Shooting Safeguards. A Society Armed

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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 . .  .



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History Happens; Ebbs And Flows. Emotions Are Entrenched

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

On any given day, in any given way we create a foundation for our lives.  What we think, say, do, or feel will be with us throughout our existence.  Even if we believe, we are no longer where we were, we evolved, [and we all do] the effects of our actions, our reactions, do not change unless we work extremely hard to transform them.  Indeed, no matter how diligently we are in our  pursuit, attempting to erase the effects of our deeds, our failure to function, or our rejoinders, these will linger in the hearts and minds of those we associate with.

People presume to know who we are, and what we meant way-back-when.  Today they are more certain than ever.  Emotions are easily entrenched.

Only a day ago I was endeavoring to say, just this.  Two prominent persons were in the news.  Numerous articles were written discussing their doings.  Television broadcasts assessing their situations filled the airwaves.  Throughout the day, each time I heard or read of one report, the other followed immediately.  There were no transitions between these news items.  The tales were presented as interesting, somewhat ironic anecdotes,  In my mind, the inference was ever-present; the past is evident in today’s occurrences. 

As I evaluated these narratives I thought of nothing more, than how “funny” life is.  Try as we might, we cannot escape what we said or did long ago.  It was and is almost humorous to me.  When we consider the twists and turns of events, no one could imagine what will come. 

It seems to me, those most wanting to forget what occurred “when we were . . .” are the ones more deeply immersed in their history.  I penned prose discussing what for me is somewhat laughable.  In our effort not to repeat history, we often do as we did long ago, or we create a chaos that pales by comparison.

How often have we purposely pursued a prospect different than those we embarked on before only to discover the similarities?  If we are able to strike a chord that relieves us of former follies, it seems many of us give birth to bigger and better traumas.  While reviewing the day’s events, I marveled.

In my mind, these two persons were notably not repentant for their earlier conduct.  They each often seem embroiled in incidents that relate back to their past.

In my missive, I spoke of the wonder woman of note, an esteemed and articulate aspirant.  Some say she is a “polarizing” figure; yet, her prestige is unquestionable.  I imagined that she might have been more cautious, or may have attended to what could have been easily misconstrued prior to this late date. 

I theorized that perhaps, not wishing to be vulnerable, open, willing to apologize for what others felt and thought hurtful caused a reluctance to change that did not serve this renowned person well.  I pondered; perchance, if this exceptional individual had done other than take a defensive stance, the coverage of her deeds would not have been so great.

I also offered the other tale musing how harsh life can be when we work to justify our history.  I spoke of a person some think is a criminal.  [Who am I to presume.]  The man discussed in my now deleted missive fell so far from favor that the mere mention of his name causes people to cringe. 

The only correlations stated in my essay were the two had each been the focus in the day’s news, and each does what many or most of us have done.  They have not actively attended to their history. 

If any of us has not enthusiastically worked through what was, we might relate. 

If those around us refuse to lovingly labor with us in hopes of resolving past understandings, well, the predicaments may be similar.  Oh, those well-established emotional reactions can be our undoing.

In my own life, my personal history haunts me often.  I cannot imagine that I am alone in this experience. 

I might cite the conversation I had two years ago in September.  An estranged  family member and I spoke for the first time in a long while.  I tried, as I had done many times over the years, to discuss a trauma I never understood.  To this day, I am unsure what happened or exactly when.  I only know that until we, authentically chat about what this individual is feeling and why, we will never move forward.  Indeed, our relationship will continue to regress. 

Avoidance of the topic has caused great harm.  Ignoring has lead to shared ignorance.  Pretending nothing is wrong reaps greater problems.
The best way out is always through.
~ Robert Frost [Poet]

In this more recent discussion, I shared all my sorrows.  I suggested every possibility for why we might be where we are, or were on that autumn day when we spoke at length.  I offered my sincerest apologies for every word, and any action.  I explained where I might have been years ago and accepted there was so much I did not know then and desired to understand now. 

These words came back to me, “It is all in the past.”  I stated, ‘It is not.  What was effects what is.  Our history is our foundation.  It is evident in the present and will create the future, if we do nothing to correct our differing impressions.’

Two months ago, another individual mentioned an event that occurred more than twenty years ago.  I recall the incident well, and the ensuing misunderstanding.  Money exchanged hands, was re-paid, however, inadequately according to this other person.  I remember the same, and for a score I was certain I had made amends.  Apparently, in the mind and memory of this individual I had not.  However, nothing was said to me for all this time.  Decades came and went and not a word.

Once I fortuitously learned of this lingering lament, much made sense.  There had long been an unexplained distance between this party and me.  Might this unpaid debt, the one I thought was fully settled be the cause for such a divide.  I strongly suspect it was.

Again, I was told, now by a second person “It is in the past.”  However, once more, it was not.  I shared with this love as I had with the other.  “Times gone by shade our present and will be prominent in our future.”  We must be willing to approach the untouchable topics and decide that we will work to change what was.  If we do not we will be forever haunted by our history.

Granted, if the persons we intermingle with are unwilling to alter their initial impression of what we may think are false claims and judgments, our interactions with these individuals will forever reflect their perception of the days gone by.  Their understanding of us, interpretations of our message will be their staunchly defended truth. 

Not one of us can escape the fact that we have not always been or done as we later realize was best.  Some never think, or state, they have ever done wrong.  That conclusion might harm these persons more severely than admitting, ‘Perhaps, I was at fault.’  They envision stating they were in error as a weakness.  For these saintly souls, vulnerability is not the strength I perceive it to be.

For me, knowing I am another flawed human being is a reality.  Those that read a recent treatise of mine might tell you that.  Many did tell me this.

I am being “constructively criticized,” rebuked and reprimanded for supposedly expressing a thought I did not state or even think to consider.  I suspect all of us might be able to relate to this. 

Interestingly, much of impetus for this inaccurate interpretation was evoked not by my words, but because of an image presented as an introduction to the publication.  In my mind, I was stating that two people had a history that was affecting their lives in the present.  Each wrote of their past, and details of their doings were discussed in the mainstream media on the same day.  Both stories I thought somewhat bizarre.  For me, that was the authentic connection, the only combining of the two I saw. 

However, numerous persons viewed my symbolic message differently.  It seems, once the portraits were perceived as one, they were forever linked in the minds and hearts of others.  The visual took on a life all its own.  Many readers were not able to separate their first impression, or expectation of what was to come, from what preceeded. 

Ah, the human heart and the effect it has on a rational mind.  We are all escorted by to our emotions although few wish to admit this.  Perchance that is why our history haunts us.  We protect and defend our beliefs as fact.  Our failure to recognize that what is real for us is not valid for another harms our relationships and ourselves.  I long ago learned, what is “right” for me is the relationship, not my need to prove someone else in error.

Often when we word our condemnation of an act, we present a punitive stance that defines the essence of the wrongdoer as erroneous.  We use expressions that do not open hearts.  Instead, humans turn a phrase that is punitive and demeaning to the other.  We place the onus on them, the person that disturbed our sensibility.  Had they not said, done, thought, or been as they were [or more truthfully, as we believe them to be] then we would not be in distress. 

Words such as “I am disappointed in you” [your essential being] pass for constructive criticism.  “Tsk, tsk” [How could you be so corrupt, cunning, dishonest, deceitful, and devious] are considered caring, statements of concern.  “This is beneath you” is posited as an acknowledgement of your extraordinary quality.  Supposedly, the speaker is intending to state their love and admiration.  However, were these words said to you, you likely would not feel as though they were fond of you. 

Might the articulation actually be more about the speakers’ apprehension, their anxiety over what they believe you or I have become or possibly always were. 

With thanks to a man I did not fully understand for years, for he was not like anyone I ever experienced, I learned much.  Our perceptions are our reality.  Only empathy can educate us.  Nonetheless . . .

Most people that presume to know us best, those that claim to have deep knowledge of our intentions, rarely do.  Others believe they recognize whom we are within.  Frequently, they refuse to.  Any attempt at sharing our authentic motivation for whatever might have moved us, is defined as “a veiled pretense,” a “patronizing remark,” or “beneath us.”

In my endeavor to share a thought that I have honored for years, ‘Fact is far stranger, and infinitely more humorous than fiction,’ I was slammed, damned, criticized, and condemned.

If others never speak aloud in a truly caring manner when they have concerns, nothing will change.  If they are busy placing the onus on us and are unwilling to believe that what they perceive as our intentions are not, there will be no growth, no understanding, and definitely no shared wisdom.

In elementary school, we learn the term ‘constructive criticism.’  We think that our expressed concerns are these.  Seldom do we imagine how our disparagement might be heard.  I wonder if this construct, caring censure might be an oxymoron.  Can a person be critical without being cruel.  I think there are ways to productively pronounce a genuine concern without using words that define another as fatally flawed.  However, these require an open heart and mind. 

Criticism is a misconception: we must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves.
~ Emile M. Cioran [French Philosopher. 1911 – 1995]

Demeaning another will never serve to secure a reciprocal reverence.  Shaming a spirit cannot create a beautiful bond.  Defensiveness does nothing to further discussion or understanding.  Change will not come if we are entrenched in our emotional evaluations.  Calm is not created when we chose words that cut like a knife. 

In a debate, there are winners and losers.  Disputes do not reap reflective rewards.  In my mind, these forums offer no resolution.

When someone defines what is above or beneath us, based on his or her unfaltering belief that they know our intention better than we, they place the blame solely on us.  When an individual decides that a person is suggesting more than what they state on the surface, then that person is reading between the lines and envisioning their own message. 

For those who think, life is a comedy.
For those who feel, life is a tragedy.

~ Horace Walpole [Father of Gothic Novel, Earl of Orford]

I was told what I really think and who I truly am.  Those that have never meet me, cannot, or will not dialogue with me as a caring, communicative person might, concluded that my message was what I had never thought it to be.

While as a human, I could rationalize and argue the point they presumed I was making.  I could also make a case for the contrary were I to try.  However, I had no desire to debase the subjects of my missive beyond what I thought interesting

Possibly, my essay was incomplete.  I was not endeavoring to go deep.  I genuinely was just jotting down a moment of surprise that two such stories, examples of how our past never dies were broadcast back-to-back during the evening news.

If, as in my situation, a visual is offered revealing that two people have a history that is invasive, and each was being discussed publicly on a single day, is interpreted as meaning more than it was meant to imply, then the messenger will be killed.  I am slain and in the minds of many, I was totally to blame.

I submit, perhaps the image was powerful and communicated what was not meant to be.  I might have included a third frame.  The visual within that box could have been your face or mine.  However, if the text of the treatise is read as it was presented, or at least as it was intended to be, the reader might understand my message.

I will try to state it simply.  Anyone of us that does not work through their past and chooses not to help others to understand who we truly are is doomed.  We are fated to realize that people will forever recall our history.  The fiction others create will appear as facts, in part, because we do not correct it. 

At times, we may not know that someone is feeling as they do.  However, when we are a public figure, as the two I referred to are, it is difficult to avoid ample angst.  I thought it fascinating that these two individuals were being publicly reminded of their past on the same day, nothing more. 

I think, possibly, we all are forced to face what was; yet, our reminders of the past are not printed in the papers; nor do the accounts of many appear on the same day.  Rarely do we need to address our errors or what others perceive as our mistakes in an open assembly.

However, on those occasions, when we do endeavor to correct a misimpression, as I have repeatedly tried to do today, our words fall often on deaf ears.  Thus, the thought submitted earlier in the now defunct treatise illustrates my initial and intentional claims.  Facts, or what passes for these, are funnier than fiction.  Historically, the past does not fade from minds.  Sadly, for some, what “may” have never been will always be when humans are involved.

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.
James A. Baldwin [Author]

Mother Earth; The Human Virus



Animation about Earth

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Earth is ill.   The virus that invades this planet is human in nature.   This strange little creature has an ego that multiples and magnifies its significance.   “Persons” think themselves so important they ignore the essence of every other life form.

Humans invade all space and slip into every crack and crevice on this planet.   Individuals propose it is “Manifest Destiny.”   Man and womankind believe they have a G-d-given right to expand and possess the whole of this terra firma.

People think themselves superior.   Thus, he and she slices and dices other mammals.   Those that walk on two limbs, label these helpless beings delicacies.  

Humans leave no stone unturned on this Earthly terrain.   “Civil” creatures believe themselves astute.   They generate electricity.   They manufacture machinery; they pollute.

Nothing seems to stop these selfish individuals.   They are parasites.   Human beings produce and re-produce.   These simple souls create “products” that kill.   Their chemicals cause plants and other animals to choke.   Fish flounder.   Ice melts and the temperature of the ocean waters rise.  

Humans deplete Earth’s natural resources, and create substances that fill the land with waste.

Two-legged mammals even destroy themselves.   They consume vast quantities of sweet cookies and creams.   Carbonated, high fructose corn syrup beverages consume them.   Lattes, whipped and sugared lard may make these critters lazy.   People grow fat.   Yet, they are never happy.

Persons think contentment will come.   However, they convince themselves that sheer joy is only possible if they conquer every other entity in their path.   They destroy as they travel this rocky terrain.  

Soon they will need to find other solar systems to inhabit.   Earth continues to crumble.   Human litter floats throughout the Milky Way.   It will not be long before this globe and surrounding galactic bodies are left in shambles.

Might we find a cure for what ails our Mother? Perhaps not.   After all, we are the problem. Sigh.   Change is a challenge for us, the self-serving humans.

School Shooting Safeguards. Arm Educators?



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© 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 . .  .

Assertion: To Defend America, We Must Attack Aggressively ©

Americans were under attack.  It was September 11, 2001.  Ultimately, this peace-loving country initiated all out war.  The United States sought a broad coalition; however, the President and others were willing to go it alone.  This nation, its leaders, and citizens concluded their safety and stability were being threatened.  Our countrymen thought enemies were everywhere and thus, the battles began.  Policies were adopted.  The idea of privacy was altered.  The Patriot Act was drawn and passed.  The National Security Strategy for the United States of America was accepted.

People throughout America were ready to protect themselves no matter what the cost.  Aggressive reactions were booming.  Americans declared loudly, “You are either with us or against us.”  If you choose to terrorize me or mine then you will be taken, “Dead or alive!”  Thus, the cycle begins again.  America believes, we must aggressively attack.

Post-September 11, 2001, America went to war.  This was not the first time; nor do I think it will be the last.  Americans seem to accept a cycle of conflicts.  Some say it is the nature of man to war.  Others offer evolution as the rationale.  After all, man is descended from beasts; therefore, we as humans fight for our survival.  When Americans felt threatened, we brawl, batter, and beat our adversaries vehemently!  Enemies might be terrorist, Tories, or any persons or groups that tempts or taunts them.  However, none is a foe unless they pressure us [the people of the USA] personally.  On balance, we are people of peace; we believe in diplomacy.  We are a democratic nation.  Our history demonstrates this or does it.

We work towards peace whenever possible.  We intentionally avoid conflict.  Confrontation must come to us before we engage.  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during what was the Second World War to stop all wars.  Battles had been raging for two long years in Europe; Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise for years prior to the war.  While Chamberlain tried to quell the aggressive advances of these comrades, his own passivity, policy of appeasement, gave them strength.  The drum beats of warfare heightened.  However, the United States stayed distant.  Until, this country believed itself vulnerable they thought it was none of their business.  Americans wish to wound no one, unless provoked.

We, the people of the United States loathe war, or so we say.  In truth, citizens of this nation love fighting. Repeatedly, our countrymen accept violence and reject harmony.  They claim this acceptance is reluctant; however, there is ample evidence that affirms the contrary.

Frequently, I find myself saying “War is never an option,” to those advocating the effort.  I receive in retort this reply, “Brutality is justified when it is an act of self-defense.”  From my perspective, fighting is never an act; it is what we do when we react.  Actions are loving, they are giving they demonstrate care and concern.  When we take action, we are productive.  We yield growth.  Actions are lively and full of vigor.  When we react, we destroy!  A reaction is elicited when we fear for our families, our familiars, or for ourselves.  Pain causes a fight or flight response.

Intellectually, Americans state, “War is the option of last resort”; however, this country, it leaders and citizens choose it often, more often than not.  We fight conflict after conflict.  We clash here and abroad.  We win battles; some say we win wars.  Yet, we never achieve peace.  The reasons for this are plentiful.  Among these is “Might does not make right.”

The numbers may be on our side; however, success is much more than a tangible strength.  The United States often has more servicemen and women than its enemies.  Our artillery is ample.  The tools this nation produces are quite superior.  Still, our will at times is less strong than that of our adversaries.  On these occasions, victory is not ours.  In truth, I think when aggression is involved no one triumphs.  Everyone suffers a loss when we wage war, except perhaps the businesses that produce our weaponry and supplies.

In case the citizenry ever forget that this nation was founded on war, our leaders remind us.  Their words are written into our policy.  Most recently, our glorious king, George II etched his wisdom into our doctrine.  Bush and his Bunch drafted the National Security Strategy for the United States of America in 2002.  Our Eternal Emperor, the man chosen to speak for God, and selected to serve by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, President George W. Bush is quoted throughout the document.  He offers,

“Our Nation’s cause has always been larger than our Nation’s defense.
We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace?”a peace that favors liberty.
We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants.”
– President Bush.  West Point, New York.  June 1, 2002

The President sounds so eloquent, so astute, and so contrary.  I wonder; how does one defend peace as they fight.  Is liberty achieved when we exert our will on others?  History proves it is not.

People may pretend to circumvent their truer desires.  They may appear to be abiding by the laws set by those deemed superior.  However, they plot, plan, and pursue their personal philosophies, no matter what or who tries to control them.  Consider Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and yes, even the early American colonists.

Nevertheless, we pursue.  We Americans conclude we must protect, defend, and preserve our safe space.  If anyone or any group threatens us, we must act aggressively.  “To achieve these goals, the United States will: Prevent our enemies from threatening our allies, our friends, and us with weapons of mass destruction.”

These weapons may be in the form of arsenal or they might be mere articulations.  No matter what their shape or appearance, any action taken against this State must be defended against.

We the people of the United States know how to form a more perfect union, a compassionate community, even if we have to do it through war; we will do it.  It is as our President postures,

“Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong.  I disagree.
Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.”
– President Bush.  West Point, New York.  June 1, 2002

Thus, the President declares,

“War has been waged against us by stealth, deceit, and murder.  This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.  The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others.  It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.”
– President Bush.  Washington, D.C. (The National Cathedral).  September 14, 2001

Yet, it does not.  It never has.  They start a conflict.  We commence the battle.  Each fights the war to end all wars, over, and over, and over again.

When wills this end?  It will conclude when we realize that “War is Not an Option!”  Aggression is never a solution.  We can be assertive; yet, not aggressive.  Wow, what a concept.  It might be an important one to consider before we engage in another war, or the next fight.  Yes, we have rights; however, so too do they.

Thus, I offer a discussion of aggression and assertiveness.  I hope this might broaden our perspective.  As you review the following information, I ask you to extrapolate.  Consider what we witness locally, in our daily lives.

I believe that what we do in our homes, in the workplace, and on our streets becomes our habit and our truth.  If we are snide, rude, crude, hostile, violent, or just plain aggressive with members of our family, with friends, or familiars we are likely to be so elsewhere.  If we believe belligerent behavior is justifiable in defense of ourselves, might we also be more willing to accept it as a strategy for our nation?  Sadly, I suspect we are.

Understanding Assertiveness, By Stuart Sorensen ?” RMN

What it will do is provide some information about the nature of assertiveness and how it differs from other methods of dealing with people.

Most people confuse assertiveness with aggression or “getting my own way.” True assertiveness, however, is much more than that.  Assertiveness considers the rights and needs of everybody.  It assumes that everyone is equal.  Because of this assertiveness can be thought of as a method of increasing choices for everyone.

When we are unhappy with a situation, we have at least four choices.  We can:
• Accept the situation
• Be aggressive
• Be passive
• Be Assertive

Most People Behave in Each of These Four Ways in Different Situations.
If we are happy to accept a given situation, then all is well and good.  If not then we must choose one of the other three options.  Let’s look at these more closely.

Aggression
The aim of aggression is to get our own way ?” to win whatever the cost to other people.  Aggression is not interested in the rights, wants or needs of others.  Aggression is usually destructive, either physically or psychologically.  It’s true that people who behave aggressively often get what they want but aggression has other results as well.
• Aggression often breeds aggression.  This means that once people start behaving aggressively with each other it can be very hard to stop.  People start looking for new ways to hurt each other and before you know it they’re lifelong enemies.
• Aggression can make us unpopular.  Once we get a reputation for being aggressive, people start avoiding us.  This may be because they’re frightened we might turn on them or because they think we’ll embarrass them by behaving aggressively to other people.  They may also be worried that they’ll lose friends or influence as people might assume that they are just as aggressive.  In the end, the only friends aggressive people have are people who are just as aggressive they or people who are frightened of them.  They lose out on a lot of friendships because of their hostility.
• Aggression discourages people from helping us in the future.  If we force people to do what we want by using aggression, they will probably feel bad about us.  This often means they refuse to help us when we really need them.
• Some people believe that behaving aggressively makes others respect us.  It doesn’t, it simply makes them fear us.  Frightened people only do what we want for as long as we are watching.  As soon as our backs are turned, they tend to do their own thing.  This makes our aggression a waste of time.
• Aggression can make us feel good for a short while but is it worth it?

Assertiveness
The aim of assertiveness is to find the best possible solution for all people.  It’s about finding ??win:win’ solutions.  [Here I need to assert my own belief.  I believe that if there is a win, there is also a loss!  I prefer the term “grow:grow.”]  Assertiveness sees everyone as equal with equal rights and equal responsibilities.

• Assertiveness increases the chances of our needs being met.  If we are able to tell people what we want without becoming aggressive, they will be more likely to help us.  Also, if they can’t help us and we are able to accept that without becoming aggressive they will remain friends.
• Assertiveness allows us to remain in control.  We can decide for ourselves what we want to do and then seek out opportunities to do it ?” or to do something similar.  It puts us back in the driving seat.
• Assertiveness brings greater self-confidence.  As we learn to take control and see what we can achieve our confidence increases.  This in turn increases our feelings of self worth and self esteem.  We begin to feel better ?” more effective.
• Assertiveness lets us have greater confidence in others.  This is because it also helps others to state their needs and wants.  By dealing honestly and fairly with them we encourage them to do the same with us.
• Assertive people have more friends.  As we begin to treat people more fairly they begin to trust us, to like us and to want to spend more time with us.  We make friends who truly respect us instead of walking all over us (passivity) or fearing us (aggression).
• Reduced stress.  The more in control we feel the less stressed we feel.  We don’t need to worry about doing things we’d rather not.  We don’t have to let other people control us.  Nor do we have to worry about trying to control other people.  We have the power to choose our own destiny.
Remember that there are many ways to interact with others.  We can inform, explain, discuss, or simply have a relaxed conversation.  It’s often useful to know in advance precisely, how you intend to interact.

The article continues.  I do not necessarily agree with the premises or phrasing in the latter portions of this presentation.  Therefore, I am choosing to assert myself.  I will offer one further aspect though I have chosen to alter one term.  The author speaks of “rights” and states the “right” we each have as individuals.  I might list those however, I experience that most people are very familiar with their rights.

Rarely do they acknowledge what social scientists term as “responsibilities.”  I struggle with that word for I, as many cringe when another person declares that we must be responsible.  Often the speaker of this dictum is not.  Therefore, I will replace the word responsibility with a phrase, “I can consciously choose.”

Dear reader, the choice is yours.  Please consider we will get what we give.  That we cannot control.

• I can consciously choose to treat others fairly, honestly and with respect for their dignity.
• I can consciously choose my own actions and their consequences.
• I can consciously choose to uphold the rights of others whenever I can.
• I can consciously choose my own decisions.
• I can consciously choose to be aware and acknowledge my role in my own life.
• I can consciously choose to accept, what happens to me is, generally, a result of my own decisions.
When we question the value of war, if we are honest with ourselves we will realize there is none.  Aggression need not be our habit, preference, or option, first or last.  We can assert ourselves.  We can and must acknowledge that we have rights and privileges; yet, we must remember that others have the same.  Theirs are equal to our own, no less worthy and no more.

Yes, speak up when you feel threatened; defend yourself assertively.  However, you need not do so aggressively.  Realize that if you choose conflict, you will get what you ask for.  The force with which your enemy engages will be equal and opposing.  I invite us as a nation and as individuals, to acknowledge peace is the greatest path.  When we truly pursue tranquility, we understand war is not an option, ever.  May peace be with you, everyone.

• On American Independence Day, July 4, 2006, this nation celebrates war or freedom, depending on your chosen perspective.  North Korea fires its test missiles.  Their mission is to exert their independence or to initiate war.  We choose; they will act in kind.  They have already.  We show our strength and our ability to engage in war.  They offer the same.  Assertiveness or Aggressive attacks, which cycle will be chose this time?

Please, sing it with me.  War, By Edwin Starr

Peruse if You Choose.  No Worries.  No War . . .
President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat, Office of the Press Secretary. October 7, 2002
Poll: Don’t Go It Alone On Iraq.  CBS News. September 7, 2002
The Patriot Act
National Security Strategy for the United States of America
• Casualties in Iraq, The Human Cost of Occupation, Antiwar.com
Economists say cost of war could top $2 trillion, By Bryan Bender. Boston Globe. January 8, 2006
Bush pledges to get bin Laden, dead or alive, USA Today. December 14, 2001
‘You are either with us or against us’, CNN News. November 6, 2001
  World War I and World War II By Jerrie S. Cheek. Educational Technology Center.
President Addresses the Nation. Office of the Press Secretary. September 7, 2003
The National Priorities Project
The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
War remains the option of first resort – not last, By Simon Tisdall. The Guardian. Thursday February 27, 2003
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler, The History Place?
Neville Chamberlain Wikipedia.
Appeasement Spartacus.
War as Self-Defense, About.
Why America Goes to War, By Richard Corliss. Time. January 16, 2006. Vol.167, Iss. 3;  pg. 127
Not Just A Last Resort?
A Global Strike Plan, With a Nuclear Option,
By William Arkin. The Washington Post.  Sunday, May 15, 2005
National Security Strategy for the United States of America
President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, The National Cathedral. Office of the Press Secretary. September 14, 2001
President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point, George W. Bush. June 1, 2002
North Korea Test-Fires Several Missiles, By Maureen Dowd. The New York Times. July 4, 2006
War, By Edwin Starr

Isolation. Insulation. The Go-Go Garage Society and Its Islands ©

copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink. or BeThink.org

Originally Published on Monday June 26, 2006 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

Days ago I was scanning My Left Wing and saw a diary that drew me in, “I Look at All the Lonely People.”  The author, Eugene, stated “I’ve never been one to have many close friends . . . I am very, very choosy with who I care to spend my time with, who I open up to.”  I thought, “Me too!”  I have been very selective all of my life and it has served me well.  Eugene’s words peeked my curiosity; thus, I continued.

As his article expanded, I discovered that he was discussing a recently released study, “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.”  This report revealed people in America no longer have the close ties they once did.  A quarter of the population has no one they confide in.  Most persons are fortunate to have one close friend, perhaps two.  Intimacies within families are not what they once were, or at least they are not as they were once believed to be.  People in America feel alone and isolated.  Interesting; now, I am among the “norm” and yet, simultaneously, still far from it.

  • People have a smaller number of confidants in 2004 than they had in 1985.
  • In 1985, most persons claimed to have three close friends; now they have two or less.
  • Twenty-five percent of the respondents said there was no one that they would turn to in times of trouble.

I think of myself as a loner.  I have very close friendships, many have lasted a lifetime. I am interested in people, anyone, and everyone.  Still, I am discriminating.  I want a genuine closeness or I want none.  I am extremely independent, autonomous, and some say I am a free spirit. I need no one.  I am not a leader; nor am I a follower.  I believe in communities; yet, I do not seek them.  I accept that I am a part of a universal village.  I am I; I think that is best or at least it is best for me.

However, social scientists and authors of this recently released study might disagree and they have reason to, Professors, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Miller McPherson, and Matthew E. Brashears are concerned that Americans no longer have a sense of community, neighborhood, or kinship.  We have become fragmented.  These sociologists state a lack inclusion hurts our social and psychological well-being.  I agree with this creed.

Still, I prefer my dichotomy of an existence, a separation between seeking support for emotional matters and not for physical.  I recognize that each is necessary.  I acknowledge community and connections are vital, even if, at times, I do not engage as completely as I might.  Communities provide in ways that nothing else can.  I share my story to illustrate this belief.

Throughout my life, whether, I had someone to support me when I had a physical need or not, I would not ask for assistance.  As I stated, during times of emotional crisis, I would turn everywhere.  I absolutely will engage when I am feeling confused.  Fortunately, I have cultivated true friends for such occasions.  However, physically, I prefer taking care of myself.

Twice in my life, I experienced an injury.  On each occasion, I needed the assistance of others.  This was difficult for me.  I rather not ask for help; nor do I wish to accept it.

I do not believe in accidents.  I think everything happens for a reason. At the time of these incidents, I chose to accept that I needed to learn from these experiences of asking for and receiving help.  I thought I had, at least a little; however, it took months for me to assess the rationale for this next event.

Years ago, I moved into a condominium.  It was my first experience of “home ownership.”  I could not afford much and I wanted to stay in the community I loved.  I had lived in an apartment in Irvine, California for eight and one half years.  I purchased my new home exactly one mile down the road.  Prices are high in Orange County, California, particularly in a desirable city such as Irvine.  The place I purchased did not have a garage.  In this garage-society, I wanted one.  Still, I knew, for a time sacrifices must be made.

Shortly after I moved in the Association passed out a poll; it asked whether we, as residents wanted a garage and what would we pay for it.  Thirty-nine percent indicated they did want more than the pre-existing carports and the price proposed seemed reasonable.  I was among these, the minority.  Fifty one percent said no and they had their reasons.

Among my nearest neighbors, most of whom had lived there for well over a decade, the vote was no.  We were told that in three years, we would be polled again.  Aesthetically, the carports were ugly; nonetheless, I grew to love these.  Each day, accidentally, and on purpose, those in the neighborhood would met and greet each other in the carports.

Many of us were on similar schedules.  Mike would sit curbside and have a smoke throughout the day.  Our homes were on walking paths and did not face a street per se.  Therefore, it was natural to use the door closest to the car as an entrance or exit way.  Children did this; they brought their friends in through the back door.  Neighbor did the same.  If they wanted to share a thought, converse of the day, or borrow a cup of sugar, they approached from the rear.  The alleyway was a busy thoroughfare.

It did not take long before I appreciated being garage-less.  Though I never felt truly close to my neighbors in those first two years, we were far more than cordial.

Then, while less than a mile from home, I was hit hard.  I was in a very serious car accident.  The Great-Gray-Girl, what some think of as an automobile lost her life, as she worked to save mine.  [Oh, the tears flow.  She was truly my friend and we were connected.]  I was badly injured.  I broke my sternum, four ribs, and I reluctantly say there was great damage to my heel.  I will not share the details.  I do not want that thought to be part of my reality.

What is part of my reality is, I am among the 44 to 50 million, depending on whose numbers you prefer, that does not have health insurance.  Nevertheless, I spent days in the hospital.  This was an experience in itself and though I was eventually released, I was told I would not be allowed to walk for approximately six months.

Those that know me recognize that my lying in bed was not likely.  Still I could not apply any weight to my foot, leg, or heel, and crutches gave me no stability.  With the abdominal injuries, the pain was too great.  I elected to crawl.

I was housebound and extremely restricted.  I lived alone.  My father did fly out from the Midwest to help me; however, he could only give me a few days.  We wondered; what would I do.

For those not familiar with California, particularly in the megalopolis that is Southern California, people are known for being impersonal.  Neighbors do not know those living adjacent to them.  I recall at work one day co-workers mused, the only time they saw their neighbors was during an obligatory Christmas gathering.  I knew that my experience was different, though I never expected what occurred.

While still in the hospital I contacted a friend of mine.  We swam together, almost daily for years; I knew she would miss me if I did not show at the pool.  She visited me in the hospital and offered her help.  She was more than there for me.  Helen took me to the doctors, did all my food shopping, as a retired nurse she was able to teach me to walk again when I was more able.  She did so much to assist me in my recovery.  However, I would never ask her to play nursemaid in my every waking moment.

My father worried, how would I care for myself?  Who would make my meals, feed the kitties, change the litter, just help me to make my life work.  One day, just before he needed to return to his home, he was out in the carport.  He was on his way to run an errand.  My father was entering his car when my neighbor Laura approached him.  She asked of me.  She knew something was wrong.

While I was in the hospital, Laura noticed friends of mine had come to feed the kitties.  My car was gone.  She saw me return to the house and observed I was not in the best of conditions.  My vehicle never returned; my father stayed, she was concerned and expressed this to my Dad.

My father shared the situation and voiced his fear for my being home alone once he left.  Laura said to fear not.  She immediately contacted all my neighbors and drew up a plan.  The entire block coalesced.  For the first month someone fed me breakfast, another lunch, a third gave me dinner.  Laura sat with me for hours every evening so that I might bathe safely.

I need to add; I do not eat processed food, none at all.  Therefore, preparing meals for me was more than dashing off to McDonald’s.  People cooked, cleaned fruit and vegetables.  They worked.  Laura’s daughter gathered my mail and emptied my trash.  Others did other tasks.  Each day was an event, a never-ending chain of care.  By the second month, I could prepare some meals though not all; dinner was too complex.  Mike a noteworthy chef was there to create gourmet delicacies, just for me.  Laura retained her post at bath time for three and one half months.  Evening time with her family was devoted to me.  Heels do not heal quickly.

During my time of need, many of my friends and neighbors did much to help me.  They were there for me each and every day in ways I never imagined. Their giving of themselves meant and still means so much!  There are no words to express how significant and magnificent this was and is to me.  Again, the tears flow.

My father flew in every five or six weeks to assist and relieve others temporarily.  There was no money exchanged.  Actually for a short time, I tutored Laura’s daughter in math so that I might earn money.  I was unable to walk or drive for five months.  For all that time, people assisted me.  There was never a complaint.  Years later, the neighbor experienced another grief.  A young man passed; it was unexpected.  Again, we all reached out and were there for each other.

I discovered as this study concludes, when people are more connected, as a whole, they feel safer and more secure.  Oddly, coming from me, a person can receive comfort without loosing one’s independence.  You can still say, yes, please help me, or no, I need to do this myself.

People enjoy helping others, they do not necessarily feel a need to overpower or overwhelm another.  From my experience, we all want to give and receive help; however, we may not know how.  As society changes, we have fewer exemplars to teach us.

Since 1985, the number of family members in the paid labor force has increased.  Women are working in larger numbers.  Many children are also employed.  So much time is spent away from home; there are few opportunities to form genuine, true, and life long relationships even with family members.

Familial togetherness seems to be a thing of the past.  Divorce is pervasive.  Children are shipped from one household to another.  They do not have a single bed to call their own.  Bedtimes and even siblings may vary from week to week.  “True” friendships are viable on screens. This takes a toll on the psyche of a young mind.  It would weigh heavily on me at any age.

The concept of dinnertime is antiquated.  Families no longer feast together daily; some are not even doing a weekly meal in the company of their kin.  Rarely do we witness a once traditional pattern, parents, and siblings sitting together while enjoying a meal and each other’s company.  This is sad and troublesome.  Much can be learned from our relatives when we slowly dine and discuss life together.  We glean a sense of who they are; trust grows.

Meals are now eaten on the run, at work, at a desk, while driving; often people eat alone, not necessarily because they want to, but because they feel so alone.  Gone are the days when a meal was cooked at home, many sharing in the preparation.  Even when a family shares a space and a time for dinner, the menu differs for each individual. Unity is lost.  It may seem a little nuance; however, I wonder if it is a reflection of a broader issue.

The character of conversations has changed and this might be another reason Americans perceive a distance between themselves, their blood relatives, and their neighbors.  Cell phones, e-mails, and the Internet dominate, in this culture of connectedness.  Yet, these might contribute to the disconnect we experience. Tête-à-tête are chatty.  Substance is missing.  People have little to no time or experience for genuine friendships.  They are flying from one situation to another.

Parents are working.  It takes two or more incomes to survive.  Thriving is rarely a consideration in today’s workforce.  Jobs are at a premium; they are hard to find, and it is a challenge to keep them.  Your neighbor or your associate is no longer a friend or a confidant.  They are the person that might “steal” your not too well-cemented position at the company.  For the most part, be it in friendships, within our families, or even at work, Americans do not have a sense of security or stability.  All they know is an overscheduled life style.

We, as Americans sense a need for something.  We search.  We seek; rarely do we stop long enough to discover, what we longed for all along was there, right in our backyard.

  • I am so conflicted; I want to share the names of all those that helped me.  Yet, I was hesitant to verbalize the names that I did offer.  There are so many of you that gave months of your life to me.  I cannot begin to thank you enough!!!  I love you all.  You are very special beings.

    The Initial Inspirations For This Writing . .

    Listen to an Interview with co-author of the study, Lynn Smith-Lovin of Duke University…

  • Social Isolation: Americans Have Fewer Close Confidantes, Debbie Elliott All Things Considered, National Public Radio. June 24, 2006
  • Read One of My Personal Favorite Writings on Balancing Work and Family…

  • My Family Leave Act. [Op-Ed] Robert B. Reich. New York Times. November 8, 1996
  • References For Reflection. . . .