art project to trace our bodies onto huge sheets of sticky brown paper that we would lick and then attach to the walls to tell the world—this is a dangerous place. I had a bounce house for the kids, we were going to form the county’s longest human chain, we were going to bob for apples. It was going to be so much fun—and really communicate a message, though now that I try to articulate it, I realize that maybe it’s a little fuzzy.

The big finale was going to be a mask burning, to tell the world that our kids should not have to go to school in masks. We were going to crowd around the bonfire, and throw those masks in, and then use the flames to grill burgers and hot dogs that we could eat all together in the cafeteria, while discussing the potentially disastrous consequences of reopening in the fall. I’d written a song that we were all going to sing, and then we were going to do trust falls, and then trust hugs, and then trust kisses, all to show that we were united in declaring that the risks are just too high.

We were going to celebrate the possibilities of virtual learning by squeezing as many of us together into one webcam shot as we could. We were going to illustrate that one-way hallways are never going to work, by crashing into each other and lying in one giant heap on the ground. We were going to demonstrate the ravages of this terrible pandemic by taking the sickest patients from the hospitals and bringing them to our rally, holding their hands up high, and chanting with them, “This is dangerous! Please don’t do this!” and then we were going to quench our thirst at the water fountain, and all eat from one giant bowl of pretzels.

We were going to insist that this is asking too much of us, by playing a symbolic game of Twister, and then all shaking hands with each other, in every permutation, especially the borrowed hospital patients, so that we could all tell the world: “Don’t put us at risk.” We were going to create a human shield, with nothing able to pull us apart, coming together to say: please, let us remain apart!

But once I realized none of you were going to show up, I packed up my portable air recirculator, put away my megaphone, and decided to go to Costco instead. I’ll see you all there.

Jeremy Blachman recently resurrected a fictional lawyer he wrote a novel about. 

Photo by Joshua Hoehne

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