Civility, Nonviolence

“Is this what we’ve become? Is this what we’ve come to?” she exclaimed. She had just come from a campaign event in the 2012 election and behavior had gotten out of hand. One of ours – a Democrat volunteer well known to most of us – had turned to spit on a Republican standing next to her. The Republican had retaliated by scratching the Democrat, drawing blood.

So come back to 2018 and think about Trump’s staffers running into trouble outside their White House offices. Being refused service at a small, elite restaurant, leaving a Mexican restaurant to find noisy protesters holding immigration signs and shouting “Families belong together!” Is there more?

In all of these cases, the actions were nonviolent. Loud, maybe, but not dangerous. The question still remains: is this the end of civility? Is it enough to be nonviolent, or do we need to be more?

The country is split into factions divided so severely that “They go low, we go high” doesn’t seem to be enough any more. Demonstrations and protests continue, and progressives continue to persist. Saturday, my small city’s center will play host to more than Pokemon Go as a demonstration organized by MoveOn takes place. MoveOn asks that all participants agree to these terms and more.

By choosing to attend this event, you are committing to participate nonviolently and in accordance with the law, to work to de-escalate confrontations with others, and to obey the orders of authorized event marshals and of law enforcement that ensure the safety of everyone at these events.

De-escalate confrontations. Ensure the safety of everyone attending. Easier said than done, but at least at this level, the persistent actions will peacefully call attention to an important issue.

Thoughts, prayers, moments of silence – and action.

The subject came up during a break in a much unneeded meeting: what’s causing this rash of school shootings? “Social media,” said one teacher. “Video games,” said another. “No, no, it’s the easy access to guns,” said one more. “It’s complicated,” I added, but no one listened. 

Didn’t I just say that? After yet another wasted session of thoughts and prayers and moments of silence? It’s complicated! It’s all of the above! Instead of rewriting, I’ll say it again. 

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

Elections and Money – My Money

I’m hesitant this year. I’m no longer a card-carrying Democrat, although I play one on my blog. I just got tired of the endless phone calls and the never-ending emails, all asking for money.

I didn’t renew Emily’s List, despite my affinity for their philosophies. I was tired of the endless phone calls, the never-ending emails, and (are you with me here?) the snail mails. Emily’s List still uses the occasional flyer with enclosed envelope. In the hopes of making donations easy for the old-fashioned folks, no doubt, they still use the USPS now and then.

I haven’t donated to my favorite Senator, Tammy Baldwin, either – and I know a small donation would go a long way. The Koch Brothers and the other uber-conservative fund raisers have her in their sights – sites? Anyway, she’s a high priority target. She needs money. I haven’t donated – yet.

The State Superintendent of Schools is running for governor. I hope he wins the primary, because he could put education back on track to reverse some of the cursed backwardness that Walker has implemented.

There is one race, however. It’s a local/state race for state senator. The candidate was chair of the local Democratic party. She is a single mom of two who works for the Girl Scout council. And now, all of a sudden, I’m considering putting money behind a candidate. She could be part of the Blue Wave that I’d love to see cover my fair state.

Before I reach for my wallet, however, I need to decide exactly how far I will go. How many phone calls will I answer, and what kinds of emails I will open. And then, and only then, can I put my money where my vote is.

 

The Polls Have Closed; Now What?

Big news earlier this week in Wisconsin! Progressive voters spread the word, and statewide results show it. Despite the governor’s efforts to dumb down the electorate, Wisconsinites elected a progressive judge to the state supreme court and turned down a referendum that would have eliminated the elected State Treasurer’s office in favor of a political appointee.

Now what?

That’s a personal question, too. In the past, I’ve been actively involved in local, state, and national progressive politics. In 2016, election results broke my heart. Now the massive mid-term election is approaching, and I’m not sure how deeply I want to get involved. After watching 2016 results slide down the toilet, I seriously wonder how effective our strategies are – or at least how ineffective our strategies were – and what the party activists have in mind for change.

Phone calls! I saw Facebook posts congratulating volunteers who made calls to Get Out the Vote. Meanwhile, I avoided the phone all day, every day, for several days before the polls opened – and even all day election day. Why are we still phone banking when so many people like me are refusing to pick up?

Signs! Most of our signs around town were for local races. The school board candidates with the most signs also earned the most votes, so I’ve got to say that was good. As long as the voters displaying signs promise to vote, I’m all in with campaign signs. Sh: Don’t tell, but I still have my Obama sign from 2012. I think the rabbit ate 2008, but I have my memories and my pins. 

I still follow the local party on Facebook, and I get emails from several campaigns. Email! That’s another tactic in the category of phone banks. I don’t even read them anymore, unless the email is from a friend or at the least from someone I actually know. One tactic used in sending campaign emails is this: use a different account and sender name each time. For example, George Pro for Governor might send his own emails, and Mary Jane for George Pro, Henny Penny for George Pro, and Chicken Little for George Pro will all send emails saying, “The sky is falling unless you donate! Donate now!” making it nearly impossible to unsubscribe to a particular campaign’s email.

Seriously, what next? Until my locals change their tactics, I won’t be joining them. I fear they’ll wait too long, do too little and do it too late, and the November elections will fall flat. This election is important enough that the folks in charge need to change, and need to change now.

Major, Minor – Oh, the Humanities!

It’s one notch in the larger troubles in Wisconsin, and again, it’s complicated. I can boil it down to a Governor who doesn’t value education, K-12 or university level. We can deconstruct the issue into its basic ingredients: budget cuts, high cost of tuition, student loan debt, emphasis on STEM careers, and more.

University of Wisconsin campuses are facing hard times. In fact, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, a small yet vibrant campus, has announced that they will be eliminating 13 majors at their school.

A major is a specialty, a concentration or focus in one curricular area. A student might major in history, for example, or world languages, English, science, art, or music. Many of these areas need to be specific. A science major might emphasize biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science – the list goes on and on. Depending on the school, a major might take up half to two thirds of a college student’s course load. When all is said and done, when that student puts on the mortarboard cap with tassel, he or she will have earned a degree, most likely a bachelor’s degree, in their major.

Back to the major issue at UW-Stevens Point. English, history, philosophy, political science, Spanish, and sociology are a few of the subjects that will no longer be available as majors at UWSP. Marketing, business, and other “practical” majors will remain.

Somehow, the Powers That Be at Stevens Point still plan to train teachers in English, history, and the rest. A secondary teacher used to need a major in their area of specialty. A math major would earn a major in math, and along the way gather enough educational courses (ed psych, ed sociology, to name a couple) to qualify to student teach for a term. I’m not sure how they plan to educate the next generation of educators without majors in the humanities.

Forbes calls it “Inhumanity.”  I fear it’s something else. Along with governor “Who needs a degree, anyway?” and his attack on the state’s public school system, it seems like he and his cohorts are bent on creating a lesser-educated public. Voters with less knowledge are, after all, less apt to think critically and ask hard questions.

The sour taste coming out of our budget-starved smaller campuses might be only the beginning in what seems to be the Dumbing Down of Wisconsinites.

Inhumanity, indeed.

Don’t give me a gun.

This is the only Glock I want in my school.

Glockenspiel, a.k.a. Bells

We watched the #MarchForOurLives walk through the downtown of my fair city. I didn’t have my camera ready, so I’ll have to improvise. Great signs included:

Teachers need to be paid, not armed

Books, not bullets

My right to bear children who will not be shot! 

Guns have more rights than my uterus does! 

We also saw two ACLU observers with bright vests and walkie talkies. I wondered if they anticipated trouble? One was near the middle of the crowd, the other closer to the end.

Many, many drivers waved and honked. We weren’t the only watchers, either; there were many like us who came to cheer and clap and support those who participated. I was proud to see such a turnout for a progressive cause in my small, conservative city.

#NeverAgain  #MarchforourLives

 

Remember When – This Shooting Happened

When Sandy Hook School was attacked, 20 children slaughtered, 6 staff members murdered along with them, I wanted to stay home. I wanted to hold onto my own children, even though they were no longer children.

I had promised to attend a piano recital, though. One of my students was playing, and I didn’t want to let her down. What to do?

I took a deep breath and went to the recital, and I’m glad I did. By leaving the house, I could tell myself that life was normal and all was well – even if it wasn’t, might never be all well in the world. My little bubble was okay, no matter how awful the scene was in Newtown, Connecticut.

My colleague was substitute teaching in a first grade class that day. She will forever remember looking into those children’s faces and realizing that those who died were just like them.

We teachers view school shootings like that. It could have been my school. Those children were just like my students. The teachers did everything right, followed all the safety procedures. And still, they died. They died violently, in a tragedy that made no sense.

My message today is this: The Sandy Hook tragedy made no sense then, and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School’s tragedy makes no sense now. The inaction of our elected officials made no sense then, and makes no sense now.

In conclusion? There will be no conclusion until Congress takes action and bans weapons and ammunition that have only one purpose: to kill.

More Postcards I Didn’t Send

Dear Mr. Vice President;

Your behavior during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was tacky, unsportsmanlike, and just plain wrong. By standing only for your own country, not even acknowledging the Korean hosts of the game, you showed the America First attitude at its worst.

Cheering for the Masses,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

When you support abusive men, women are listening. We’re listening, and we vote.

Daisy

Dear Mr. Speaker;

You responded to 17 deaths in another school shooting by telling us that “This is not the time to jump to some conclusion.” No one is jumping anywhere unless they’re jumping out of range or running for their lives.

From the Island of Conclusions (jumped there, of course),

Daisy

Who Are The Next School Shooters?

Who are the next school shooters or mass shooters? How can we recognize them, and how do we stop them?

It’s a complex problem, and stopping the mass shootings that are becoming all too common will require a complex solution.

Activists work to tighten gun laws. They want to outlaw guns like the AR-15, guns with only one purpose: killing. They want to require background checks, thorough background checks, any time a person buys a gun.

Mental health advocates work to help people who might consider carrying out such a shooting. Depression, anxiety, and more can be factors in producing a killer of many.

Not to be forgotten are the National Rifle Association (NRA), those who work to keep gun laws weak and widespread access to weapons strong.

It’s a complex problem. After Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Parkland, expert and not-so-expert analysts look for red flags, events or ongoing stresses that might have built up the pressure on this individual. After the fact, folks in the know pick through a shooters’ profiles and backgrounds, identifying possible triggers, the proverbial straws that broke the camels’ backs.

It’s a social problem. Was the shooter harassed? Bullied? Excluded and isolated? Did anyone reach out to this person? Did anyone recognize the risk, help this person before the potential for disaster became real?

It’s a medical problem. Mental illness, diagnosed or not, can be a major factor in someone deciding to carry out such a horrific event, taking lives of so many others. Mental health care must be available to all who need it – and mental health coverage must be part of any health plan.

It’s a legal problem, a gun problem. That’s hard for me to say because I know so many responsible gun owners. Hunters, mainly, these friends would never dream of leaving their firearms loaded and accessible to someone – anyone – who might misuse them. That said, no one needs a semi-automatic for hunting game. The AR-15 that’s been in the hands of so many mass shooters doesn’t need to be legal.

It’s an accessibility problem. Felons, domestic abusers, people who have been identified as a danger to others must be prevented from owning guns. License to kill only exists in fiction. In reality, life is precious.

It’s a complex problem, and the solution will not be simple. I wish I had an answer.

The Postcards I didn’t send – yet

I’m still sending postcards to my elected officials. I write them in cursive in the hopes that it’ll make the office interns have to work to read them. I did tell a certain office-holder that eliminating Net Neutrality would cut down the number of followers to his Twitter feed. But other than that, I’ve restrained myself rather well. Here are a few messages that have gone through my head, but not through the mail.

Dear Senator Johnson;

A secret society in the FBI? What’s next, a conspiracy theory about the moon landing? A committee to find Communists? One Red Scare was enough, thank you very much. We Wisconsinites are not proud that McCarthyism started with one of our own.

Sincerely,

No Red Rose, just Daisy

Dear Congressman Gallagher;

Your letters are long, wordy, and low on substance. Many times your responses seem to carry the intention of educating your constituents. Unfortunately, your man-‘splaining essays do more to insult the intelligence of your well educated voters.

Daisy (with a Graduate Degree, I might add)

Dear Senator Baldwin;

Keep fighting the good fight. You have many supporters here in our fair state.

Daisy, campaign volunteer

Dear Speaker Ryan;

You’re good with numbers. However, you keep forgetting that each number on your spreadsheet represents a real person. A person with rent or a mortgage, a person with bills to pay, a person who pays taxes. A person, if she has the proper ID, who votes.

A voter paying attention,

Daisy

Dear Mr. President;

Have you read the story “Kaddo’s Wall”? My students, unprompted, said that Kaddo reminded them of you. Oh, what am I thinking? You’re not a reader.

Teacher (and lifelong learner),

Daisy