mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“We Did What We Could”: With Suffering All Around Us, Some Lessons Are Learned Too Late

In December 2001, my father sent his first-ever Christmas card to me.

He even signed it, “Love, Dad.” Unprecedented. Throw some tinsel on my head and watch me sparkle like a snow globe; that’s how happy I was.

Dad came from the “show, don’t tell” school of parenting. He supported his family and shoveled the snow from the walkway before any of us were out of bed. His love was to be understood.

His postscript on that 2001 card made clear that despite the arrival of his one-time-only Christmas greeting, nothing had changed.

“I got a card from the wife of a man I used to work with,” he wrote. “She was at the church when you spoke, and she said you were the best they ever had. Don’t get the big head.”

What he didn’t mention was that he had attended my speech, too, delivered in the church of my childhood. He also skipped the part about how he had grinned through the whole darn thing.

Each December, I pull out Dad’s Christmas card and prop it up on my desk. He’s been gone for six years now, and the sight of his cramped handwriting makes him feel a little less far away. His admonishment about this head of mine is a reminder that in his own way, he loved me very much.

I spent way too much energy wishing my father would just come out and say it. Well into my version of adulthood, I’d end every phone call with, “I love you, Dad.” His response: “Yep.” Sometimes he’d mix it up by saying, “OK.”

Click.

Once in a while, I’d push back. “A-a-a-a-nd you love me, too?” His response every time: “Well, if you already know it, there’s no need for me to say it.”

Click.

When he finally wrote “Love, Dad” on that card, there was no victory. It was his second Christmas without my mother, and his heart was broken. How I longed for the days when Mom was still around and Dad’s “yep” was code for what he meant to say. Some things we learn too late.

This has been a long year for many Americans. Even if our own lives bobbed along without incident, it was hard to ignore the suffering of those around us. We did what we could. We attended funerals and hospital rooms, wrote checks and volunteered, worried ourselves sick and bowed our heads in prayer. Some of us smiled for no reason, and strangers felt a little less alone.

This Christmas season, the tragedy in Newtown, CT, altered the holiday for all but the most hardhearted among us. One minute we were shopping for stocking stuffers; the next minute we were trying to remember to breathe. Twenty young children and six adults who risked their lives to save them were dead. What? What? It was that horrible, that unbelievable. We never will be the same.

And yet, Christmas came.

Now the new year barrels toward us, a force of promise and uncertainty. May we welcome it with gratitude that we are here to greet it.

As I write this, snow is threatening to bury our house here in Ohio. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend spent the morning on cellphones, trying to reschedule canceled flights home. Halfheartedly, I try to hide my joy.

They are in a hurry, but I’m old enough to be on the other side of that impatience. All of our family was happy and healthy this Christmas. I know that kind of luck runs out.

I also know that my daughter’s heavy sighs mean only that she is young, with plans that did not include two more nights with her mother. I will not misread her signals, nor will I complain. Her love is understood.

For that, we can thank her grandfather for a lesson once learned too late.

 

By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, December 26, 2012

December 27, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Are Better Than This”: Facing A New Epidemic With The Lives Of Our Children At Risk

In June 1944, polio was sweeping across the country with devastating swiftness.

Children would leap out of bed in the morning, and by nightfall, they were unable to feed themselves. It was only a matter of time before it swept through Hickory, NC “like a tidal wave.”

“Youngsters with painful, useless limbs,” Life magazine reported at the time, “some unable to swallow or scarcely able to breathe, they came from mining villages up in the hills, mill towns in the valley, from outlying farms and urban centers.”

Fear reigned, but it was no match for the citizens of Hickory.

The lives of their children were at risk. They could lock up their homes, isolate their children and hope for the best. Or they could spring into action to fight a peril with no known cause and no certain outcome.

David M. Oshinsky, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Polio: An American Story, describes what happened next in the Miracle of Hickory:

“A call went out for volunteers. Hundreds showed up, ‘hiding the fear,’ said one, ‘that had [us] quaking in our boots.’ Merchants donated building material made scarce by wartime rationing. Carpenters, plumbers and electricians brought their own tools to the site.

“Floodlights were installed to allow round-the-clock construction. The telephone company installed a switchboard. Families loaned their electric washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Carloads of toys appeared. Farmers trucked in meat and vegetables. County convicts cleared brush and dug water mains, watched by shotgun-toting guards. The governor paroled 32 female prisoners to help with the domestic chores.

“It was up and running in 54 hours: a ‘rough pine board hospital’ containing an admissions center, a kitchen, and a laundry; a laboratory and an operating room; isolation wards, dormitories and a therapy wing …”

The hospital treated 454 patients before closing its doors at the end of summer. Two-thirds of them, Oshinsky writes, “were said to have ‘recovered completely.’”

The people of Hickory were scared, but they harnessed their fears to save their children.

We are still that America. We just have to act like it.

Our country is facing a new epidemic. President Obama described it in a news conference Wednesday as an “epidemic of gun violence.” We must learn many lessons from the massacre of those young children in Connecticut, but the immediate threat is clear: If this can happen in Newtown, it can happen anywhere.

Once again, we face tough choices. We can throw up our hands and surrender to a gun culture fueled by one of the most powerful lobbies in the country, or we can spring into action. By “we,” I mean we the citizens, because it is up to us to embolden our legislators to stand up to the National Rifle Association and make them pay if they don’t.

This is not the first time children have died of gun wounds, and too many of those names are known only to those who loved them. This is also not the first time a troubled man has unleashed a nightmare of firepower on innocent people.

Each time, the crisis swells and dissipates. That is a sad fact of our past, not a predictor of our future.

There are signs that this time, this moment, could be different. President Obama supports a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips. He also wants to close the gun show loophole that allows some weapons to be sold without buyer background checks.

U.S. senator Joe Manchin — a conservative Democrat and ardently pro-gun in the past — said he’s committed to bringing “the dialogue that would bring a total change.” For emphasis, he added, “And I mean a total change.”

Michigan governor Rick Snyder just vetoed legislation that would have allowed guns in schools and churches.

There are seismic shifts in corporate America, too. Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, for example, announced it’s selling the Freedom Group, maker of the .223 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used in the Newtown shootings.

The New York Times reported that Cerberus made this decision after the California Teachers Retirement System said it was reviewing its investment in Cerberus because of its holding in Freedom Group.

“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus said in a statement.

Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as political. The thought of writing, calling and visiting your elected officials might even make your skin crawl. If so, I ask you to recall how you felt the moment you found out 20 first-graders were gunned down in Newtown, CT.

Let’s get busy and brave.

It’s not too late to be the Americans we want to be.

 

By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, December 20, 2012

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Overpaid And Underperforming”: Gov. Scott Walker Trusts Teachers With Guns, But Not With Collective Bargaining

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who became nationally known for severely limiting the union rights of teachers and other public employees, has indicated support for arming those same school officials who apparently cannot be trusted to collectively bargain.

As Americans search for answers and policy solutions in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Gov. Walker has apparently decided that the problem is not too many guns — it is that there are not enough.

Giving guns to teachers should be “part of the discussion,” he said on December 19. Walker refused to endorse an assault weapons ban or other limits on the types of guns or ammunition that can be sold.

Teachers Need Guns, Not Unions?

Walker’s infamous Act 10 legislation drastically curtailed the collective bargaining rights of most public employees in the state, prompting months of historic protests and a recall effort. The governor justified the harsh legislation — which he never mentioned during the campaign that installed him in office — largely by demonizing unionized teachers as overpaid and underperforming.

The six teachers killed in the Newtown massacre, all members of an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union chapter, have been widely praised for their heroism, with many shot while trying to shield their students.

“This has kind of pulled the curtain away to show who teachers really are,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told In These Times’ Mike Elk. “Teachers’ instinct is to serve, to protect and to love. And you saw that in full view in Newtown this week.”

For Weingarten, the way to prevent additional mass shootings is not through arming teachers. Unions have historically not taken a position on gun issues, but in the wake of the Newtown massacre, AFT is now taking up support for gun control.

“Teachers lost their lives protecting their kids, lunging at a gunman with an assault weapon. We should be getting guns out of society,” she said.

Wisconsin Site of Two Mass Shootings in 2012, Walker Given NRA Award

Two of the last six mass shootings in the United States have occurred in Wisconsin.

On August 5, a white supremacist killed six people and wounded four others at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, then killed himself during a shootout with police.

On October 21, a man entered a day spa in Brookfield and murdered three women, one of whom was his wife, and wounded four others before taking his own life. The killer had a domestic violence restraining order against him, and despite Wisconsin law prohibiting domestic abusers from purchasing guns, he avoided a background check by purchasing the gun from a private dealer.

But the state’s Republican Attorney General does not think Wisconsin has a gun problem, and Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature have marched lockstep with the gun manufacturer’s lobby.

In 2011, Walker signed into law a version of the Florida-style “Stand Your Ground” bill implicated in the Trayvon Martin tragedy as well as a new concealed-carry law that allows the public to carry guns inside the State Capitol, even while restrictive access rules prohibit cameras or signs. Legislators are now allowed to bring guns onto the Assembly and Senate floors.

In April, the National Rifle Association (NRA) gave Walker the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, honoring him for passing the “Stand Your Ground” and concealed carry laws. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, both laws echo American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model” legislation, and ALEC has been one of the key avenues by which the NRA has exerted its influence over state law and policy.

ALEC is also an organization through which corporate interests have pushed anti-union legislation, most recently in Michigan, where legislators copied the ALEC Right to Work Act almost word-for-word.

But with the latest school shooting prompting unions like AFT to put their weight behind gun control, ALEC now is not the only place where union rights and gun issues intersect.

And unions will not be the only ones to note the absurdity of responding to gun violence with more guns, particularly by putting them in the hands of the same teachers who some public officials believe cannot be allowed to collectively bargain.

 

By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, December 21, 2012

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Teachers | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: