Dear Gov. Witmer
I know that you are trying your best to help people in Michigan; however, I find it very concerning that you are not hard enough on the politics and policies of both Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the Du Vos family as a whole. Are you aware that Betsy Du Vos and her Super Pac is the reason why protest erupted in Lansing, why many public schools are failing because of both Biden and Du Vos’s policies which allow corporations and For-Profits like Drum Corps International and Bands of America to prey on students, parents, and teachers? Why are you supporting someone like Biden who like Trump sexually assaulted women and never was held accountable? Imagine if someone like Larry Nassar got a seat in your government; because that is what it is like if both Trump and Biden are in the office with no one to hold them accountable. Imagine if your children worked for them and if they told someone that they were assaulted or abused would anyone believe them? I know what it is like for victims who share their stories and are met with not comfort and protection, but with trolling and harassment from others. I run a Reddit community called Flying CircusOrchestra which gives victims of hazing, abuse, assault, harassment, and discrimination in the Music Education system a safe space on Reddit and a platform to share their stories without trolling, bullying, or harassment. I know what it is like to have people say to me words that make the pain of my discrimination feel less like let it go, just ignore it, and get over it.
I was discriminated against by a band director at a community college for being high-functioning Asperger’s which is on the Autism spectrum; instead of feeling happy about my music education, it felt like torment and judgment. Every rehearsal door was locked so no one could see our band, she threatened teachers and students who stood up for me, she even threatened me on a jury evaluation saying if I did not have a classical instructor or a proper tuba that she would get rid of me, and on the last day of rehearsal she locked the front rehearsal doors so I could not get in. Even after I filed a discrimination complaint the college never fired her, but one person at the college knew I was suffering every day because of her bullying. That was the dean who told me to quit being a music major and continue with an Associates of General Studies, but she also said that I can still love and keep learning about music no matter what major I had. That decision is what lead me to create Flying Circus Orchestra first as a Goggle+ community and then Reddit which now has fifty-one fallowers.
I’m telling you this not for you or others to pity me or treat me as a token; I’m telling you this because you have to fight back against what others think is civil and normal for change to happen. Our philosophy is that no performing art should be a sport because then it sacrifices its creativity and humanity for profit and trophies; because of this ethos, I got trolled by members of the Corp and Marching Band communities. Until just like the case of Larry Nassar; twenty-two women who were members of Allentown’s Brass and Drum Corp The Cadets from Pennsylvania told their story of how they were groomed and sexually assaulted by their director Gorge Hopkins. Then students of Pioneer a corps in Wisconsin came out about touring with a teacher Morgan Larson who was a known pedophile, broken buses, neglect of their needs, lack of medical care, and poor living conditions. Finally, for National Hazing Awareness and Prevention Week I began a custom for victims of hazing, discrimination, assault, and abuse in Bands and Corps all over to decorate, wear, or post a lotus online. My color is blue to represent special needs and people on the Autism spectrum who have been hazed or discriminated against by a director or staff member.
To hold groups like Drum Corps International and Bands of America accountable, we need the support of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, along with holding the Du Vos’s and other billionaires accountable for allowing corporate companies to advertise and recruit children and young adults in public and low-income schools into an environment where instead of good music education; they have turned students into contestants of a never-ending contest that profits directors and educators with very little thought about their well-being, education, accommodations, creativity, and culture of the student. We need the support of local music groups, and teachers who do not support DCI or BOA and do not affiliate with their festivals and competitions, but most importantly we need people like you and Bernie Sanders to support a fight for us. When I told my brass instructor Chuck Russel with tears in my eyes about what that director said to me, he comforted me and supported me until I finally found my voice as a tuba player again when my Dad finally got me a red plastic four-valve tuba for Christmas last year. I want him to know all the good I’m doing with my tuba Hubert, and to know that you do not have to be a part of DCI or BOA to be a good teacher because teachers nurture and support their students no matter who they are. He also taught me that you don’t have to have a degree on your wall to be a good musician; all you need is determination, creativity, imagination, love, kindness, and being supportive of other musicians around you.
I want you as a governor of a state of unions and activist for labor and human rights to do the same for not just the people in your circle but all over the state and for other states like Ohio who is improving its hazing laws after a fifteen-year investigation into band director John Watters for allowing a culture of hazing in Ohio States Marching Band to persist, and the brave parents of a drum major from Flordia’s A&M Marching Band who died because of ignorance of a hazing culture who are now standing up to all collages and public schools who do not enforce hazing laws and policies that protect people both regular ed and special ed students from harm and even death. I long for a day where people like me can be in the performing arts without judgment, fear, lack of safety, shelter, and accommodations for all special needs people; but Flying Circus Orchestra’s fight is not just with bands and corps, but all kinds of performing artist who needs to be believed, protected and given the tools necessary to hold abusers accountable like owners of the ranch in Texas that allowed Larry Nassar to abuse gymnast, to boycott and cancel shows like Dance Moms for targeting young girls and parents into an abusive environment, and to hold conductors and directors of concert bands and orchestras accountable for allowing verbal and sexual harassment, assimilation, and ableism to still happen to young musicians. As a German-American, there is one thing I keep telling trolls and others who are ignorant and that is this quote from Dr. Seuss’s book The Lorax…
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it’s not!
Originally published at https://www.reddit.com/.
Update: After I sent her this letter I was taken to a site where I had to pay money for her campaign instead of being heard as a Michigander. Right now as an individual with Aspbergers I wish I could earn money from my writings and my comic Struwwelkinder on Patreon but cannot because I live with my parents under guardianship because they are divorced and to earn a wage as an artist I would have to abandon my parents and live on my own with no support. This is because of a Michigan law that says an incapacitated person like myself cannot earn a wage because were not able to make our own lives and careers over what we love to do. I'm more than my incapacities; I'm intelligent, creative, funny, kind, brave, compassionate, emotional, strong, and talented.
My mother and my father despite their flaws are supportive and honest people who work very hard for me; I believe in progressive policies so that I can not only support myself but my parents. Policies like Medicare for All would make the price of the meds that I take every day free, and not cost millions for my mother who pays for them, it would consider Autism a pre-existing condition so I can get the support I need without cost. Free college would help me achieve my dream to be a sociologist and a journalist coving German-American issues and help music educators find better solutions other than the constant competition in their schools.
Farm Bills would help my Dad as a tractor salesman because his job is essential to feeding our country and saving the local dairy industry which is suffering not because of milk competition but because of Factory Farming which pollutes air and water. Some dairy farmers had to sell their best cows to factory farms or sell their cows as meat to support their families while Nancy Paloci eats ice cream from a double-decker fridge that no farmer can afford. I myself love ice cream from Hudsonville which is our local ice cream here in Michigan, but ice cream should not be used to parade your wealth as a politician, nor should a boat, a house, or anything else while people suffer from hunger and Covid. We as Michiganders are tired of having business people or wealthy people in politics; Our last governor Mr.Snider was a businessman and he poisoned Flint’s water with lead which still harming school children in Flint. Because of wealthy people like Nancy Paloci, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden; we don’t know who to vote for anymore because of the collateral damage they waged on someone like Bernie Sanders who cares about people like myself, my parents, and others even if they don’t know it yet.
My message now to Governer Witmer is this; bipartisanship does not work anymore because it’s a distraction from policies that you can be put right now in our laws that can help people like me earn a wage and keep the parents who support them and love them very much despite all their flaws and hardships. Do not trust the business people like the Du Vos’s, who are the main reason many Michiganders are misinformed and have public schools that are falling apart structurally and fiscally. Do not trust political actors like Nancy Paloci either; trust someone like Bernie who will get things done.
Deeds, not Words.
Please sign this petition to make sure people like myself and others who struggle with this issue get the money they need so they can live their own lives.