Searching for Lorenzo

He was the Prince, eloquent and prudent. A statesman who gave to his people, a diplomat in a world dominated by the church. Il Magnifico – married to bring unity to his beloved Florence, having given his heart earlier to his true beloved.

Even in your death you inspire me to paint and write, and to believe that the arts and sciences will one day forge the way toward the next Renaissance. They can take away the teachers from the schools, the paints, pencils, and canvases, but they cannot dismiss the heart of the artist. For what is math without music, and art without science but a society out of balance, lost – unable to grow and explore.

How beautiful our Youth is
That’s always flying by us!
Who’d be happy, let him be so:
Nothing’s sure about tomorrow.

“A Song for Bacchus”
Lorenzo de Medici

For the past couple of years I’ve been working with high school students writing and directing theater. This year I also took on the job of teaching drawing, studio art, and AP Art. Yes, I often wonder what the hell I was thinking when I signed the contract. But, you see, I’m an education junky, an infliction that intensified when the 43rd President of the United States went into power.

I’m not a lover of the No Child Left Behind Act, mainly because I don’t think it’s fair to judge a group of children on test scores. It’s just not that easy, so many issues come into play. I do believe that schools and teachers need to be held accountable for their curriculums, how they teach, and when it’s taught, but one of the main ingredients to a child’s education is family support.

Walk into any PTA meeting and you’ll find low numbers. People are busy. They get home late from work, pick up kids from school, cook dinner, do laundry, help with homework, and that’s the middle class. For countless parents in the United States this is not the case. Many don’t have jobs, housing, or food, and each day and night is a struggle.

I have fellow teacher friends who tell me stories of kids coming to school hungry; they sleep on the streets, and no, their parents don’t make it to the PTA meetings, and they’re unable to help their kids with homework.

A few years ago I did a class in Political Science because I wanted to understand more on this subject. Also, I’m not getting any younger and the ‘use it or lose it,’ phrase that refers to the brain is something I’m a little paranoid about. As with most college classes, this one involved a lot of reading, and my tattered copy of Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America that was at the forefront of this class has become one of my most cherished books.

De Tocqueville discussed his thoughts on many issues but his words on education are close to my heart. He wrote that education was at the forefront of true equality and ultimate freedom. Back then education was only for the wealthy. There was a definite separation between men of work, and men of education. What concerns me is that 181 years later this pattern is repeating itself.

An uneducated society is easier to manipulate than one that is educated. And an uneducated society can be seduced by fear. There are many in the United States who thrive in leading the uneducated along perverse paths of pathetic issues such as seducing those who are Christians into believing that God does not see us all as equal.

As a child I was raised in the Christian faith, and even then I found it very confusing. As far as I could understand, if I did anything wrong I would be sent to hell – no questions asked – and wrong seemed to mean anything from wearing my skirts too short or killing someone.

As I’m not prone to violence and couldn’t see myself killing another living thing, that only left the length of my skirts to be judged by God. As my upper, upper thighs were close to getting sunburned on a regular basis, especially during my teenage years, it was looking like Hades and I would become after-life buddies. So to hell with it, I partied.

One of my sons declared at the ripe old age of twelve that he was an atheist. “Do you even know what that is?” I questioned him. He went on to explain that he found it difficult to believe in anything that didn’t make sense, especially when most issues can be proved true or false through science. Basically he felt the whole religious thing was a scam. He still claims to be a skeptic and when he asks me if I believe in god, I find my answer getting weaker as yet another tea-partying, misspelled, racially inappropriate sign is wielded across the television screen.

And this uneducated society is sitting pretty to be persuaded that global warming is just a dream. They choose ignorance, even as they witness their homes destroyed by unusual hurricanes, fires, or rising tides. And that oxymoron – clean coal – is great stuff, it’s the new green – well that’s what ‘they’ tell us, so it must be true, right? No, it’s utter bullshit. Mountaintop removal mining is harmful to every living thing; it pollutes the air, soil, and water. Kudos to Joel and Ethan Coen for creating their ‘Clean Coal’ commercial – I love those guys.

I’d like to believe that we are entering a new era of reasoning – albeit forced through global economic and environmental collapse, but it’s been proven that people follow the voice of authority. So if the person in authority is himself well educated, then it doesn’t take much to assemble a bunch of God fearing, racist, bad spellers, to rival hate toward others.

It’s a little difficult for individuals to come to their own conclusions through careful reasoning when so many can’t read and write past a middle school education. It’s the power that some individuals have over others that breaks the weakness of the masses.

If there is a God, then please send down Lorenzo. We are in dire need of a renaissance; we need to feed our artists and writers, and fund science and education. We need a poet, one who sees the beauty in words and the value of dance, theater, music, and the stars in the sky. Oh, to have one who is not shy to inspire others, a leader who values the mind, an inquisitive patron, a visionary.

Yes, dear Lorenzo, your sonnets soften my heart when love is lost and politics threatens all that I believe in. You, who knew love and lost love, felt pain and joy, and witnessed death and sorrow, please help us. Revitalize our dulling senses and help us see and remember who we are meant to be. I’ve searched for you throughout my life, in each brush stroke, canvas, and written word, every dance and star in the darkest evening sky.

This is your time, sweet teens of the world. So be brave, take heart, and do something wonderful. We’ve waited for you for oh so long. ©

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About Mandy Jackson-Beverly

Mandy Jackson-Beverly studied flute in Sydney, worked couture fashion in London, and has been a successful costume designer in LA, working with artists such as Madonna and David Bowie. She’s danced the tango with Robert Duvall, sewn buttons on coats with John Galliano, and discussed the art of sobriety with Alice Cooper and Russell Brand.

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