Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. And Education

© copyight 2013 Betsy L. Angert BeThink

In 2013 the issue of poverty is pronounced.  It is the cause of great debate and much conflict.  However, the conflict is mostly in interest, self-interest.  The one interest that receives far less if any attention at all is poverty and the extent of poverty. How to effectively end it is a question that few consider.  The conventional wisdom is there is a safety-net which will care for the impoverished. The reality is there are holes in the net.  Equally significant is the notion that we, as individuals, will never be among the poor.  Actually, one in two of us already are.

Perceptions explain why most Americans do not consider themselves poor.  The common belief held by 27% is the poor are lazy and I am not.  Forty-three percent of Americans surveyed said they believe people living in poverty can always find a job if they really want to work. At the same time, 38 percent of Americans have requested some type of help including food or financial assistance from a charity.  Thirteen [13] percent have spent a night on the streets or in a shelter.   Perceptions of Poverty counter reality. Nonetheless, these are notions we hold dear.

Mostly mired in self-survival, people, a large percentage of whom are the low-income working poor,have little time to attend to the poverty of others.  This affects our children and their education.  Not withstanding the desire, “low-income caregivers frequently do not know the names of their children’s teachers or friends. One study found that only 36 percent of low-income parents were involved in three or more school activities on a regular basis, compared with 59 percent of parents above the poverty line (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).”  Startling as it is, for calendar year 2011 the percentage of children (persons under 18) in poverty was 21.9 percent. The total number  that same year was 16.1 million.

This may be the truer silent and unseen majority.  When we do catch sight of the children, poor and wealthy alike, we perceive healthy, happy, bundles of joy.  Never do we imagine what we would not wish to believe exists, especially to the extent it does.

As Professor John Korsmo, PhD  observed in The Journal of Educational Controversy, Poverty and Class: Discussing the Undiscussible,  “Much like race, religiosity, sex, and a whole host of contrived privilege points in the U.S., poverty and class have remained for the most part don’t-go-there designations; topics that individuals, human service, and educational institutions often avoid openly discussing.”  Our intentional choice not to think about, talk about, or teach the subject of socio-economic privilege associated with class dilutes efforts to eliminate poverty and ultimately, our progress in doing so.  We do not associate with or support those who bear the brunt of income inequality.  Conveniently and again by choice, we drive down safer roads.

The vast majority of us sit in our cars, alone.  We travel on freeways, fast.  Were we to slow down we would still not see what exists behind what we call sound-walls.  We are sealed off and do not, cannot see the circumstances of the other, “those poor souls.”  The barriers we build both literally and figuratively are large and high; best of all for policymakers they hide the truth.  Black and Brown communities are ignored.  The only time we attend to what occurs in these neighborhoods is when we think to convert them. Take a blighted neighborhood, expel the residents, raze the roofs, and build beauty where blight once existed.  Where do we put the poor who once occupied the dilapidated homes?  That is a problem we will set aside, place behind a newer wall and never wonder about again.  Thus, is the situation today in Chicago 2013.

Excuses are made.  Officials invested in Charter Schools and gentrification projects say “Enrollment is down.  Schools are underutilized.”,  Neither claim can be substantiated without skewing the numbers.  Even some  High-performing schools are slated for closures; however only in already neglected Black and Brown communities.  Often children are being forced to travel long distances and cross gang-lines to attend a lower-performing receiving school.  Mostly, the young will walk. Transportation is costly and dollars for such a luxury are scant.   Parents and Principals at the “receiving schools” are perplexed and troubled. Classrooms currently in the “receiving schools” will become fuller,  basically overcrowded entities.  Bad as these concerns are, what is worst is the impending community effect of school closures.  Lifelines will be cut!

For Tzia, a third grader who is on the student council, afternoons at the neighborhood school on Chicago’s West Side are a variety show of ballet and martial arts, hip-hop and cooking class, tutoring and fund-raisers. Five days a week, sometimes past nightfall.

Much will be lost.  Mothers such as mother Shawanna Turner, 30, attended the school she now sends little Tzia to. Her family all graduated from this neighborhood school.  In the communities that face school closures, generations of families came together in their neighborhood learning centers.  Children found freedom and refuge, as did their parents in local public schools.  Events were planned in and executed around school activities. Neighborhood businesses in the surrounding area too were invested in these institutions. Children learned. Moms and Dads took classes too.  Extra-curricula activities expanded minds and supported strong bodies.  From the windows of these schools the winds blew and streets were safer because of the education little learners received.  Now, that solid anchor will be taken away.

Doors will be slammed shut. Windows shuttered. Building will be left to die or be demolished quickly.  We, those who do not wish to see or discuss what we do or what is done in our names will remain silent. That is the American way.  Do we drive by and shoot down all that supports a community?

Chicago is not alone. The difference in what occurs is only in scale.  Gentrification is the complement to segregation.  Segregation is the sister to poverty. Each shows up in our city schools.  Essentially, this is the story of school closures and the fight for education as a human and civil right.

Gentrification. Segregation. Poverty. Each cements the certainty that children of color will be underserved in society and underserved in our schools.  Education, which can be the cure, is hurt by each of these.  Lets us look at the numbers, and then seek out those sweet faces, our fellow Americans who flounder because of what we have done and are doing..

Perhaps, it is past time to tear down sound and sight walls.   Let us acknowledge the pervasive inequality and then, and always take action!  We might begin by thinking more thoroughly about school closings, the cause and effect.  Consider the circumstances in countless cities, Chicago, Philadelphia Detroit and New York…and your hometown. Is there a racial divide, a socioeconomic destabilization, and are children and education lost?

Perchance, if we ensure that education is a human and civil right we will establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, or we can settle or what is and stay silent.  Please ponder the following articles and statistics.  You may be surprised by what has been long blocked from view.


Poverty and segregation: birds of a feather

Posted by Steve Bogira on 06.08.12 at 04:01 PM

Ignoring the misery of the poor is easy because of our separateness.

“It’s incredible that we tolerate for a minute the reality of 6 million of us living on food stamps alone,” Laura Flanders observed last week in a Nation blog post. (Nationally, the average monthly individual food stamp benefit is $134.) “I suspect it’s because we’re experiencing a new kind of segregation,” Flanders wrote. “Somehow, neither policy makers nor opinion makers seem to know enough poor people well enough to feel them, living and breathing.”

Flanders is right that segregation is central to our apathy about poverty; it isn’t really six million of us subsisting on food stamps. But segregation isn’t new, nor is it limited to policy makers and opinion makers. It’s a way of life, in Chicago and many big cities. As we showed last year, most of our city’s African-Americans still live in 21 community areas whose aggregate population is a stunning 96 percent black. The vast majority of Chicago’s high-poverty census tracts are in these areas.

Then there’s our public school system. To look at the percentage of white kids in Chicago’s public schools you’d never know that the city is 45 percent white. The racial segregation of our schools is economic segregation as well: 87 percent of the students in the public schools are from low-income families. With such a concentration of poverty in classrooms, trying to solve the schools’ problems with a longer day or more rigorous testing is naive.

We’re also segregated, racially and economically, where most of us work. And our residential and economic separateness lead quite naturally to segregation when we eat out, and go to movies, plays, concerts, and ball games. White people often don’t even notice how pervasive segregation is, since, for the most part, we’re not the ones being harmed by it.

Becoming aware of how segregated we are won’t by itself change things. But it’s a necessary first step.

Chicago’s growing racial gap in child poverty

Posted by Steve Bogira on 10.04.12 at 10:23 AM

More than one in three Chicago children are living in poverty, according to newly published census data. But a closer look at those figures shows that “one in three” hides a striking inequality.

Fewer than one in 11 white kids here are living in poverty-compared with more than one in two black kids.

The news regarding white Chicago kids, in fact, is good: their poverty rate is significantly lower than the national rate for white kids. But for black, Asian, and Hispanic children, the poverty incidence is higher in Chicago than for their counterparts nationally:


  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance,/li>

    Moreover, the racial gap in child poverty in Chicago appears to be growing:

    PAUL JOHN HIGGINS

  • Children 17 and younger. Data from American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance
  • As the numbers show, child poverty has declined for Asians and gone up modestly for whites since 2000-while climbing significantly for blacks and Latinos.

    References and Resources….

    Shooting Safeguards. A Society Armed

    GnSctyArmd

    copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

    Once again, Americans are up in arms or perchance, better armed and dangerous.  Only little more than a week into 2011, citizens have had to confront their fears, feelings, all at gunpoint.  It began on a calm, clear Saturday.  In a Safeway Store Tucson parking lot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held one of her customary Congress on the Corner events.  It was January 8, 2011.  Friends and admirers from each political Party turned out.  Suddenly, cordial chatter turned icy cold. gunshots shattered the calm.  People were slaughtered.  Some survived.   However, as a nation, we were all wounded.

    Retorts followed.  Seemingly, a culture was changed, or was it?  Just as has occurred, many times in the recent past, people quickly took sides.  Blame was ballied about.  Solutions were also presented.  Some argued for stricter gun control laws.  Others used the occasion to validate a need for less restrictive restraints on gun ownership.  Persons who held a position similar to the most prominent victim proposed a need to protect themselves.

    On January 14, 2011, Grand Old Party Representative, Louie Gohmer of Texas, Proposed a Bill that would allow members of Congress to carry guns on Capitol Hill.  Days earlier, after the infamous Tucson, Arizona  shooting, several congressmen vowed to keep the weaponry they already own closer to their chests.  In light of the recent event in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords home District, one that cast a permanent dark shadow over the lives of many,  Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz expressed his firm belief, it would be best to bring his Glock 23 with him when he meets with constituents.  This long time gun-owner is not alone in his position.  Other members of Congress chimed in.  

    Indeed, this distinctive stance is not solely a Republican posture.  Heath Shuler, a Democrat from North Carolina, Vice-Chairman of the House Sportsmen’s Caucus stated that he too would pack heat when on the city streets, even when he strolled the streets of a the highly secured Capitol.   Steve Cohen, another Congressman who sits on the Democratic side of the aisle offered his reflection.  “It’s not that I’m going to be like Wyatt Earp,” declared the Tennessee Representative.  However, he noted, he would reapply for his permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    Questioned about lawmakers’ decision to take matters into their own hands, to carry concealed weapons, Terrance Gainer, the Senate’s Sergeant-At-Arms and former Washington, District of Colombia Police Chief, offered his concern.   Gainer told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” The “peace officer” avowed, ”I don’t think introducing more guns into the situation is going to be helpful.”  Nonetheless, just as Educators did only a few years ago, Congresspersons stand strong against gun restraint.

    Original © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    School Shooting Safeguard; Arm Educators

    In the last few weeks, [Fall of 2006], school shootings have dominated the news.   The frequency of these seems to be increasing.   People throughout the nation are panicking; what are we to do?   President George W. Bush spoke of this situation in his Saturday, October 7, 2006, radio address.   He proclaimed, “We will bring together teachers, parents, students, administrators, law enforcement officials, and other experts to discuss the best ways to keep violence out of our schools.”   Conferences have been called.   The problem has been discussed for years.  

    President Bill Clinton convened such a forum in 1999.   Educators, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and adolescent-development specialists came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on May 21, 2002.   Each group was equally intent on investigating the causes and effects of Lethal School Violence.   In the symposiums, experts sought solutions.   Everyone wanted [and wants] to protect our progeny.  

    At the time, programs were initiated; yet, the violence continued.   In the last month or more, we as a nation are wondering; is there no end?   Will our children, our Educators, we, as a society, ever be safe?

    Citizens again ask how can we secure our schools and shield our offspring from societal harm.   Finally, an answer comes from a Wisconsin lawmaker.   Representative Frank Lasee proposed that Teachers and Administrators carry guns daily and use these when necessary.  “In the wake of school shootings in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania” he would “introduce legislation that would allow teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel to carry concealed weapons.”  At the time, the Republican Representative believed our communities will be safer if everyone were armed.

    Unrelated To Gangs

    We know that communities have long been concerned with gang violence.   However, what has occurred in recent years differs.   On January 29, 1979, individual outbursts came into our collective consciousness.   According to the Indianapolis Star, “Brenda Spencer, 16, opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle at an elementary school across the street from her San Diego, California home.   She killed two people and wounded seven because she `didn’t like Mondays.'”

    Upon hearing this story, our country held its breath as it does now.   Jointly we release a communal sigh.   Still the violence increases as is evident in these last five weeks.   There is talk.   What measures can we take to guard against weaponry?

    Cable New Network reported, metal detectors were introduced in educational institutions after a 1992 shooting.  

    In 1994, the federal government began requiring school safety programs in an attempt to crack down on violence on school grounds.   Many schools introduced metal detectors to check for guns, knifes and other weapons . . . although the Supreme Court eventually overturned the federal requirements, most school safety measures remained in place.   In Los Angeles, California for instance, [as of 1997] all high schools still use some sort of metal detectors.

    However, it is clear, these actions do not secure the premises.   Zero tolerance campaigns were invoked.   Violations are and were numerous.  

    Parents, administrators, teachers, and staff were told to observe student behaviors; they were asked to attend to warning signs.   Discipline problems were considered predictors; yet, this was not always the case.   Offenders did not only come from within the school system, they enter and exist throughout society.   Witness the killings within the last month or more [before and during September 2006.]

    Machines and Mandates

    Whatever we choose to reflect upon, when looking at violence in our schools, our homes, or in our airports I ask us to bear in mind that traditional methods for preventing violence are not working.   I think we must look at why people do what they do.

    Violent crime continues to be a major problem and I suspect this will continue as long as we look for simple solutions.   I observe, when we as a country, focus on machines and mandates as a means for deterring violence in schools and within society at-large, we ignore the violator.   I believe the life of the perpetrator is most telling. This is the key component in a crime that can be influenced and altered.   If we address it early enough and treat root causes sincerely and seriously we can make a difference.

    More Are Killed

    However, instead, we look at guns, knifes, box cutters, gels, powders, matches, lighters, and bombs as though these are the killers.   We work tirelessly to prevent these from entering the systems, schools, airports, office building, and prisons.   Rarely do we address the authentic reason for killings.   People and what goes on in their heads, hearts, and souls cause death.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stress our culture promotes, rather than hypothesize; how might we use technology and authority to control the minds and misdeeds of men and women.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live and the life standards we choose to accept, then, we might be able to prevent these carnages.  

    I request that you, dear reader, consider what passes for the “common wisdom.”   Is it sensible?   Please ponder accepted theories and simple solutions with me.   Then ask yourself, what might we do to truly change what comes?

    On Monday, October 2, 2006, a deeply distressed man entered a one room Amish schoolhouse.   He excused all the male pupils and personnel.   He was interested in only the young female students.   It is not known whether the church-going milkman intended to molest the girls; though there is evidence to suggest that he did.   However, what is certain is that the perpetrator shot these little lovelies before taking his own life.   Pennsylvania schoolhouse killer Charles Carl Roberts IV revealed in a telephone call to his wife, at the age of twelve he molested two young relatives.   Events of 20 years past haunted the man throughout his life.   Guilt took Roberts’ life and the lives of several young innocent Amish girls.

    Five days earlier, in Bailey, Colorado an armed drifter walked into Platte Canyon High School.   He then entered a classroom.   The transient demanded that all the men leave the area.   He wanted to be alone with the girls he corralled into a classroom.   According to a student and her mother, Duane R. Morrison seemed to prefer smaller, blonde girls.   This disturbed wanderer with his quarry of petite flaxen hair maidens proceeded to sexually assault some of the six young girls he held hostage.   Ultimately, he shot one before killing himself.   Some social scientists theorized `girls are the targets in school violence.

    MSNBC News reports revealed, after the crime, “at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Morrison’s stepmother said she and her husband, Bob Morrison, have no record of him being, having any trouble before.”   “We just know the way he was raised,” Billie Morrison said, declining to elaborate.  “How was he raised?   Some experts think the relationships established in the lives of the killers might offer answers.   In the series of recent rampages there is a seemingly notable consistency.  An article in the Christian Science Monitor observed . . .

    “The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims,” says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist whose recent book examines the roots of “rampage” shootings in rural schools.

    Dr. Newman has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s.   Though it’s impossible to know whether girls were randomly victimized in those cases, she says, “in every case in the US since the early 1970s we do note this pattern” of girls being the majority of victims.

    A Complex Problem

    Prior to these two incidents, the focus and fantasy was on troubled adolescents.   These were thought to be the persons responsible for such horrendous school crimes.   Some behavior experts hypothesized; violent young persons had been bullied in school.   They were browbeaten at home.   These youthful aggressors were tormented by their own inner struggles.   They act out after years of deep-seated frustration.  Might we consider the cause and effects of troubles early in life.

    Forensic psychiatrist Keith Aldo says mental health problems, especially among young people, too often go ignored and untreated.   “Everybody in the class often knows who the troubled kids are.   Parents know.   Teachers know,” he says.   “And if anything we should know that there is a preventative bit of medicine, psychological medicine to be dispensed in our classrooms earlier than we have been doing.”…

    He says unresolved issues can continue to haunt a child throughout life.   “The more that you can express your feelings of fear, the more that you can talk about your reactions to terrible events, the less that those events are going to be toxic to you later on.”

    Aldo says airing such concerns helps build a stronger and safer community.   Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, agrees.   He says the community must work at making schools safe places.   “It happens by making sure that the first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert school staff and student body who are aware of changes in behavior of other students as well as strangers who are walking around in parking lots and the hallways of our schools.”

    I believe the more recent incidents confirm the quandary has many causes.   The dilemma is not limited to youth acting out against their harassing, haranguing, or hounding classmates.   These incidents are not only a reaction to discrimination from peers.   Parents are not the central problem.   This transgression is as all others, complex.  

    The complexities that cause violent crime in our nations schools are similar to those that create terrorism. Rex A. Hudson reflects in a report prepared under an Interagency Agreement for the Federal Research Division..

    Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors – not only psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological factors, among others.   There is even a hypothesis that it is caused by physiological factors, as discussed below.   Because terrorism is a multi-causal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.

    For Paul Wilkinson (1977), the causes of revolution and political violence in general are also the causes of terrorism.   These include ethnic conflicts, religious and ideological conflicts, poverty, modernization stresses, political inequities, lack of peaceful communications channels, traditions of violence, the existence of a revolutionary group, governmental weakness and ineptness, erosions of confidence in a regime, and deep divisions within governing elites and leadership groups.

    International terrorists, sadistic student rebels, and lone executors have a common bond; society and stressors impact their lives severely.

    Student’s killers are often exposed to frequent slights from peers or parents, just as some terrorists feel slighted by our treatment of their culture and religious practices.   These snubs are evident if society as a whole and those functioning within the system choose to recognize them.   The stress in young lives can be reduced or eliminated if we attend to these grievances quickly.

    Frustration and Persecution

    We might realize that lone shooters, those that walk into our schools also are victims of a fragile upbringing.   There are reasons that these solitary shooters might aim at young girls, blondes, or the most innocent among us.   Again, if we as a community choose to be aware of what we are creating for our children, we can save them before they become adult or adolescent killers.

    Religious or political zealots, the defiant, defensive, and the righteous also are products of their environment.   They may act out against nations or peoples; still, the source of their rage is apparent if we choose to look for it.   Each of these executors feels persecuted and why not.

    In a world where frustrations are ignored or attributed to authority figures, women, or circumstances beyond our control, there is much to feel frustrated about.   Students feel stuck in school, at home, or in lives that demand much of them and give little in return.   Adults, loners and cult followers alike, feel lost in the unresolved circumstances of their past and present.   They want to affect the future.   However, in the future, as in the present, and the past, people are not the focus.   Folly and failed systems are.

    We evaluate preventive mechanized and legal measures.   We disregard the fact that these are not effective.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stresses our cultures promote.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live, the life standards we accept, then, we might be able to prevent these mass and individual tragedies.

    Can we as a nation protect ourselves from aggressors?   I contend, guns cannot prevent a crime.  Only if we face the genuine pain that prompts their reactive behaviors will our children, our Educators, and our communities be safe.

    References For Reflections . .  .



    businesscard.aspx

    The Story of a Sign



    The story of a sign.  Historia de una letrero

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    It is a beautiful day.  On each afternoon, and into the evening millions, billions of us amble about.  Worldwide, we are busy people.  Even when we are out for a casual stroll we walk, we talk, and yet we see little.  Most of us hear less.  The birds fly above.  Wings flutter and flap.  The sound made is a silence.  It fades delicately into the background.  These little creatures chortle and chatter.  Each sings a sweet song.  Bees, beetles, beasts of all sorts hum as they travel hither and yon.  These beings communicate.  They create communities carefully.  Yet, humans intent on instant and tangible gratification are unaware of what is ethereal.  

    Flowers twist and turn gracefully with the wind.  The gentle breeze whispers to us all.  Each of us is touched tenderly and still not moved.  Trees also commune with other forms of nature.  Limbs bend; they extend towards the sun.  All entities exist as part of one, except perhaps, humans.  Egos separate us from so much.  People frequently unite to what they consider matters of consequence.

    Little persons may be swept away by a moments delight.  However, as they age, they too learn to ignore the beauty that surrounds each of us.  In time,  children become adolescents.  They no longer play and revel in life.  There is too much to do.  School work, homework, and the work that will provide an individual income becomes more important than the birds, the bees, or even you and me.

    As tots, we learn to talk, to walk, to worry, to work, and to war.  We are taught to forget the beauty that surrounds us.  Words become ways to express who we are, what we want, why we believe as we do, and not a means for a greater connection.

    Rarely do people ponder the power of a phrase.  Few of us reflect upon the ways in which others hear what is said.  Countless do not consider how a written communication might be received.  Nor do people imagine how the unintended impression influences an interaction.  

    Humans engage in exchanges, and most feel as though no one listens or understands.  

    Too often people think of self first.  They miss the miracles that surround them, that are within the wind, the words, or the person who sits in front of them.  No matter how gorgeous the morning, afternoon, evening, or the individual, most are blind to the exquisiteness of what is.

    Nonetheless, if we choose to, any of us can take the time to stop, to share, to speak in a manner that evokes an evolution.  We might engage in a way that brings us closer together.  People can be profound, or would be if they only stopped to consider the story of every sign, the meaning of each moment, the essence of all.

    It is a beautiful day.  Might we see it, hear it, feel it, and share it.

    Floridians Consider Taxes, Budget Cuts, and Effects on the Everglade State


    Send Your Message?

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    On April 15, as Floridians rush to file tax forms few think of more than the burden.  The cost of living in the Sunshine State is high.  Levies are higher.  Each year, the toll these expenditures take on the lives of individuals and families increases.  Many citizens in this Southern State cry, “We need some relief!”  Representative have heard the call and responded.  Yet, the reaction may not be as thoughtful as it first appears to be.

    Floridians may wish to consider the plea Democratic Party Chair, Congresswoman, Karen L. Thurman presents.  The Congresswoman discusses a stark reality.  Change may come at the expense of the common people.  A reduction in dollars and cents spent does not always equate to a savings.

    Many in The Orange State are grateful.  Representatives in the State reviewed the budget and then expressed a belief cuts must be made.  Prompted by much public angst, the Conservatives may claim the people want the Legislature to be more restrained.  Few would argue that this is true.  What is equally valid is the fact that few would wish to compromise the safety, security, or sanity of the poorest people, and those who are physically most dependent on others.  If the impoverished are in need, incidental costs amass and local communities pay the ultimate price.

    Our children, and their education, are vital.  The progeny are our future.  Parents are also not persons we would wish to hurt.  Throughout our lives Moms and Dads, now elderly protected us.  Now, we must help provide for their safety and security, just as they did for us.  Without the person who cared for us in our younger years, we would not be as profound and emotionally prosperous as we are.

    The police and fire men and women also help ensure our safety and security.  Floridians, please ask yourself, can you afford to chance that these public servants may not be there when you need them most?

    Granted, in this moment a resident of Florida may not be able to see into the future.  Today, he or she may think himself or herself healthy.  However, all living creatures must consider that cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and pneumonia does not knock on the door and ask for an invitation to enter a body.  These catastrophic illnesses creep up on a being silently, too often suddenly.  When people are fit, they need to ponder the possibility that has become more probable in many American households.  Insurers have cut coverage.  Co-pays are more exorbitant.  Businesses have eliminated Health Care benefits.  As the economy worsens and profits are negligible, this trend is likely to increase.  Floridians need to consider what might occur in hospitals as the cost of care soars .

    There is much to contemplate as Floridians assess the quality of life and the proposed budget cuts.  I invite readers to respond to the impending crisis.  Planned budget cuts may not be the blessing citizens in the Everglade State thought they would be.  It is possible to remove allocations that do not serve the common folk well.  Floridians, please, let us look before we leap.  Do not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Please, ponder the profound impacts these changes may bring, rather than rely on clichés.  

    Seemingly, simple solutions rarely address the specifics that are all too real in the lives of residents.  The thoughts of the Congresswoman, Karen L. Thurman  may help the people in Florida to make an informed decision.

    Help if you choose.  Click on any of the links if you wish to act in the interest of those you love, Mom, Dad, son, daughter, spouse, and you .  .

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    “If a state had its priorities straight, balancing a budget on the backs of the working poor, the elderly and the disabled would be the last option.  This year in Florida, it’s the first option… the Republican-led House and Senate [have] completed mutually heartless, stupid budgets…”

    – Palm Beach Post Editorial, 4/15/08

    Dear Florida Democrats,

    Today is tax day in America, which means that we’ve all got money on the mind, even more than usual.  Times are tough.  Florida families are being squeezed, either directly or indirectly, by skyrocketing gas prices, rising health care costs, the continued housing crisis and, of course, the subprime mortgage disaster.

    Moreover, the Republicans’ reckless policy of raising property taxes on middle class families to pay for special interest tax loopholes has been devastating.  You won’t ever hear them admit to raising taxes, but it’s true.  They’ve increased the required local effort – local property taxes – time and again.

    Now the Republican politicians in Tallahassee want to squeeze the people of Florida even more – including the most vulnerable among us.  I’m always amazed by how heartless and self-serving Republicans in power are, but the proposed state budgets from the House and Senate mark a new low.

    It’s not over yet, however.  As the “leaders” of the Republican-controlled Legislature negotiate the final budget, we must send them a strong and clear message: Get your priorities straight – NOW.

    Click below to use our automated online tool to send a message to Republican Senate President Ken Pruitt, possible future Senate President Jeff Atwater, Speaker Marco Rubio and Speaker-Designate Ray Sansom today.

    http://www.fladems.com/stopthe…

    What do the Republicans want?  I’ll tell you:

    The Republicans want to reduce per student spending in K-12 education for the first time in almost 40 years.  They want to eliminate Everglades clean-up efforts.  Though child abuse rises as the economy dives, they’re going after more than 70 child-protection jobs.

    The Republicans also want to gut the highway patrol and reduce public safety.  They want to lay off almost 2,000 corrections officers, despite prisons being stretched to the limit already.  They want to cut a third of the state’s probation officers – the law enforcement specialists whose job it is to keep convicted sexual predators away from your children.

    Republicans want to reduce hospice care for seniors and decimate county health departments and Area Health Education Centers, where Florida’s poorest in rural areas and underserved urban communities often go for their medical care.  They want thousands of inner-city school kids in Miami to see their doctors less often.

    The Republicans want to end hospital care for 20,000 people with catastrophic illnesses and reduce access to anti-rejection drugs for Floridians who have received life-saving organ transplants.

    The Republicans don’t have to do this.  Florida has a rainy day fund, and there are plenty of corporate tax loopholes that can be closed.  Democrats in the Legislature are fighting tooth and nail against the Republicans’ terrible decisions, but they need your help.

    Click below to send a message to the Republicans in charge.  Write them about a personal story, and tell them to stop their recklessness before it hurts more Floridians.

    http://www.fladems.com/stopthe…

    They’ve spared nothing – except their special interest buddies.

    Speaker Rubio secretly inserted language into the House budget to allow a friend’s company to bid for a multi-million dollar state contract.  While the Republicans want to slash financial aid and increase tuition for college students, Sen. Mike Haridopolos is accepting $75,000 a year to lecture part-time – on top of the $150,000 in state money he took to write a book that was never published.

    Atwater, who thinks he should be Senate President, tried to kick bail bondsmen some cash, until he was caught red-handed by Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner.  Meanwhile, President Pruitt is allowing Atwater to take $7000 a month to train his future chief of staff – an unprecedented waste of taxpayer money.

    Democrats proposed an alternative budget, and of course, the Republicans rejected it.  But that doesn’t mean we should back down.  Someday we’ll have a Legislature that works for the people again.  Until then, we have to speak up loudly.  Please take a few minutes today and write the Legislature before it’s too late.

    Thank you for your commitment.

    Sincerely,



    Congresswoman Karen L. Thurman

    Chair, Florida Democratic Party

    P.S. This Republican recession is a mess, and the Republican Legislature’s budget plans are going to make it even worse – if we don’t act now.  Send a message today:

    http://www.fladems.com/stopthe…

    Floridians who care thank those who also choose to do more than stress, then slice, and dice the necessary expenditures, those that ensure that inhabitants of the Sunshine State are safe, sane, and remain stable.  

    Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



    Fear Itself

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

    The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

    Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

    In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

    Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

    Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

    By Associate Press.

    Time Magazine

    April 4, 2008

    (New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

    The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

    The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

    A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

    Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

    The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

    Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

    Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

    In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

    The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

    Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

    Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

    In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

    Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

    Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

    Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

    Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

    The Next Slum?

    By Christopher B. Leinberger

    Atlantic Monthly

    March 2008

    Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

    At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

    In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

    In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

    The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

    Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

    Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

    Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

    Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

    By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

    Pew Hispanic Center

    August 10, 2006

    Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

    An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

    The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

    Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

    When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

    Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

    Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

    Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

    Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

    Plastic Card Tricks

    The New York Times

    March 29, 2008

    Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

    Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

    The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

    Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

    Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

    Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

    In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

    The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

    The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

    Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

    It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

    [W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

    Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

    Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

    A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

    Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

    In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

    Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

    This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

    This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

    This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

    This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

    Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

    It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

    Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

    Calm Communicators Unite Us. Cruel Commanders Divide Us

    AggrssAnxty

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    Americans are at odds.  As a nation, we are splintered.  The parts do not function as a whole.  Some wish to control and command.  Others prefer to work for the common good.  As we stand, we are a country divided.

    The most recent Internal Revenue Service data, shows one percent of Americans received twenty-one and two-tenths [21.2] percent of all personal income.  In 2005, fifty [50] percent of the people in this nation, those who have long struggled to survive, earned twelve and eight-tenths [12.8] percent of all wages and salaries.  In the United States, dollars earned split the population.  Wealth is not all that separates us.

    Color causes schisms.  Citizens live in regions of the country labeled Red, or Blue.  Brownish immigrants, with or without papers, are relegated to reside in neighborhoods far from the affluent or influential, even when authentic assimilation is meant to be an option.  Frequently Black Americans are housed in communities where opportunities are few.  When persons of various hues intermingle with the massive pinkish population, in the United States, the people of color are alienated.

    Were Americans do physically unite, they would likely remain segregated.  Americans subtly separate themselves from those they loathe, and form the people they love.  Few ever consider what they do to create a rift.  In America, demeanors, the way in which we communicate, divides us.

    In this nation, a large portion of the population is frequently aggressive, abusive, and antagonistic.  Those they encounter, the not obnoxious or toxic ones, accommodate, appease, appear unaffected, or remain anxious when in the company of the people who believe the best way to appear authoritative is to dictate what needs to be done, by whom, when, where, and why.

    At times, the public is able to openly observe and discuss abuse, but usually, only when it is evident in the extreme.  Banner headlines may scream a need to attend to what, for the most part remains hidden.  Neglect, Abuse Seen in 90, 000 Infants.  However, mostly Americans demonstrate their angst in manners identified as normal.  No one speaks of what is standard.  Perchance, the reason is, in the States reactive behaviors, which reveal annoyance, are so common as to be customary.

    Daily, in periodicals we read of what we would wish to think is not traditional, but may be.  The accounts scream to us.  Citizens in this country think it outrageous when they realize.  In Chicago, youth violence is increasingly prevalent.  Twenty-two [22] students were slain in this heartland city so far this year.  Our fellow country men remark, ‘This sort of thing occurs only among ‘those people.’  Surely, the rest of us are sane and serene.  ‘The average American would not strike out in such a manner.’  People say, ‘Weaponry is for outlaws,’ or at least, mechanical arsenals are meant only to combat a political enemy.  Those who reside in the United States never imagine that “they” would use a gun in anger, or lash out when with a friend.  Few consider how frequently they attack those they say they are fond of.

    When words are the weapon of choice, and blood is not spilled, most in this country think no harm is done.  War and wounds are what we see on the battlefields, and mostly abroad.  In this country, life is calm.

    We read of skirmishes elsewhere daily.  Americans witness what occurs in the Persian Gulf.  Iraqi deaths are on the rise regardless of the Americans attempt to Surge and subvert the violence.  Now, that is awful.  Thankfully, this nation is not torn apart by war.

    Few ponder the fact that these excessive examples illustrate and amplify what is apparent in American homes.  People pounce easily and often.  We cruelly criticize and intentionally drive a wedge between unions.  We conquer; and in America, we destroy.

    In this country, enemies are thought to be around every corner.  We publicly rant and rage when we refer to people of another race or religion.  Privately, many are punitive towards those who reside in our homes.  When we look upon those the “commanders” consider beloved, we see differences, and ignore similarities.  He is wrong; I am right.  She is flawed.  “I am perfect.”  Spite is right.  Malice is might.  Vindictiveness is used to undermine viciousness.  In many American homes, tit for tat is the acceptable.

    Those in authority, “Tsk, tsk,” the ones who they would wish to weaken.  Children are infrequently given information about the consequences of their choices.  Calm and complete communication is too often a rarity in our abodes.  Rather than work to create cohesive communities within a household, parents and their progeny dictate, and divide.

    Adults learn their aggressive manners in childhood.  A slight from a toddler’s first teachers cuts to the core.  Terse comments, a tease, or a taunt directed at a teen does not simply slide off the back of one scarred by a lifetime of verbal slashes.  Adults do not deflect digs; some have merely learned how to present the appearance of being unaffected by an oral assault.  In truth, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, and names hurt me more than a physical attack might.”  Many may relate to a common event and decide this is not my business.

    As I was leaving gym one morning, I overheard a mother berating her daughter for refusing to put her face in the water during a toddlers’ swim class.  “You’re such a little coward,” she told the sobbing child — who could not have been more than three years old.  “It’s the same every week.  You always make your daddy and me ashamed.  Sometimes I can’t believe you’re really my daughter.”

    Although my stomach churned with rage on the child’s behalf, I said nothing.  After all, I rationalized, the mother would just tell me to mind my own business.  But I had no doubt that what I had witnessed was in many ways as bad as a brutal beating.  It was emotional child abuse.

    “The bruises don’t show on the outside, so there are no statistics on how many children are victims,” says Dr. Elizabeth Watkins, chief of pediatric primary care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.  “But anyone who works with children knows that the problem is widespread.”

    University of Minnesota psychologist Byron Egeland, who has conducted extensive studies on parenting and early-childhood development, says the effects of emotional child abuse may be at least as devastating as those of physical abuse.  Research conducted by Egeland and his colleagues suggests that emotionally abused children suffer an even greater decline in mental and psychological development as they grow older than do physically abused children.

    This abated state does not necessarily translate to an academic deficit.  Often times, persons who were beaten down emotionally excel in their physical and intellectual endeavors.  Countless adults, who were verbally assaulted as children, believe that the cruelty and callousness they endured, has made them stronger.  People in older bodies show no physical blemishes.  A mature member of society is not noticeably bruised or disfigured.  Most middle-aged grown-ups, those once exposed to such exploitation have learned to hide the scars.  Hurt hearts do not inhibit intellectual growth; nor do the effects of verbal and emotional injuries restrict achievements.  As a tot, a teen, or an individual in his or her golden years, a person harmed by words can thrive and triumph.  The attitude is, “I will show them!”  The thought that provokes our success is, “I will do well.  Then, they will [finally] love me.”

    The truth is mean Mom’s and dismissive Dad’s do love their offspring.  They simply do not know how to show it.  Too often, we do as was done to us.  As adults, we become the people our parents were.  While we may have abhorred mother or father’s behavior, it is what we know.  We grow to be as those who taught us were.

    At birth, we learn of what we despise most.  In our parents dwelling, as tots, we become acquainted with insults, invectives, and insolence.  The invisible barbs are experienced as a barrage of bullets; each pierces the flesh.  Mothers mock us.  Fathers jeer.  Brothers and sisters, bully.  In our earliest years, we begin to think of when and how we can leave the company of those who say they treasure us.  In time, as children we decide the best defense is a good offense.  Hence, we become equally odious, angry, and ambitious.  Often adults, who were verbally abused as children, when they speak of their parents, state, “They did the best they could.”  Indeed, perfectionist parents do what they believe is best, and they expect their progeny to do better.

    In ambitious middle-class families, one of the most common forms of emotional abuse is the denigration of any achievement that falls short of perfection, such as when a child is punished for bringing home a B instead of an A. Jeree Pawl, director of the Infant-Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital, observes that “perfectionist” parents may display irrational expectations.

    After a time, Mom and Dad no longer need to express what they expect; children know what is necessary.  In fact, a young person will demand more of him or herself than either parent ever did.  In our youth, we become self-critical.  Our parents likely did not disparage us as well as we demean ourselves.  Each day, we improve.  We can deliver venom more vigorously than Mom or Dad ever did.  Persons, who were the victims of verbal mistreatment in their youth, inflict the same sarcastic and sardonic on them selves as they age.

    The use of hurtful declarations becomes a habit.  Spoken stabs pull a person down.  Those not stated aloud do us in with greater force.  The voice within is perhaps more furious than the one separate from self.  Our self-assessments are as a cancerous virus.  Merciless messages kill.  Yet, no one notices the cause or effects of the illness.  Too many Americans share the symptoms; hence, the pain is standard.

    Parental verbal abuse may wound children’s psyches so deeply that the effects remain apparent in young adulthood.  Such abuse may wreak psychological havoc greater than that caused by physical abuse.

    With an M.B.A. degree under her belt, 24-year-old “Jaime” (not her real name) should have glowing job prospects in Chicago.  But she harbors memories that erode her self-confidence and make her bristle with anger-memories of her father shouting at her, during drunken rages, that she was ugly and of little value.

    Indeed, verbal abuse during childhood can scar people deeply, a new study suggests.  It was headed by Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.  Results were published in the June American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Although the injurious effects of child physical and sexual abuse have been the subject of considerable inquiry, not much attention has been paid to the possibly noxious effects of verbal abuse on children.

    People attend to what they see.  The battered hearts, the wounded souls are not visible to the eye; although the effects of these are apparent if we wish to see them.  Researchers studied and discovered what lies just beneath the surface.

    People who were verbally abused had 1.6 times as many symptoms of depression and anxiety as those who had not been verbally abused and were twice as likely to have suffered a mood or anxiety disorder over their lifetime, according to psychology Professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, the study’s lead author.

    “We must try to educate parents about the long-term effects of verbal abuse on their children,” Sachs-Ericsson said.  “The old saying about sticks and stones was wrong.  Names will forever hurt you.”

    Moms and Dads wield words as weapons daily.  An innocent and sweet child may be saddened by what is said to them.  Frequently, a lad or a lass, who has come to expect the worse is fretful, frightened, or apprehensive when near those who vocally attack.  After a time, a child turned teen, may appear angry, as an adult resigned, acquiescent when with Mom or Dad.  Still, the pain seeps out.  It spills onto all the injured individual encounters.

    The cycle starts subtly.  It is all so subterranean.  How often is a child told, “You need to take responsibility”?  Yet, how frequently does neither guardian seems to accept that they play a part in what occurred in their own lives.  After a night on the town, too much food, and an abundance of alcoholic beverages, Dad may bellow, “Stay out of my way today if you know what’s good for you.”  Then, as if to inform his brood, father would offer, “I’m in a bad mood.”  Daddy does not wish to be liable for his own limitations.  Thus, if he was under duress, or hassled, surely, someone else must be to blame.

    It is a “me against the world” mentality.  Those who command and seek control, the power they did not feel they had in their youth, see themselves as separate from the others.  Hence, the great divide.

    Mom may be no different from Dad.  This sweet, soft-spoken woman, a mother committed to her children often commented, “My life would have been perfect if it were not for you.”  She would then say, “Get out of my sight; you are a bad boy, a hateful, ungrateful girl.”  Then, moments later, Mommy would say how much she loved you, or I.  Life and love, as a child, and later as an adult can be caustic, chaotic, and troublesome, even if we emerge confidently.  Either parent can do the damage.  Both can build the barriers that teach one of the brood to be boldly brazen.

    Weeks ago, Americans watched an esteemed achiever, a Presidential aspirant, vent wrathful words.  The statements  made echoed in every American household.  On television and radio airwaves we heard, “Shame on you. “It is time you (act in a manner) consistent with your messages in public.  That is what I expect from you.  (L)et’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior  . . .”  Only days prior, we, as a nation, were moved by the magnanimous words, “(Y)ou know, no matter what happens in this contest — and I am honored, I am honored to be here with [the same person who was slammed two days later.] I am absolutely honored.”  Hours before the homage was delivered in a face-to-face encounter, the self-proclaimed “fighter” raged, she was ready. The person she humiliated after offering a sincere homage was not.  Then, in a fit of anger, this eloquent and accomplished adult exclaimed to her audience, “Let’s get real.”

    On an occasion or two, the New York Senator states if she and her adversary worked as one, all dreams would come true.  Quickly, Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds us that the same individual who she thinks praiseworthy is incompetent.  He cannot command; nor is he qualified.  The waling wounded Clinton claims the man who might steal her win is but a “child.”  She demeans his experience while she exaggerates her own.  In a breath, the scared child, now a grown Senator, cries out.  The former First Lady, who continues to carry the weight of a world built on pain within her, tells us the man who angers her is eloquent, admirable, and yet, inadequate.

    One day this wise woman is passive or polite; then in the next moment she is aggressive and antagonistic. As Hillary Clinton speaks of  Uniting the States,  creating a cohesive Democratic Party, she works to divide these entities.  She loves her country, her challenger, and her community; yet . . .

    The push-pull of these love-hate relationships may remind us of what too many of us as children and adults experience in our family homes.  In the “United” States, division, derision, declarations that divide a union are natural.  Most accept the conventions that have been familiar throughout their lives.  Few are disturbed by the divisiveness a Presidential candidate puts forth.  Perchance, the American people relate.  Might we consider the climate that was the candidate’s childhood, her history, and the truth that fashioned her family?

    The couple fought. In 1926, Dorothy’s father filed for divorce, claiming that his wife had hit him in the face and scratched him on three separate occasions, according to Cook County records.  In a March 1927 court hearing, Della Howell’s own sister accused her of abusing her husband and abandoning her two daughters.

    “She had a violent temper and flew at him in a rage, and would fight him,” testified the sister, Frances Czeslawski.

    Della Howell did not show up to contest the divorce — she could not be found by subpoena servers.  Dorothy’s father was given custody.  But, either unwilling or unable to take care of his daughters, he put them on the train to California, where his parents, Edwin Howell Sr. and Emma Howell, had moved a few years previously. . . .

    The grandparents were ill-prepared to raise Dorothy and her sister, Isabelle.

    Edwin Howell Sr. had emigrated from Wales. He worked as a machinist in an auto plant and as a laborer for the Alhambra street department, according to Alhambra city directories from the time. He mostly left the girls’ care to his wife.

    Emma Howell was a strict woman who wore black Victorian dresses and discouraged visitors and parties.  Once, discovering that Dorothy had gone trick-or-treating on Halloween, she ordered her confined to her room for a year except for school.

    “Her grandmother was a severe and arbitrary disciplinarian who berated her constantly, and her grandfather all but ignored her,” Clinton wrote. . .

    “Once I asked my mother why she went back to Chicago,” Clinton wrote in “Living History.” The answer? “‘I’d hoped so hard that my mother would love me that I had to take the chance and find out,’ she told me. ‘When she didn’t, I had nowhere else to go.’

    Too many of us can recall a time when we wanted to be appreciated, admired, accepted by those who brought us into the world, or taught us to be the best we could be.  Even when those we care for harm us, we still crave their adoration.  A child who feels less than cherished will try harder.  Humans will do whatever they believe they must do in hopes that someday, they will be treasured by their first teachers, the people they call family.

    Hillary was the best student among her siblings, the one who took her parents’ lessons most seriously. . .

    Hugh Rodham, unlike many other fathers of his era, raised his daughter to be ambitious.  When she brought home straight A’s, Rodham would say, “Well, Hillary, that must be an easy school you go to,” she [Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton] wrote. . .

    Hugh Rodham took thrift to even greater heights than many survivors of the Depression. If Hillary, Hugh Jr., or Tony left the cap off the toothpaste, he would toss it out the window and send the child to search for it.  An allowance was out of the question. “I feed you, don’t I?” she remembers him saying.

    Clinton speaks of her father admiringly, but  . . . no one disputes his gruffness. “He was character building, like our winters in Chicago,” Ebeling, Clinton’s best friend, said. . . .

    He was “highly opinionated, to put it mildly,” [Hillary] Clinton wrote. “We all accommodated his pronouncements . . .

    Hilary is as many warriors in society are.  She expects the electorate to tolerate her brusque, sometimes demeaning, statements, just as she accepted much of what her father said.  If the people wish to argue with the aspirant, as occasionally she did with her dear Dad, Clinton thinks that is fine.  After all, she is a fighter.  She knows how to win.  Just as Hugh Rodham did when he felt his children were uncontrollable, the dictatorial, decidedly aggressive decider known as Dad escalated the argument.  “You are with me or against me” is a common refrain among those who command cruelly.

    Many progeny adapt to parents who can be punitive.  After a time, offspring learn, the boundaries that divide them are best when they remain as invisible, just as the wounds on the heart are.  Children convince themselves, they are strong.  They are in control.  As long as they go along to get along all will be well, and it will be, until the next emotional upheaval.  Even then, those who scream and demean will be fine, for what they experience is familiar.

    I offer a personal anecdote, one that helped me to understand the divide that exists among us in America.  There are the “fighters” well-trained to battle, and the peacemakers, those who talk in tones that are more tranquil.

    I realized this only in recent years.  A time ago, after I had lived on this glorious green Earth for more than three decades I thought I understood people.  I experienced much in my lifetime.  As a child, I settled in the suburbs, the city, and the country. In my earliest years may family had all the fineries. We were exceptionally wealthy. Then, there was the divorce.  My Mommy, new Daddy a sister, and I were extremely poor when I was in Elementary School.  Eventually we evolved into Middle Class.  I felt as though we were average.

    At seventeen years of age, I declared my independence. I left home, lived on my own, and struggled to earn enough money to survive. I inhabited neighborhoods not thought to be safe.  My knowledge of life and it’s various styles, I believed was expansive.

    Then, it occurred. I met a man.  Immediately, I knew I loved him.  I had never been easily impressed.  Romantic relationships were not part of my repertoire.  This person, I perceived as beyond special.  I admired him, and I intensely appreciated him.  This gentleman was brilliant.  He was very successful.  He smiled ever so warmly.  Until . . .  suddenly, he yelled.  The wrath was intended for me.  As Gary excitedly expressed his disgust, his face was flush.  His eyes and veins were bulging.  This cherished chap was agitated, accusatory, and exceptionally anxious.  To this day, I know not why.  I have asked.  Yet, an explanation was not forthcoming.

    As Gary ranted and raged, I stood frozen, as a deer in headlights.  I was stunned.  In my whole life, no one had ever yelled at me, or so I thought, previous to that day.  There was one other occasion.

    That narrative aside, as Gary and I stood face to face, as he screamed and shrieked, he articulated the assertion, “You are having a tantrum.”  I marveled. I am a calm person.  As a child, I was just as serene.  In my entire life, I did not recall being explosive.  As I observed Gary and listened to his words, I was uncertain which aspect of this encounter was more amazing to me, his conduct, or his contention.  After, the damn or dam broke, he seemed free of his agitation.  I was anxious, although still silent.  I knew not what to say or do.  What had I witnessed?  What did it mean?  How did I feel about it?

    In time, I did learn as Hillary Clinton, and others whose hearts are hurt by words, do.  I could choose to tolerate the brusque and debasing language. I could choose to appease, to please, or to patronize.  However, I also understood no matter what I decided to do, there would be consequences.  There would always be a chasm between Gary and I.  I would never fully feel comfortable, for I did not know what might bring on another brutal belch of bitterness.

    I walked on eggshells, and he, with all his hollering, hoped to secure the impression that he walked on water.  I came to discover that Gary had been challenged all his life.  His parents were the purveyors of agenda after agenda.  As a child he had felt as he now teaches others to feel, as though he was and is less than.  Gary was told too often, he was not good enough, smart enough; he was wrong.  If Gary received an excellent evaluation in class, he too was meet with the remark similar to the ones the New York Senator heard in her youth.   “Well, that subject is just too simple.”  “An “A” grade is not good enough.”

    Dissect a heart.  Dismember a sweet spirit.  It is the American way, divide and conquer.  In a competitive society, where cruelty is common, most everyone will suffer, so that the few spoiled souls can feel, even if only for a moment, that they have succeeded.  Sadly, their triumph is our demise.

    Gary, Hillary, and too many we encounter have become so familiar with belligerent behaviors they no longer think there are other ways to work with people.

    I was raised in a family where no one yells.  To say I am jarred by loud aggressive rants is to understate what I feel.  For a time, I team-taught with an instructor deemed superior.  This person won District-wide awards.  I understood why when I assessed the curriculum this teacher originated.  Yet, this individual chastised students vociferously and with ample abandon.  When in a rage, this educator’s voice traveled throughout the building.  I literally jumped in fright on more than one occasion.

    Even without the volume, this teacher’s words could cut like a knife.  When the venom was directed at me, I froze.  I am extremely sensitive to the lexis.  The phrases this instructor used were not part of my reality.  Our philosophies on life were disparate.  Yet, I truly enjoyed this individual when the conversation was amiable.  When jovial, the professor was a delight.  Indeed, this person often was happy and genuinely fun.

    When a scream was heard through the walls, students and I would react.  Some smiled.  A few laughed nervously.  Others and I were startled.  We cringed.  When the world was again calm, quietly, throughout the room, discussions emerged.  The demeanor of this academic was the topic.  Talk of the teacher was approached tenderly.  As I listened, I learned.  If a person grows up in a home where one particular approach to life is normal, they learn to accept and appreciate that manner of expression.  People who were taught to expect verbal lashings, as Hillary Clinton noted, learn to accommodate or accept.

    If cruel criticisms were common in a home; howls were considered to be a sign, someone cares, painful as that might be. Those never exposed to love that did not hurt could not imagine the possibility.  Tis a sad state in this union, when those we treasure most are the ones we whip to a pulp with words.  A country divided cannot stand.

    Perchance it is time to truly discuss what divides America. Dollars and legal documents are not divisive.  Paper does not have the power to pull us apart.  Race cannot physically separate us.  In nature, every hue is a significant part of the whole.  Religion does not cause a rift between neighbors.  A philosophy can only teach us.  Principles do not reach into our souls and cause us to slice and dice.  It is we who control the chaos that drives a wedge between our brethren and we.

    Might Americans come together at home and on every avenue?  From Wall Street to Main Street let us speak kindly to each other.  Let us teach the children well.  

    Perhaps, it is time to tell those you share a life with that you revere them without reservations.  If we choose to use words that consistently show we care for those we love, perhaps, peace will have a chance.  If our words were to mirror our stated beliefs, possibly, money would have no power, color could do no harm, and religious principles would be evident in our every expression.  Please, imagine and work to give birth to what for too long was thought impossible.  Let us live in an America, united in more than name only.

    Sources, Scars, Screams in a divided society . . .

    School Diversity Segregates Some. Divided Neighborhoods Isolate All

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Today, I was reminded of how deeply divided this nation is.  I read School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some.  I discovered in an attempt to offer equal opportunities, indeed, schools discovered discrimination remained a dominant force.  School Boards, Administrators, and the community-at-large concluded educational institutions would be more diverse if learners were assigned to schools based on family incomes.  A plan was introduced and implemented.  The outcome was mixed; however, the pupil populations were less so.  Some races, colors, and creeds were abundant within a given institution; others were not well represented.

    This findings were contrary to the expected and desired intent of educators.  School Districts were determined to establish a sense of unity in their local schools.  They did not wish to register or reject students on the basis of race.  Family earnings were used to ascertain eligibility.  Enrollment numbers were controlled; however the outcome was not as predicted.  In a recent New York Times article Journalists Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder reported.

    San Francisco – When San Francisco started trying to promote socioeconomic diversity in its public schools, officials hoped racial diversity would result as well.

    It has not worked out that way.

    Abraham Lincoln High School, for example, with its stellar reputation and Advanced Placement courses, has drawn a mix of rich and poor students.  More than 50 percent of those students are of Chinese descent.

    “If you look at diversity based on race, the school hasn’t been as integrated,? Lincoln?s principal, Ronald J. K. Pang, said.  “If you don’t look at race, the school has become much more diverse.”

    San Francisco began considering factors like family income, instead of race, in school assignments when it modified a court-ordered desegregation plan in response to a lawsuit.  But school officials have found that the 55,000-student city school district, with Chinese the dominant ethnic group followed by Hispanics, blacks and whites, is resegregrating.

    The number of schools where students of a single racial or ethnic group make up 60 percent or more of the population in at least one grade is increasing sharply.  In 2005-06, about 50 schools were segregated using that standard as measured by a court-appointed monitor.  That was up from 30 schools in the 2001-02 school year, the year before the change, according to court filings.

    It is not a mystery why this might occur.  Perhaps, as often happens, one child spoke to a classmate of his, stating an interest in a particular school or program.  One mother chatted with her neighbor over the backyard fence.  They discussed her son’s education.  A father, in the local barbershop, mentioned his daughter would enroll in this facility or that.  Another resident of that small community thought the idea a good one.  They too entered their child in that facility. 

    People tend to discuss their decisions with those they know.  Word travels; however not as far and wide as it might.  We are acquainted with those that live near us.  Likely, the person next door or down the street has an income similar to our own.  Common interests are usual among people residing in the same community.  Often, people of one race, religion, or creed associate with those of similar backgrounds. 

    Humans are rarely distant from those they relate to.  In the workplace, the peons have no choice but to converse with those at their level.  Corporate Executive Officers rarely confer with their subordinates.  Middle managements lauds over the people that work for them.  However, they do not frequently lean over and say, “Would you like to join us in a meeting, come to dinner, or call me, just to talk.”  Our children watch us; they observe and absorb the characteristics that they experience.  Our offspring learn from us.

    Young persons typically admire their parents, or at least, those that care for them are an important influence.  We teach the children.  They learn their lessons well.  If we loathe our brethren, we can expect that our offspring will too.

    Hate is a learned response; so too is the gravitational pull to certain “types” of people.

    As we assess the recent report or other news of the day, we might wonder why segregation is so prevalent.  The answer abounds.  We heard it again only weeks ago.  The logic of Supreme Court Justices loomed large.  After assessing the evidence as it relates to Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 these esteemed Jurists announced their decision.

    “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a plurality that included Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again — even for very different reasons.”

    He added: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

    Again, we must acknowledge the attempts in San Francisco.  That School district thought they did as the Chief Justice directed.  Bay Area locals were resolute in their desire not to segregate on the basis of color.  Yet, they realized their efforts led students into greater isolation.  When School Boards concluded differences in incomes would lead to diversity, they negated an inherent fact.  As cited earlier in this essay, but bears repeating.  Frequently we forget, left to their own devices people prefer to be with their kind.

    I believe this reality is not innate; nor is it healthy.  It is a habit.  Imaginary “boundaries” were developed long ago before any of us was born.  The need to build walls and partitions has been passed down through the centuries.  Generation after generation does as their parents did.

    In prehistoric times, safety and a need for survival might have been a reason for concern.  People were nomads; they did not know, nor did they have the time to become acquainted with their neighbors.  Much has changed.  Civilization led to the growth of communities.  Now, we are connected, in cyberspace, and in cities.  Even those in the countryside are not far from other people.

    I think in order to make change we must be more conscious of our choices and what we accept as common wisdom.  Among the most proverbial conventions is there will always be poor persons. 

    I believe as long as there are underprivileged neighborhoods, there will be disadvantaged schools. 

    Educational institutions in our slums serve students already facing difficulties in their daily life.  The educators willing to teach in these facilities will likely be of lesser quality.  There may be a few committed to a cause; however, this is out of the ordinary.  Books will be borrowed, or cast-off when the elite schools think them obsolete.  Indeed, the pupils in these locals will be fortunate to have text to read.  The Center on Education Policy discusses this dynamic.

    Black and Hispanic students tend to take less-rigorous courses.  Though there are more black and Hispanic students taking academically rigorous courses now than in the past, whites and Asians still tend to be overrepresented in such courses.  In part, this situation results from the lack of advanced courses at high-minority schools.  In particular, researchers have found that schools in high-minority or high-poverty areas often offer a less-rigorous curriculum to begin with.  They thereby fail to challenge students, since they cover less material or give less homework.  This is a problem because research has found that students enrolled in challenging courses?in topics such as algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, and advanced English?usually have higher test scores than their peers.

    There is a lack of experienced teachers.  [Nancy Kober, author of the Center on Education Policy’s report] points out that black students are more likely to be taught by less-experienced teachers than white students.  Researchers have cited this factor as one of the most critical variables for explaining the achievement gap: there is a correlation between higher teacher certification scores and higher student achievement scores.  Teachers in districts where there are high percentages of black or Hispanic students tend to have lower scores on their certification tests.

    Teachers set their expectations low.  Studies have suggested that teachers sometimes have lower academic expectations for black and Hispanic children than they do for whites or Asians.  Kober warns that by setting expectations low, teachers run the risk of perpetuating the achievement gap since they do not encourage black and Hispanic students to follow a rigorous curriculum.

    Resource disparities handicap schools.  Low-minority schools tend to be much better funded and have all-around stronger resources than do high-minority schools. The same relationship holds true for schools in low-poverty versus high-poverty areas.  There is persuasive evidence that this factor contributes to the achievement gap.  For example, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show the achievement gap between low-poverty and high-poverty schools increased throughout the 1990s.

    Low-income and minority students tend to be concentrated in certain schools.  Kober notes that if a school has high levels of poverty, that can depress achievement for all the children in that school, even if they are from higher income families.  This fact hits Black and Hispanic children the hardest, since they are more likely to attend higher poverty schools than are whites or Asians.

    Student performance anxiety hampers minority students.  Some research has suggested that black students can become anxious about corresponding to negative racial stereotypes in their academic work.  The result, researchers say, is a kind of vicious circle: Black students can be so worried about seeming stereotypically ungifted academically that their anxiety actually makes them perform less well than they could.

    While on paper, Americans declare all persons are created equal, students know in practice this is not so.  Our pupils experience separate is not equal.  Even when “shipped” to schools far from home, they remain detached.  Their personalities are split.  They are the poor mingling amongst the rich.  An education helps; nonetheless, it does not eradicate the deeper divide.

    Discrimination is visible and it is our veracity.  Those that we judge harshly are characteristically the poorest among us.  Frequently and subtly, we deny these individuals their rights, and provide little so that they might achieve their dreams.  They huddle in hovels and call these home.

    Academics argue there is no need for a poor population.  Nonetheless, their perception of why one exists is as skewed as efforts to eliminate poverty are.  What is pervasive is too easily accepted, even expected.  Expert, scholarly opinions, I believe, do not consider the whole or a truth.  It seems what is too real for many is beyond the intellectuals’ ability to grasp.  I offer one authors reading of the problem, and an answer I find troublesome,

    A theorist, a scholar, and a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Dinesh D’Souza, writes in an article titled, Why Are There Poor People?

    Mister D’Souza acknowledges and accepts the impoverished are victims of a collective configuration that does not reward them.  He states . . .

    The left-wing view is that poor people are the victims of unjust social structures.  Historically this view is sound.  Slavery, colonialism?these were oppressive institutions that prevented people from exercising their freedom and rising in society.

    The left-wing argument is also an accurate description of the situation in much of the Third World today.  If you take a train through the Indian countryside, you will see farmers beating their pickaxes into the ground, frail women wobbling under heavy loads, children carrying stones.  These people are working incredibly hard, yet they are getting nowhere.  The reason is that institutional structures are set up in such a way that creativity and effort don’t bring due reward.  No wonder the people in these countries are fatalistic.

    However, he continues, “institutional structures” that  keep the poor down do not exist in America.  Dinesh D’Souza states “capitalism and technology” provide opportunities for all.

    [I]n the West capitalism and technology have worked together to lift the vast majority of the population out of deprivation and up to a level of affluence that, in the words of novelist Tom Wolfe, would “make the Sun King blink.”

    So what about the underclass, the inner-city poor that we hear so much about? I agree: it is terrible to grow up in many parts of the Bronx, New York, or Anacostia, Washington DC, or South Central Los Angeles. But that?s not because of material poverty.  Rather, it?s because of the shocking moral behavior of the residents.  High crime rates, the crack trade, and the absence of stable families all work together to destroy the cultural ecosystem and make normal productive life so difficult in these communities.

    This is where the right-wing argument gathers force.  Conservatives contend that the bourgeois virtues of family stability, the work ethic, the respect for education and law are essential for individuals and groups to advance, and where those are jlacking, chaos is the predictable result.  The solution is to recognize that prosperity does not come naturally.

    Such is the attitude, the belief, and the perception of many in our society.  Numerous persons say, the poor do not avail themselves of the opportunities within the market place.  Capitalism offers chances for all.  However, I must inquire, do people of color, those of lesser means and little education, truly have the same prospects the prosperous do.

    I observe that not all in the Western world have benefited from free enterprise; nor do each of us have access to technology.  Entrepreneurship is but a dream for those that have little education and few funds.  People that experience discrimination because of their color or perceived background lack hope. 

    In America, for hundreds of thousands skills are lacking.  Millions of people living in this country are illiterate or not well versed in disciplines that might help them climb from the clutches of poverty.  “Equipment” is not evenly distributed.  In impoverished areas, children are fortunate to have textbooks and teachers that care.  Richer areas [are] more successful in attracting qualified teachers.

    I must ask, if I am born to a welfare mother, a woman that is poor, or not white, will I have an equal chance to succeed.  We know that schools and society discriminate against those whose flesh is darker and those of lesser means.

    If my father had to work as a child to support his family, and therefore, never had the time let alone energy to complete school, am I likely to do well.  If my guardian must work long hours, doing manual labor in order to provide me with food and shelter will she or he be available to assist me with my homework.  Will they be in the room with me when I need reassurance or feel discouraged.  If they are will, they be able to honestly tell me “Everything will be all right, it always is.”

    Can a parent that has little knowledge of schoolwork or experience learning through scientific method teach me the habits that might benefit me, or society?  A child born into poverty does not hope or dream of succeeding as other children do.

    Discrimination leaves a legacy. The harmful effects of segregated schooling and similar forms of discrimination will continue to persist for several decades, studies show.  These effects can persist as a family link: children whose grandparents? educational achievement was limited or restricted may not enjoy the benefits of a family that values or encourages rigorous academics. Such values may simply not be a part of the family?s culture, partly because past discrimination inhibited the grandparents? achievement.  Moreover, other forms of discrimination, such as in housing or employment, can also negatively impact a child?s educational opportunities.

    Home and community learning opportunities are critical. In general, minority children are less likely than white children to have parents with high levels of educational attainment. This factor, together with others such as lower family income and parents? work schedules, may limit the extent to which parents can foster positive opportunities for learning at home, Author of the Center on Education Policy’s report, It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap, [Nancy] Kober claims. Hence, opportunities such as having access to books and computers?or even being read to before bedtime?may be more limited for minority children. Also, it is an established fact that high-minority and high-poverty communities tend to enjoy less access to such resources as libraries and museums that can benefit children. Finally, if the family speaks a language other than English at home, that can also affect a child?s learning opportunities.

    Good parenting practices need to be encouraged. Parental approaches to learning at home differ, and cultural variations undoubtedly play a role in children?s learning and achievement. However, the most effective practices should be encouraged, although more research is necessary to determine which do provide the greatest benefits.

    Contrary to the beliefs Dinesh D’Souza professes, only in rare cases does a blood relation or guardian teach criminal behavior.  Most mothers and fathers have the best of intentions.  Parents do not work to raise felons.  No matter what their background, color, or creed people have ethics and values, customs, and traditions.  Humans have emotions; they feel for their children.  Moms and Dads want their children to achieve the accolades they did not.

    Frustrations breed the social structure that inhibits achievement.  All the computers, cameras, telephones, and televisions in the world cannot provide the connection a parent might.  Technology cannot substitute for the tender, caring, touch of a Mom or Dad.

    However, in a country where massive amounts of money are a must in order to maintain a menial subsistence, parents may not be as profound an influence as they might be.  They may not be the best role models. 

    Nonetheless, a child can turn to another adult for guidance and quality instruction.  Perchance a teacher in a good school will stimulate the mind and rekindle a heart starving for attention.  Parents, not your own might help to involve an expectant pupil.  That was the hope in the districts intent on initiating socioeconomic diversity.

    The purpose of such programs is twofold. Since income levels often correlate with race, they can be an alternate and legal way to produce racial integration. They also promote achievement gains by putting poorer students in schools that are more likely to have experienced teachers and students with high aspirations, as well as a parent body that can afford to be more involved.

    ?There is a large body of evidence going back several years,? Mr. Kahlenberg said, “that probably the most important thing you can do to raise the achievement of low-income students is to provide them with middle-class schools.”

    Economic integration initiatives differ from each other, and from many traditional integration efforts that relied on mandatory transfer of students among schools. Some of the new initiatives involve busing but some do not; some rely on student choice, while some also use a lottery. And so it is difficult to measure how far students travel or how many students switch schools.

    The most ambitious effort and the example most often cited as a success is in the city of Raleigh, N.C., and its suburbs.

    For seven years, the district has sought to cap the proportion of low-income students in each of the county?s 143 schools at 40 percent.

    To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children, the district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are attracted to magnet schools in the city; children from the inner city are sometimes bused to middle-class schools at the outer edges of Raleigh and in the suburbs.

    The achievement gains have been sharp, and school officials said economic integration was largely responsible. Only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight in Wake County, where Raleigh is located, scored at grade level on state reading tests in 1995. By the spring of 2006, 82 percent did.

    “The plan works well,” said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. “It’s based on sound assumptions about the environment in which children learn.”

    While this is impressive, and validates that those of any background can and will improve given quality education, the truer problem, for me, is not eradicated.  Will these Black students find a way to enter college.  Might they cultivate a career that will ensure financial success.  If they are able to accomplish much, when they walk down the street will they be accepted as a wealthy white person would be.  Might a person of color have the same prospects their Caucasian brethren do.  Probably not.

    If we continue, as we have, competing in a free market society will not be possible when the color of your skin is not white.  The wad of bills in your pocket may help; however, perceptions too often take precedence. 

    Before an American child enters the workplace, where supposedly, opportunity abounds.  They must obtain an education.  We place a huge burden on our children if we remain separate as a society.  We can bus our offspring, and perhaps we may have to until parents learn to adjust.  However, asking our young to sit idly for hours while they travel to a world not their own gives rise to other issues.  The most obvious is the plight of the poor.

    As long as we, in the United States continue to have poor neighborhoods, we will have institutions that help sustain the cycle of poverty.  If we send all the underprivileged to the better neighborhoods, who will attend the remaining pitiable properties intended to educate our youth?  Why would we need facilities that favor no one.  Indeed, why do we need communities that propagate a truth that we do not endorse, poverty.

    Let us replace the myth that only hinders civilization as a whole.  Discard what defines our youth and even their elders as deprived .  They, we, are not Black or white, rich or poor, alien or native, advanced or behind.  We are individuals; we must furnish all with what they need to thrive. 

    As Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cautions, “Once you label me, you negate me.”

    If as a culture we expect Black and Hispanic children to live in low-income families, they will.  If their parents are not educated well, or accepted into society, the children will be less likely to live in neighborhoods that nurture an innate desire to learn.  We must be willing to integrate our neighborhoods, and truly provide the means for all our citizens to live as equals.

    We need to ask ourselves, do we truly wish to endorse a system where everyone is equal.  If so, let us begin to embrace the challenge and create the structure our forefathers’ spoke of.  If we do not we will continue to look for solutions that shift the responsibility to our children. 

    I believe we can live and succeed as a Union.  We need only invest authentically in our offspring, all of them, and more importantly in ourselves.

    If we decide not to fear our fellow man or see him or her as an alien, a stranger, the enemy, or someone we would not wish to be part of our family, then divisions will exist no more.

    Diversity need not be our undoing.  Please let us look at the United States Constitution and allow the principles that guide us to be our truth.  Might we make this country great and preserve our integrity.  We are one and all.

    When you grow up in a totally segregated society,
    where everybody around you believes that segregation is proper,
    you have a hard time.
    You can’t believe how much it’s a part of your thinking.”

    Shelby Foote [Historian, Novelist]

    Poor Schools, Poor Neighborhoods, A Sad State of Affairs . . .

  • School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • pdf School Diversity Based on Income Segregates Some, By Jonathan D. Glater and Alan Finder.  The New York Times. July 15, 2007
  • Parents Involved In Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1  Supreme Court Of the United States.
  • Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Divided Court Limits Use of Race by School Districts, By Robert Barnes. Washington Post.  Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A01
  • Parents involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1. Supreme Court of the United States. June 28, 2007
  • It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap. A Report of the Center on Education Policy. By Nancy Kober.  Center on Education Policy.  Educational Resources Information Center.
  • lliteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? The National Right to Read Foundation.
  • Richer areas more successful in attracting qualified teachers.  USA Today. April 24, 2006
  • Virginia Tech School Shooting. Once Again, Why?


    Footage of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16th, 2007

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It happened again.  This time it was bigger and bolder than all the times in the past.  At present, this was the worst massive gun massacre on a campus, in a community, since the inception of this country, unless you consider the numerous deaths that occur during war.  In combat, a single shooter or a pair of gun totters can destroy many lives.  Few are any the wiser.  American soil has seen many a battle throughout its short history.  Nevertheless, in recent times violent clashes, in quiet neighborhood are more abundant.  Today’s carnage is the most recent example.

    At least 33 people were killed today on the campus of Virginia Tech in what appears to be the deadliest shooting rampage in American history, according to federal law-enforcement officials.  Many of the victims were students shot in a dorm and a classroom building.

    The investigation continues.  For now, details are scant.  The shooter or gunman is deceased, assuming there was only one.  The armed man took his own life.  He was not carrying any identification.  Until families of the deceased are notified, names will not be released.  The circumstances were horrific.

    Sidewalks throughout the campus are stained with blood.  Everyone asks why.  Some thirty lives were lost needlessly.  The nation mourns.  Journalist, students, parents, and administrators question the police in depth and detail.  Earlier decisions are being scrutinized.  Could law officers have prevented the second and more extreme bloodbath.

    There were two separate shootings on the campus in Blacksburg, Va., the first at around 7:15 a.m., when two people were shot and killed at a dormitory.  More than two hours later, 31 others, including the gunman, were shot and killed across campus in a classroom building, where some of the doors had been chained.  Victims were found in different locations around the building.

    The first attack started as students were getting ready for classes or were on their way there.  The university did not evacuate the campus or notify students of that attack until several hours later.

    As the rampage unfolded, details emerged from witnesses describing a gunman going room to room in the residence hall, the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, and of gunfire later at Norris Hall, a science and engineering classroom building.

    I know not why this particular incident occurred; nor do I think this is the question we need to be asking.  Again, as I have stated in the past, for me, we must wonder about a society that nurture violence and brutality.  I inquire; what do we breed into our children, our adolescents, and adults?

    For decades, entertainment in America has been snide, rude, crude, and violent.  Shock-jocks fill the airwaves with racist, misogynistic slurs.  Rappers flood television and computer screens with denigrating images.  Movie pictures are gory.  Life on the streets is more gruesome.  Then there is the trauma and drama in our homes.  People yell; they scream, they slam and damn.

    We as a civilization might wonder why the gunman or shooters at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University did as they did.  Together we can ponder whether the police thought little of the initial domestic dispute.  Nevertheless, I believe, until we think about what occurs daily in our homes, or on our streets, nothing will change. 

    I propose that we contemplate why we as a country are so willing to enter into a war with other nations or other persons.  People in America are angry.  Our countrymen lash out.  Americans are not trained to talk with their friends, families, neighbors, or adjacent countries.  Until we consciously work to solve stresses calmly, through conversation, scenes such as this will continue.

    Again, I present an article written months ago, after other school shootings.  Then, simple solutions were postulated.  I penned my thoughts.  School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators? Aiding and abetting educators, airline pilots, police, campus cops, or citizens will not deter the crime.  The crisis will not end if everyone carries a gun.

    Blaming adults for their inaction or decisions during a single event will not prevent the next attack.  You might recall, another incident that occurred less than a year ago.  A young girl was assaulted and the community expressed concern asking of her elders.  I wrote, Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere!

    Please, I plead; let us all ask ourselves what is causing such crimes, such chaos.  I beg; please do not blame others.  Ask yourself, how does my silence or my screaming contribute to what comes.  Remember, no man is an island.  We are each involved with mankind.  Our neighbor is as we are.  If he is in pain, we will be hurt.

    “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume;
    when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book,
    but translated into a better language;
    and every chapter must be so translated . . .
    As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon,
    calls not upon the preacher only,
    but upon the congregation to come:
    so this bell calls us all:
    but how much more me,
    who am brought so near the door by this sickness . . .
    No man is an island, entire of itself . . .
    any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind;
    and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    it tolls for thee.”

    ~ John Donne

    Shooting and Sources . . .

  • Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • pdf Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead. By Christine Hauser and Anahad O’Connor.  The New York Times. April 16, 2007
  • School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?  By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org. October 8, 2006
  • Second-Grade Girl Attacked. “Where Were the Adults?” Everywhere! By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org. May 11, 2006
  • John Donne.  Meditation XVII.  No Man is an Island.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University  The New York Times.
  • Can a Muslim, Christian, Jew Be A Good American Citizen? ©


    Mo Amer: Testing Americans On Muslim I.Q.

    Dearest Reader . . .

    Again, I received an electronic communiqué that left me feeling nauseous.  This one is titled, “Can A Muslim Become A Good American Citizen?  Can they be a good person?” 

    This communication is from an individual that barely knows me.  She is a devout and practicing Christian.  This woman attends church regularly and speaks of the Lord religiously.  She often states she would never wish to hurt another; yet . . .

    On the holiest of all Christian holidays, on the day that believers, throughout the globe honor their Lord Jesus Christ, this religious disciple sent me a bigoted letter in support of “racial profiling.”  In truth, this “epistle” seems to justify “ethnic cleansing.”  This patriotic preaching professes, people are not created equal, or after birth, they become evil.  According to this missive, in America, the Constitutional right establishing freedom of religion is unwise.  Muslims must be damned.  Please ponder the passage and decide for yourself.

    I thought to attach this document to a lengthy treatise on racism, on hate crimes, on discriminatory practices.  I researched the topics.  I was ready to submit a thesis; however, upon reflection I concluded my endeavor to defend or dispute would serve no purpose.  People can only choose for themselves what they wish to believe and act upon.  Often unwanted overtures lead to resentment, rebellion, and ridiculous reactive behaviors.  I do not wish to participate in such silliness.

    You may recall the infamous letter penned by Pamela Foster that I also received through my electronic mail account,  Scary Song of Compassion? From Conservative Pamela Foster ©  Ms. Foster repeatedly reminded us, she did not care for anyone but herself, her kind, and her clan.  Numerous readers reveled in her words.  They submitted their agreement.  Sadly, I had little to say in return.

    Initially, I responded to comments on that critique.  However, ultimately, I realized that discussion needed to grow; by necessity, it must be broader.  My reacting to what I recognize as racism will do little.  People will evolve as they do.  Enlightenment comes through personal experience.  It is a process and cannot be hastened by outside influences.

    Unlike Ms. Forster, I believe that not caring for any entity is the saddest of all human choices.  The conditions we create when we do not have compassion, for me, seem chaotic.  For me, empathy is the best educator.  Nevertheless . . .

    I offer another scurrilous, scandalous, slanderous, and defamatory mail for your review.  I believe such xenophobic expressions are interesting and enlightening.  I think it vital that we recognize what many in mainstream America are thinking, saying, doing, and feeling.  My desire is to advance awareness, always. 

    As I stated, I will let the text speak for itself.  My hope is that people will read these racist rants and feel a distressed as I do.

    “Can A Muslim Become A Good American Citizen?” 
    “Can they be a good person?”

    Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 21:02:43 EST
    Subject: something to seriously consider

    Something to seriously consider
    Can A Muslim Become A Good American Citizen?
    Can a good Muslim be a good American?

    I sent that question to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years.
    The following is his reply:

    Theologically – no.  Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia.

    Religiously – no.  Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Koran, 2:256)

    Scripturally – no.  Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

    Geographically – no.  Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

    Socially – no.  Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

    Politically – no.  Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.

    Domestically – no.  Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Quran 4:34).

    Intellectually – no.  Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

    Philosophically – no.  Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression.  Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist.  Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

    Spiritually – no.  Because when we declare “one nation under God,” the Christian’s God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran’s 99 excellent names.

    Therefore, after much study and deliberation….  perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country.  They obviously cannot be both “good” Muslims and  good Americans.
    Call it what you wish…. it’s still the truth.

    If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends.  The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our  future.
    Pass it on Fellow Americans.  The religious war is bigger than we know or  understand.  Reflect and take the following multiple-choice test.

    The events are actual cuts from past history.  They actually happened!!!

    Do you  remember?
    -1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed  by
    a. Superman
    b. Jay Leno
    c. Harry Potter
    d Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

    1. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes  were kidnapped and massacred by
    a. Olga  Corbett
    b. Sitting Bull
    c. Arnold  Schwarzenegger
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages  of 17 and 40
    2. In 1979, the US embassy  in Iran was taken over by:
    a. Lost Norwegians
    b. Elvis
    c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and  40

    3. During the 1980’s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
    a. John Dillinger
    b. The King of Sweden
    c. The Boy  Scouts
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    4. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
    a. A pizza delivery boy
    b. Pee Wee Herman
    c. Geraldo Rivera
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and  40

    5. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and 70 year old Leon Klinghoffer, an  American and a Jew- confined to a wheelchair, was murdered and  thrown overboard by:
    a. The Smurfs
    b.  Davy Jones
    c. The Little Mermaid
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    6. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and Robert Stidham, a US Navy diver was murdered  by:
    a. Captain Kidd
    b. Charles Lindberg
    c. Mother Teresa
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    7. In 1988, Pan Am Flight  103 was bombed by:
    a. Scooby Doo
    b. The Tooth  Fairy
    c. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    8. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the
    first time by:
    a. Richard Simmons
    b. Grandma  Moses
    c. Michael Jordan
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    9.  In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
    were bombed  by:
    a. Mr. Rogers
    b. Hillary Clinton, to distract  attention from Wild Bill’ s women problems
    c. The  World Wrestling Federation
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    10. On 9/11/01,  four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one  crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted  and crashed by the passengers.  Thousands of people  were killed by:
    a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, and  Elmer Fudd
    b. The Supreme Court of Florida
    c. Mr. Bean
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    11. In 2002, the United  States fought a war in Afghanistan against:
    a.  Enron
    b. The Lutheran Church
    c. The NFL
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and  40

    12. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped  and murdered by:
    a. Bonnie and Clyde
    b.  Captain Kangaroo
    c.  Billy Graham
    d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

    Nope, I really don’t see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you?

    So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people.  They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President’s security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winning and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim males between the ages 17 and 40 alone because of profiling.  Give us a break!!!  These people must think we are idiots!  We are!

    I, Betsy, can only breathe deeply, then sigh with great remorse.  I struggle to accept that racism is relative.  How can we compare and contrast elements with little explanation.  Might anyone, or I, take excerpts from the New or Old Testament and then, with little knowledge of context, content, or the construct conclude that Christians and Jews are violent people.  I think we could if we would. 

    Distortion and discrimination abound.  I, for one, wish it were not so.  If this passage only advances awareness then I will be pleased.  I do not want prejudice, intolerance, or chauvinism to survive.  May peace and understanding thrive. 

    I wish us all well.  Namaste.

    School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?



    ShlShtngArmEdctrsMrrr

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    In the last few weeks, school shootings have dominated the news.   The frequency of these seems to be increasing.   People throughout the nation are panicking; what are we to do?   President Bush spoke of this situation in his Saturday, October 7, 2006, radio address.   He proclaimed, “We will bring together teachers, parents, students, administrators, law enforcement officials, and other experts to discuss the best ways to keep violence out of our schools.”   Conferences have been called.   The problem has been discussed for years.  

    President Clinton convened such a forum in 1999.   Educators, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and adolescent-development specialists came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on May 21, 2002.   Each group was equally intent on investigating the causes and effects of Lethal School Violence.   In the symposiums, experts sought solutions.   Everyone wanted [and wants] to protect our progeny.    

    At the time, programs were initiated; yet, the violence continued.   In the last month or more, we as a nation are wondering; is there no end?   Will our children ever be safe?

    Citizens are again asking how can we secure our schools and shield our offspring from societal harm.   Finally, an answer comes from a Wisconsin lawmaker.   Representative Frank Lasee is proposing that teachers and administrators carry guns daily and use these when necessary.

    In the wake of school shootings in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Pennsylvania during the last two weeks, a state legislator says he plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel to carry concealed weapons.

    Representative Frank Lasee, a Republican, said Wednesday that, while his idea may not be politically correct, it has worked effectively in other countries.

    “To make our schools safe for our students to learn, all options should be on the table,” he said.   “Israel and Thailand have well-trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm.   It can work in Wisconsin.”

    Now there is a solution!   Certainly, our communities will be safer if everyone is armed.   The National Rifle Association believes this is true.   Organization enthusiast state “Guns do not kill; people do.”   While this may be a fact, I remind the vitriolic members of such a vigilant organization, guns cannot cause death unless they are in the hands of humans.   We might consider accidents among trained hunters.   Vice President Richard [Dick] Cheney comes to mind, or we might contemplate what occurs when weapons are found in the hands of young innocents.

    Perhaps this determination is too rash; a conference might allow calmer heads to prevail.   We as a society must evaluated the circumstances more completely.

    We know that communities have long been concerned with gang violence.   However, what has occurred in recent years differs.   On January 29, 1979, individual outbursts came into our collective consciousness.   “Brenda Spencer, 16, opened fire with a .22-caliber rifle at an elementary school across the street from her San Diego, California, home.   She killed two people and wounded seven because she `didn’t like Mondays.'”

    Upon hearing this story, our country held its breath as it does now.   Jointly we release a communal sigh.   Still the violence increases as is evident in these last five weeks.   There is talk.   What measures can we take to guard against weaponry?

    Metal detectors were introduced in educational institutions after a 1992 shooting.  

    In 1994, the federal government began requiring school safety programs in an attempt to crack down on violence on school grounds.   Many schools introduced metal detectors to check for guns, knifes and other weapons . . . although the Supreme Court eventually overturned the federal requirements, most school safety measures remained in place.   In Los Angeles, for instance, [as of 1997] all high schools still use some sort of metal detectors.

    However, it is clear, these actions do not secure the premises.   Zero tolerance campaigns were invoked.   Violations are and were numerous.  

    Parents, administrators, teachers, and staff were told to observe student behaviors; they were asked to attend to warning signs.   Discipline problems were considered predictors; yet, this was not always the case.   Offenders did not only come from within the school system, they enter and exist throughout society.   Witness the killings within the last month or more.

    Whatever we choose to reflect upon, when looking at violence in our schools, our homes, or in our airports I ask us to bear in mind that traditional methods for preventing violence are not working.   I think we must look at why people do what they do.

    Violent crime continues to be a major problem and I suspect this will continue as long as we look for simple solutions.   I observe, when we as a country, focus on machines and mandates as a means for deterring violence in schools and within society at-large.   We ignore the violator.   I believe the life of the perpetrator is most telling. This is the key component in a crime that can be influenced and altered.   If we address it early enough and treat root causes sincerely and seriously we can make a difference.

    However, instead, we look at guns, knifes, box cutters, gels, powders, matches, lighters, and bombs as though these are the killers.   We work tirelessly to prevent these from entering the systems, schools, airports, office building, and prisons.   Rarely do we address the authentic reason for killings.   People and what goes on in their heads, hearts, and souls cause death.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stress our culture promotes, rather than hypothesize; how might we use technology and authority to control the minds and misdeeds of men and women.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live and the life standards we choose to accept, then, we might be able to prevent these carnages.  

    I request that you, dear reader, consider what passes for the “common wisdom.”   Is it sensible?   Please ponder accepted theories and simple solutions with me.   Then ask yourself, what might we do to truly change what comes?

    On Monday, October 2, 2006, a deeply distressed man entered a one room Amish schoolhouse.   He excused all the male pupils and personnel.   He was interested in only the young female students.   It is not known whether the church-going milkman intended to molest the girls; though there is evidence to suggest that he did.   However, what is certain is that the perpetrator shot these little lovelies before taking his own life.   Pennsylvania schoolhouse killer Charles Carl Roberts IV revealed in a telephone call to his wife, at the age of twelve he molested two young relatives.   Events of 20 years past haunted the man throughout his life.   Guilt took Roberts’ life and the lives of several young innocent Amish girls.

    Five days earlier, in Bailey, Colorado an armed drifter walked into Platte Canyon High School.   He then entered a classroom.   The transient demanded that all the men leave the area.   He wanted to be alone with the girls he corralled into a classroom.   According to a student and her mother, Duane R. Morrison seemed to prefer smaller, blonde girls.   This disturbed wanderer with his quarry of petite flaxen hair maidens proceeded to sexually assault some of the six young girls he held hostage.   Ultimately, he shot one before killing himself.   Some social scientists are theorizing `girls are the targets in school violence.

    After the crime,

    at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Morrison’s stepmother said she and her husband, Bob Morrison, “have no record of him being, having any trouble before.”   “We just know the way he was raised,” Billie Morrison said, declining to elaborate.

    How was he raised?   Some experts think the relationships established in the lives of the killers might offer answers.   In the series of recent rampages there is a seemingly notable consistency.

    “The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims,” says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist whose recent book examines the roots of “rampage” shootings in rural schools.

    Dr. Newman has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s.   Though it’s impossible to know whether girls were randomly victimized in those cases, she says, “in every case in the US since the early 1970s we do note this pattern” of girls being the majority of victims.

    Prior to these two incidents, the focus and fantasy was on troubled adolescents.   These were thought to be the person responsible for such horrendous school crimes.   Some behavior experts hypothesized; violent young persons had been bullied in school.   They were browbeaten at home.   These youthful aggressors were tormented by their own inner struggles.   They act out after years of deep-seated frustration.  

    Forensic psychiatrist Keith Aldo says mental health problems, especially among young people, too often go ignored and untreated.   “Everybody in the class often knows who the troubled kids are.   Parents know.   Teachers know,” he says.   “And if anything we should know that there is a preventative bit of medicine, psychological medicine to be dispensed in our classrooms earlier than we have been doing.”

    Aldo urges parents and teachers to talk more openly about problems that could erupt into violence at school.   He says unresolved issues can continue to haunt a child throughout life.   “The more that you can express your feelings of fear, the more that you can talk about your reactions to terrible events, the less that those events are going to be toxic to you later on.”

    Aldo says airing such concerns helps build a stronger and safer community.   Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, agrees.   He says the community must work at making schools safe places.   “It happens by making sure that the first and best line of defense is a well-trained, highly alert school staff and student body who are aware of changes in behavior of other students as well as strangers who are walking around in parking lots and the hallways of our schools.”

    While I do not quibble with this later premise and I am willing to consider the earlier hypothesis, I think each supposition negates a broader problem.   I believe the more recent incidents confirm the quandary has many causes.   The dilemma is not limited to youth acting out against their harassing, haranguing, or hounding classmates.   These incidents are not only a reaction to discrimination from peers.   Parents are not the central problem.   This transgression is as all others, complex.  

    The complexities that cause violent crime in our nations schools are similar to those that create terrorism.

    Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors – not only psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological factors, among others.   There is even a hypothesis that it is caused by physiological factors, as discussed below.   Because terrorism is a multi-causal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.

    For Paul Wilkinson (1977), the causes of revolution and political violence in general are also the causes of terrorism.   These include ethnic conflicts, religious and ideological conflicts, poverty, modernization stresses, political inequities, lack of peaceful communications channels, traditions of violence, the existence of a revolutionary group, governmental weakness and ineptness, erosions of confidence in a regime, and deep divisions within governing elites and leadership groups.

    International terrorists, sadistic student rebels, and lone executors have a common bond; society and stressors impact their lives severely.

    Student’s killers are often exposed to frequent slights from peers or parents, just as some terrorists feel slighted by our treatment of their culture and religious practices.   These snubs are evident if society as a whole and those functioning within the system choose to recognize them.   The stress in young lives can be reduced or eliminated if we attend to these grievances quickly.

    We might realize that lone shooters, those that walk into our schools also are victims of a fragile upbringing.   There are reasons that these solitary shooters might aim at young girls, blondes, or the most innocent among us.   Again, if we as a community chose to be aware of what we are creating for our children, we can save them before they become adult or adolescent killers.

    Religious or political zealots, the defiant, defensive, and the righteous also are products of their environment.   They may act out against nations or peoples; still, the source of their rage is apparent if we choose to look for it.   Each of these executors feels persecuted and why not.

    In a world where frustrations are ignored or attributed to authority figures, women, or circumstances beyond our control, there is much to feel frustrated about.   Students feel stuck in school, at home, or in lives that demand much of them and give little in return.   Adults, loners and cult followers alike, feel lost in the unresolved circumstances of their past and present.   They want to affect the future.   However, in the future, as in the present, and the past, people are not the focus.   Folly and failed systems are.

    We evaluate preventive mechanized and legal measures.   We disregard the fact that these are not effective.

    I propose we look at life, at our daily existence and the stresses our cultures promote.   I theorize if we assess the way in which we live, the life standards we accept, then, we might be able to prevent these mass and individual tragedies.

    I invite us all to pay homage to the notion that problems are not resolved by outside solutions or systems.   What is real, meaningful, and elicits change is knowledge and understanding.   If we are to embrace people more so than policies, I believe we will all be encouraged and empowered.

    I think it vital to accept and acknowledge that any of us might turn in a split second, or so it will seem to an outsider.   However, all of us are stewing, marinating in our own milieu.   Without exception, we could easily be a mild-mannered, church going, milkman in a moment, a sullen student, a scholar, or a vagrant in one moment and a murderer in the next.   We know not what the mind might perceive and act upon.

    Yet, in assessing this novel crisis, we negotiate matters that are of little consequence, metal, gels, powder, fluids, steel door barriers, and the soles of shoes.   We ignore or avoid assessing the souls and spirits of human beings.

    For the 54 million Americans with mental illness, broad access to services and treatments is not a luxury; it is a fundamental need.   It is imperative that state policymakers not target mental health as a way to save money with state and local governments providing more than 50 percent of funding for services through programs like Medicaid and SCHIP.

    America’s mental health system is at risk of plunging from crisis to catastrophe.   Cutting budgets and instituting draconian limits to needed treatments and services not only increases human suffering, but also puts additional strain on state economies through increased reliance on emergency services, correctional systems and welfare programs.

    We must stop asking, “Are our schools safe?”   “Are our streets secured?”   “What can we do to “prevent” violent crime in our nations educational institutions or on our shores?”   I think the better questions are, what are we doing, how and what are we feeling?   What can be done to improve our lives and what resources are we bringing to bear on these core problems.

    I propose what effects our youth [or our nation] affects us all.   We drown our sorrows in drugs.   We suffer silently.   Americans no longer spend time with family; they seek support in superficial forms and forums.   Mental health care institutions are closed to all but a select and wealthy few.   The hospitals of today are not equipped to handle the multitude of mental and physical health concerns.   Yet, we as a nation create more of these lost souls everyday.

    Parents are working two and three jobs, just to survive.   Families are rushed about; people do not know their neighbors let alone siblings.   Americans are isolated; yet not insulated from all that surrounds them.   We are stressed and fighting to seem stable.   We react to real pressures and just as the man that took, the lives of the Amish girls; guilt or anxiety ultimately may grip us.

    Can we as a nation protect ourselves from aggressors?   I contend, only if we face the genuine pain that causes their reactive behaviors.

    We must understand the intentions of the people that perform malicious acts against others if we are to prevent future outrages.   The mind is our master.   Where there is a will, there is a way.   I ask that we address human resolve and spirit as a means of prevention.   I believe placing guns in the hands of potential victims will do more harm than good.   Ultimately, it will cure nothing.

    References For Reflection . .  .