for fifteen years i volunteered at our local community elementary school. from 1985 to 2000 almost everybody loved me there, almost. the teachers encouraged me to become a substitute teacher, and so i did, although i was never hired by this local school district, because they are controlled by conservative/christian/republicans, who knew best, and decided i would never be hired in "their school district" as a substitute teacher. so i continued to volunteer. there was one woman in particular, which i'll simply call MGH, who did not like me. she looked for any reason to get me in trouble as often as she could. she'd run to the principal and report me for things, like watching the children play on the playground. the principal would tell her that was my volunteer job for the day. she'd run to the principal and say i was alone in a room with a student. the principal would tell her that was my job for that day. i was tutoring, or reading to students, or helping them with their homework, or sometimes just supervising them. one day MGH approached me, in a very unpleasant, confrontational way, and said: "you MUST remove that symbol you're wearing. it is against school district policy for anybody, student or staff, to wear any kind of symbol." i was wearing a peace sign. she said: "if you don't immediately remove that symbol, i'll file a report and complaint with the principal, school board, and school district." i paused a moment, thinking satanic horns would sprout from her forehead any second. then i noticed she was wearing a symbol 'round her neck too, so i said: "hm, i guess that means i also must report you for wearing that symbol you have so prominently displayed around your neck." about this time, i think i did notice satanic horns emerging from her forehead. i'm pretty certain smoke was coming from her ears too, while flames danced deep within her eyes. so i said, "i'll tell you what. i think the best solution here is if we both remove our symbols, together, simultaneously, right now, in front of each other. that way, neither one of us will have to fill out all that bloody paperwork filing reports and complaints on each other. what do you say?" she said nothing. i thought her head would spin 360º, like in that movie, the exorcist, and i was kinda looking forward to that, because i'd never seen a head spin around like that before, but it didn't, so i wondered if they ever really do, or if that's just in the movies. she sorta huffed a bit, then turned and walked away. i'm pretty sure smoke was still coming from her ears, and now from her ass as well. i never did remove my peace sign, and i always saw her wearing her symbol too from that day on. hers was some kind of cross, displayed quite boldly just under her adam's apple, on a little silver chain. she continued to report me for anything she could. in 2000, when i became very publically politically active, the school district told me i was no longer wanted at their school as a volunteer. when i asked them why, they simply said that my behavior was "inappropriate". i knew this was code for, "you're not our kind". i found other volunteer opportunities. i've discovered it's a complete waste of everybody's time for me to try and fit in where i'm not wanted. but mostly, it's very sad. education is getting less and less money. american students are getting dumber. our economy is suffering for lack of qualified, educated employees. in the last few years, more american companies hired more IIT graduates, than MIT and CIT graduates combined. this is a clear message. IIT = india institute of technology, MIT = massachusettes institute of technology, and CIT = california institute of technology. i've noticed an announcement in our local excuse for a newspaper on behalf of the school asking for community volunteers. of course, they don't mean me. they only want good christians, good republicans, good conservatives, and primarily volunteers with no opinions, so they can't express any. and of course, they don't want any volunteers who might wear a peace sign. apparently crosses are OK. i haven't told too many people about this. most of the time when i do tell somebody, they think i'm kidding. the school puts on a good act. but after 15 years of volunteering there, i know what lies beneath. people usually act and behave a certain way, but you can always tell who they really are by asking them a few simple questions, like: do you own any guns? do you recycle? do you vote? who'd you vote for? how often do you attend church? do you smoke? do you believe in equal rights FOR EVERYBODY? in those 15 years i volunteered at that school, there were other volunteers too. people who had been volunteering there fewer years than i. i witnessed them get taken out to lunch, receive special recognition from the school board, be given fancy certificates of appreciation, and even presented with flowers and chocolate. i never got nothing. and of course i wasn't volunteering to get anything either, except the smiles and thank you's from the children i interacted with, and there were more than enough of those for me. some people at that school express to me that i am missed. some of them make it quite clear to me that i was tossed out. and some of them clearly only care about keeping their jobs. since 2000, i've heard of similar experiences from many people. this current illegal administration has an agenda, and if you're not part of it, then you're considered an enemy. and to think, feeding christians to lions was once considered great sport. how times have changed! or have they? i have learned to go where i'm wanted, and help those who want my help. i honestly believe i can change our world, one person at a time. and you can too. today i see tons of people wearing all kinds of symbols. people wear crosses, wristbands, peace signs, earings, and not to mention those things pierced in just about every other part of their body as well. don't ever be afraid to wear a symbol, because that symbol tells the world who and what you are, and we really need to know! PEACE!