Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ignore today's youth at your peril

       photo courtesy of WNDU News

I took a little bit of satisfaction today (okay, a lot) as I gazed at the audience during today's March for our Lives rally here in South Bend. While it consisted mostly of adults, there was a huge, and I do mean huge, contingent of young people there (definition of teens and young 20-somethings). And there were plenty of even younger kids too.

Unofficially, I would gamble that there were between 400 and 750 people present at the rally, and again, most were under 30 years of age.

A number of friends not entirely friendly to this cause, or at the least suspicious of it, made plenty of remarks last week during the school walkouts on the one-month anniversary that most of the kids were bullied into walking out with their classmates and teachers.

Sure, uh-huh.

If I want to buy into that notion (and I don't), that would easily have evaporated today. The youth I saw today were energetic, passionate, smart, caring, committed, some frightened, AND they were loud.

I would advise people not to discount our youth's determination on this issue.

They handed out flyers, they hung posters commemorating those who had died from gun violence, and they handed out and carried signs.

Now, I don't know how many of you have teenagers but it is pretty near impossible to get them to mobilize like this and to do it on their time when they are away from the watchful eyes of their schoolmates.

There was no bullying today. These were smart, caring kids who want to see change. One thing they mentioned today--repeatedly, was this: "We are going to be of voting age soon."

Any adults not smart enough to recognize this will need to, as one teen said today, "Start brushing up your resume."

Excited, I am. Watching these kids today, I saw a cause that has united them, and I fully expect their movement will grow.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

And the children shall lead II

   photo courtesy of the South Bend Tribune

Today, as we listened to some of our local children's tales at our local March for our Lives rally, I was struck by how the things today's teens worry about are things we never ever dreamed of when we were their age.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg opened the rally with one of his strongest. most passionate speeches I have heard (from him) to date. He told us he followed, not led, a group of high school students to this rally before turning over the stage to more than a dozen local teens.

One middle school student talked about how their school has had three lockdowns due to shooting threats to their school just this month. One time, the students sat in their classrooms, in the dark, doors locked, sitting beneath their desks for 150 minutes.

A freshman from Washington High School told us about a 17 year old student, her friend,
Tysiona Crawford, just 17 years old was killed earlier this year by her ex-boyfriend, and how this student's locker (four down the hallway from hers) was a constant reminder that she is now gone. "How do we process a student being their one day and her desk sitting empty the next?" she asked of us.

Another student told us every day when she goes to school she formulates a plan for the day, "what would I do today if a gunmen came into our school. Where would I hide? Would I hide beneath my desk? Which of my friends would die?"

What is wrong with us that we make it necessary AND possible for our children to feel this way?

Another teen told us of a time when their high school had a lockdown and their substitute teacher did not know how she was to react, but her students did. Is that NOT a sad commentary?

These are but a few of the dozen stories recounted to us by our local children from South Bend and Elkhart. Is this what school is supposed to be about? We expect our school children to learn the 3R's, not the 4Rs (Reading, 'aRithmetic, wRiting, and React to gunmen).

Having been a high school teacher myself, there have been times when I have worried about this country's future based on I saw in our classrooms. I feel more secure after seeing how eloquent and impassioned these young speakers were today.

If we adults cannot, or will not lead on the issue, then we must get out of the way of those who will! I applaud and am gratified by our young people's passion and intelligence. Who knows? Maybe they will ignite the movement where adults have failed?

Oh, and where was Jackie?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Put up or shut up!

So whether you think guns are the problem or not. If you think not, what's your answer? What's your plan? How do you propose stopping all the killing? We're waiting for your answer... AND arming teachers or selling more guns is not an acceptable response!

In any case, this meme sums it all up perfectly!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Teach our children young

I heard some folks saying * "Who the hell do these kids think they are? Who the fuck cares what kids want or what they think? We are their parents and our kids will do the hell what we tell them!" All I could say is, "really?" 

Cynicism at its worst.

People forget that young people played a part in bringing down Lyndon Johnson's presidency. They voiced their outrage and fears as they demanded an end to the Vietnam War, and how our government reacted galvanized public sentiment that cost Johnson any aspirations of re-election in 1968.

Now, whether you view the Vietnam War protests as a good thing or not is pretty irrelevant. It's over, it's history. Personally, I think if a nation can ask of its youth to put their lives on the line for a war that our government could not justify, they certainly have a right to voice their displeasure, the right to be listened to, and the right to be taken seriously. 

And exactly with that thought in mind, youth today have begun to organize again, and their exuberance may be the force our nation needs to finally to take action against our nation's addiction to guns. 

Frankly, I look at some of the protesters as heroes. No one may have thought so at the time but their voices, their anger, helped save lives. Will that be the case today?

* Yes, I was personally told this. These are not just glimpses I gleaned from the internet, although I saw these sentiments there too.

So let me answer those three thoughts.

a) Who do kids think they are?

Let's be blunt, today's youth are nothing short of being our future, they are the young men and women we raised them to be. They are future job holders; they are future taxpayers; they are future parents; they are our future leaders,

b) Who cares what kids think?

I do and so should you. We raise our kids to be independent thinkers. At least that's what we say we want. Or do we want them to perpetual mindless self-absorbed zombies? But then some adults get all defensive when kids do not tow the party line. 

I am reminded of when Richard Nixon announced he was going to resign his office in the wake of Watergate. I remember saying, "Nixon was only doing what everyone else has been doing." My stepdad became visibly angry by my naive statement. In my own defense, I did not really believe that this is how we run a nation.

I mean, some adults already think kids are irresponsible and unconcerned by anything beyond texting on another on their cell phones. For politicians who underestimate our kids do so at their own peril. Kids today, voters tomorrow. Any political party who ignores current trends will soon dinosaur themselves out of existence.

c) Our kids will do what we tell them to.

Sure, and I have some beachfront land for sale on Mars. Now think about that for a minute. How many of us when we were our teens' age did our darned best to rebel against our parents' wishes? How many of us wanted to assert ourselves when we teens?

When it comes down to it, yes, kids should do what their parents tell them... drive carefully, don't text while driving, come home soon after school, don't forget your homework, and please for God's sake, act responsibly in all matters sexual! But let us also be realistic enough to know their thoughts may not always be our own.

But tell them what to think?

The shooting in Parkland, if I may appropriate an old historical phrase, has awakened a sleeping giant. If adults cannot be bothered to do the right thing in regards to the senseless violence plaguing our nation, and if we can allow our kids to be endangered from gunmen, can they not also be permitted an opinion about being used as a target?

It remains to be seen how much effect the Walk for our Lives movement will have on this nation. I suspect in the here and now, it may not be easily quantified. And then again, perhaps I am being cynical. 

The NRA effect is profound but wait for the day when our teens become voters. Surviving a school shooting forever changes how victims think and they will not forget what we do now.

Let's face it, we all want more than platitudes. Enough of the "thoughts and prayers." Enough.

A few weeks back a Florida legislator, State Representative Linda Porter took to the Florida legislative floor and pompously, insultingly asked, "We've been told we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws?

"Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says, 'No homework'? Or 'You finish high school at the age of 12' just because they want it so? No.

"The adults make the laws because we have the age. We have the wisdom. And we have the experience to make these laws. We have to make laws with our heads and not with our emotions. Because emotions will lead us astray. However, our common sense and our rationale will not."

We have the wisdom? Really? Our legislators, by my way of thinking, have yet to prove that. Mind my words, Porter's arrogance will come back to bite her in the ass. Mocking future voters is a good way to end one's career.

The survivors of Sandy Hook are now young teenagers. The teens of Parkland stand upon the precipice of voting age. They want answers and they want action. 

A tidal wave is coming. 

Politicians would be fools NOT to recognize that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gravedigging with a shovel of hate and malice

I hear a theatrical movie is coming out next month that dramatizes the events of Chappaquiddick from way back in 1969--49 effing years ago. 

Ted Kennedy has been dead now for what, eight and a half years. Is there really a public clamoring for this kind of expose? Is there really an audience losing sleep over this scandal after all these years?

I ask why? Who would want to see this?

When discussing this with one of my friends who would call himself conservative, he claimed he didn't see anything wrong with this, reminding me that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I retorted that I do not see how that possibly applies to this situation. 

He felt it necessary to remind me that a 37-year old Ted Kennedy left a woman--not his wife--to die when his car slipped off a bridge and the car went into the waters at Chappaquiddick Island. Yes, I remember the events very well.

Yes, 'scandal' is the only way to describe the incident. Yes, Kennedy used incredibly poor judgment that night in July 1969. Yes, a woman lost her life that night. And yes, Kennedy was raked over the coals by the press and he pretty much got a slap on the wrist, legally speaking.

Kennedy's presidential aspirations were torpedoed that night and his wife miscarried a few weeks after the tragedy. And in the ways that matter most, none of that is as important as the fact that a woman died and Kennedy may have been able to have prevented it.

Enough of that. I admired Ted Kennedy, but that does not mean I hold him in reverie or awe. I do not condone his behavior of the events of that evening. That is not my objection to this movie. 

Thing is, is there really a huge audience out there pining over the thought "Gee, I would love to see a movie that crucifies a politician nearly five decades after the fact." This movie has National Enquirer journalism written all over it.

My friend pointed out that movies like "Wag the Dog, Manchurian Candidate [sic, considering these two films were a piece of fiction], All the President's Men, Selma, JFK, Malcolm X, Munich, Schindler's List, Patton," and "The King's Speech" are important teaching tools.

As a former US History teacher, to call 'Chappaquiddick' a teaching moment is an insult to my profession and I call BS on that notion (in this case), None of the aforementioned films set out with an agenda to embarrass or punish any of the people involved.

Ted Kennedy has been dead for nearly nine years and leaves him unable to defend or at the least, explain, his recollections and thoughts on the tragedy. I will agree there is little to defend, which is really not the point of my objection to this film.

A movie like this surely has no agenda other than to embarrass the Kennedy family and to hurt Ted's children and grandchildren. Do they need to be reminded of this? Do they need to be punished "for the sins of the father?"

Does this film have any hopes of punishing any other members of the Kennedy family, such as Joseph Kennedy III? Second newsflash: Joseph is not Ted.

What do the filmmakers hope to gain? Will the film bring justice to Mary Jo Kopechne? Will this lead to a prosecution case? Newsflash here, you cannot prosecute the dead. Ted is dead.

So what is the purpose of this film? If this sort of thing is okay, will it be okay to punish Chelsea Clinton, say, if she has political aspirations, for her father getting a blowjob in the Oval Office? 

Let me be blunt. This film is a nothing short of a hatchet job, short and simple!

Films like this are mean-spirited, vindictive, poisonous AND pretty damned pointless! I cannot imagine why anyone would really want to plop down their hard earned money for a box office ticket.

I hope the movie finds its theater stadiums empty; I hope it dies a quick, painful box office death... and its funding partner losing their ass.

My advice? If you want to see something historical, then spend your money on the likes of 'The Darkest Hour, Dunkirk,' or 'Hidden Figures.'