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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Single Women. The First Time. ©


The idea first entered my consciousness at the age of five.  I overheard my parents having a passionate conversation.  I had never seen them so animated.  I wanted to feel as they did in that moment.  By the time I was a teen I had read much.  I knew; I was ready.  How long would it be before I too felt the excitement and the energy I witnessed?  I wondered.

When the time came, I was anxious, expectant, and so eager.  I did not know that I could do it in my own home.  I was young and naïve.  I walked outside the house into a driving rain.  I hitchhiked to meet my destiny.  Once I completed the act, I was elated.  I could hardly wait for the next time, then the next, and the next.  All these years later, I still love doing it.

“You want me to tell you about my first time . . . I like doing it in the morning . . . When was it?  What year was it?  Well, it’s kind of personal . . . I felt grown up.  I wasn’t a kid anymore . . . Once I did it in an old woman’s garage.  You have all of that energy flowing inside.  You go in.  You commit.  It is a beautiful thing!”

These women, Felicity Huffman, Marg Helgenberger, Angie Harmon, Rosario Dawson, Tyne Daly, and Daphne Zuniga are speaking of voting, as was I.  They are reflecting on their first vote; their virginal experience as an electorate.  A recent television advertisement campaign, sponsored by the Women’s Voices, Women Vote, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, District of Columbia, is attempting to appeal to single women voters.  Apparently, according to a recent study, there are approximately twenty million of these.

In this election year 2006, single women are considered the group to get.  They are the voters that candidates wish to attract.  These lovelies are the silent, sweet minority.

In recent years, each election has been marked with a group of swing voters — 1992 was the year of the woman, 1994 — the year of “angry white males,” 1996 — the soccer mom, and 2000 — waitress moms.

According to [Daron Shaw, PhD., an associate professor at the University of Texas,] Shaw, the swing voter becomes more legitimate when you can picture them as a group.  The waitress moms, branded as blue-collared women who were typically single mothers, were an easy group for people to visualize — Helen Hunt in “As Good as it Gets,” a movie that came out only a year before the election.

Heading into this election year [2004], a media buzz has surrounded one group in particular — NASCAR dads — a term used by Democratic consultant Celinda Lake in 2002 to describe white, conservative NASCAR fans.

Though the legitimacy of NASCAR dads as a swing vote is debated, in February President Bush, decked out in a racing jacket, flew on Air Force One to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest annual event.
“Our message to them (NASCAR dads) is Democrats are not going to take away your guns, but Republicans are taking away your jobs,” said Lake, the Democratic pollster, who worked as a consultant for the Clinton/Gore campaign.

Some pundits, however, have argued that NASCAR dads as a swing group is nothing more than hype.

Today the group to capture are single women.

I am among them.  Yet, I have done it for decades.  I am a dedicated voter.  Unlike the twenty-two percent of eligible single female citizens that forfeited their right to vote in the 2004 Presidential election year, I cast my ballot.  Contrary to the expected 24 percent of single, adult women that are not expected to vote this year, I will again select my representatives.

Single women are now being defined as slackers.

By contrast, [Joe Goode, Executive Director of Women’s Voices, Women Vote] Goode said, “married women comprise 28 percent of the voting population, but their participation was 31 percent in the last presidential.”

Who are these fair ladies?  Are you among them?  if so, please share your sentiments; what are you thinking, feeling, and why.  I want to understand.

Seriously, for me, at the age of five I felt passionate about politics.  My natural father was a right-winged, radical Republican.  My Mom is a Democratic Socialist.  One day the two were engaged in a heated exchange as they discussed the candidates.  I witnessed this and thought, “Wow, I can hardly wait to care so much and have the power to bring about change.”

I grew up in a quiet home.  This discussion for me was unusual, electrifying, exhilarating, and lively.  I listened intently.  The dialogue, and the moment, was unforgettable.  Since that conversation, which was my introduction to issues, the parties, and political campaigns, my interest has never wavered.

My Mom later divorced my biological father.  She married a Liberal Progressive.  Political demonstrations became a part of my life early on.  I participated in the process long before I could vote.  In Wisconsin, at the age of seventeen I was able to cast a ballot in the primary.  In the Badger state, if you were going to be eighteen at the time of the general election, you were eligible to vote in the preliminaries.

At the time, I was a college student.  I moved after registering.  In order to  vote, I needed to drive, in my case hitchhike to my former precinct.  It was far.  The weather was awful.  Not only did I drudge out during a thunderstorm, I repeated the process in November in the midst of a blizzard.  Nothing deterred me.

Yet, according to experts single women in America have many reasons for not voting.  Time and money seem to be major concerns for this population.  Somehow, this effects their partaking in the process. 

According to Joe Goode, “Fifty percent of these single women live in households that make less than $30,000 a year.  They are very economically depressed.” 

I relate.  I would think that this state of affairs would stimulate a desire to vote, to take action.  These women, more than most need a good government to assist them.  With representatives such as our current compassionate Commander, they are certain to falter.  Statistically speaking, I am in this group.  I know how hard life can be when the money in your pocket cannot fill a molehill, let alone a mountain.

Thus, I trust that life for these women must be a challenge, it is for me!  I acknowledge that day-to-day doings are made more challenging by a non-responsive administration.  I know that; this is my experience!

Many single women “may be struggling just to get ahead.  They may be single moms.  So their support network just isn’t the same as married women who tend to be upper-income and a little more established in terms of where they live.”

Oh, this is so true.  For me, there is one income and it is shaky.  My support system is quite limited.  My network is likely smaller than those that meander in and out of meaningful exchanges with their spouse and “his” associates.

One reason for this disparity, Goode suggests, is that “single women tend to be more mobile.  A third of them move every two years or less.  They might not even know where to go to vote.  A lot of them are under 30 and a lot of them are over 60.”

Whatever their age, these are women with concerns about affordable health care, the cost of education and pay equity.

So true Mr. Goode.  Health care concerns have haunted me as long as I can remember.  Though I loathe moving, I seem to be more mobile than my married counterparts.  On the topic of pay equity, I can only say, please.  If I begin to share stories on this subject, I will go on endlessly.  I often wonder do married women and single women receive equal pay.  I will leave that research for another time.

Once again, with all that effects single women directly, why do so many of  these magnificent beings choose not to vote.

Sara Grove, a professor and Chair of the Elsie Hillman Politics at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, is sympathetic; she understands the large burdens many students shoulder today, single women among these.

Ms. Grove states, “If you are attending college … this is one of the last things you are paying attention to.”  The Professor cogitates, ‘many students carry 12 college credits so they can obtain health-care benefits while also working a full-time job.  They wind up struggling to stay afloat academically and financially.’

Grove continues, “That is increasingly becoming the dilemma more and more students face.”  Yet, I wonder; does this justify not voting, not turning to those that might better the system.  I too attended college, often working full-time while carrying a full load.  I did struggle and every aspect of my life suffered.  Thus, I saw a need for being active.  For me, voting was meaningful.  It gave me a voice.  When I cast my ballot, then and now, I felt and feel empowered.  I was making a choice and attempting to improve life in America.

Barbara DiTullio, program manager for Women Vote PA, said Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where women are less likely than men to be registered to vote.  One way to draw more women to the polls, she said, is to hold elections on weekends.

“Why does it have to be on a Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. when people are working and children are in school?  If we really want to engage people, we have to make it easier for them to vote.” 

Wow!  Originally, I am from Pennsylvania.  However, as you might surmise, as a single woman, I have moved many times in my life.  I no longer reside in what once was my home state.

Nevertheless, the scheduled Tuesday vote is to me almost a non-issue.  Years ago I learned of the power of an absentee vote.  I was working as the Democratic Party Representative on election eve.  Members of the Grand Jury and people from each political party were at the Registrars to monitor the vote count.  I befriended the Sergeant of Arms, the Republican representative.  He informed me, to ensure that the ballots would be cast, the Republican Party encouraged people to vote from home, well in advance of the election.

I thought what a great idea.  After assessing this dynamic, I began to do as he advised.  On many occasion, this has helped me immensely.  Voting can be a leisurely well-researched project when you mark your ballot from home.  The days and times for an “election” are ones a voter can choose.

What for me is more fascinating and more real is the lack of awareness among people entitled to vote, and those that volunteer during campaigns.  Only days ago, my telephone rang.  The caller represented the Democratic Party.  She sounded young; she seemed to have a script.  she read from it and asked if I had received a white card, an application, allowing me to vote from home.  I mentioned the “absentee ballot option.”  She said “No, not that.” 

At the time, I was rushed and did not have time to retrieve the document.  The staff person and I parted ways.  Later, I did go and look at the brochure the woman spoke of.  There it was, printed right at the top, “Absentee Ballot Application.”  I am new to this state and thought perhaps there were processes and pamphlets that differed from those that I am familiar with.  Perchance there are.

Here, in Florida, Early Voting polling places are available.  People, citizens have been casting their ballots for weeks on days other than Tuesday.  Thus, again I ask, if you are a single woman and are not voting, if you have not voted in the past, please help me to understand.

As a single woman whose income is low, who struggles to make ends meet, as a female that finds it difficult to survive, that fears the need for medical assistance, as one that knows a minor or major health concern could change my life drastically, I ask why would unmarried women not vote.  Why would those that need to live in a society that cares for its weaker wonders not wish to ensure that all is well?  I am so confused.

Single women of America, please scream out.  Participate in the process.  I plead; I beseech you.  I am willing to say, “I need your help!”  Please support the candidates of your choosing.

Your Sample Ballot . . .
Single Woman Vote. YouTube
My First Time. Issues. Dreams. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
New Survey Finds. Women’s Voices. Women Vote. February 21, 2006
WVWV Leadership Team. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
Women Talk About the ‘First Time’ ABC News
12 Days and Counting: Will Women Show up at the Polls on November 7? By Romi Lassally, Yahoo News October 26, 2006
Organization trying to get more single women to vote,By Marylynne Pitz. Knoxville News Sentinel. October 22, 2006
Politics 101: Swing Voters. The Online NewsHour’s Vote 2004. Public Broadcasting Services
Women Really on Their Own, By Ruth Rosen.  The Nation October 28, 2004
Cable News Network Election Results
Healthy, Wealthy, & Wed,By Amy M. Braverman. University of Chicago Magazine.
Women’s Earnings, Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men’s and Women’s Earnings. United States General Accounting Office
Sacramento Women: Women Vs. Women, By Dayna Dunteman. Sacramento  Magazine October 2006
Democrats Push to Counter G.O.P. in Turnout Race, By Adam Nagourney. New York Times. October 29, 2006

“Be Afraid; Be Very, Very Afraid.” I Am. ©


It was early in the 1960s that I first learned of fear.  There was much apprehension.  The Cold War was on; it was with us each and every day.  It had been for decades.  In Capitalist countries such as the United States, children practiced rushing into Air-raid shelters.  Adults feared the possible threat of a bomb.  They taught their offspring to fear as well.  Underground safe houses were built.  In backyards throughout America, steel and concrete sanctuaries were established.  “The stakes were high.”  Yet, these circumstances and societal beliefs did not alarm me.

Lyndon Baines Johnson in his 1964 Democratic campaign spoke of the impending threat in a political advertisement.  This singular commercial came to be known as the “Daisy Ad.”  One transmission of that commercial was more than enough for the general public.  The broadcast was considered too controversial.  This public notice was not shown again.  All previously scheduled airings were canceled.  There was enough alarm within our society at-large.  Americans did not wish to be reminded of it in their living rooms.  However, beginning this weekend citizens of this country will again acquainted with fear as they watch their cable networks.

Please view each of these commercials.  The “Daisy Ad” is offered below.  The Grand Old Party presents “The Stakes are High!”  2006 at their website.

If I saw the one and only official screening of the Johnson commercial, I have no memory of it.  Whether I did or did not see the ad, I do think it would have affected me as deeply as a personal experience did.  I did learn of “fear” in the 1960s. 

My Mom and her encounter with an unnamed man that burglarized my family home taught me of terror.  I did not come to understand it as President Johnson may have wished me to do in 1964.  Nor will I accept the supposed lesson President Bush and his Republican cronies are now intending to teach me.  I have seen and heard “The stakes are high” in the newest Republican political campaign.  I have heard our “fair” leader declare, “Be afraid; be very, very afraid,” and I am, though not of Osama Bin Laden.

Ticking clocks and bombs that might possibly explode do not frighten me as much as man himself does.  Images of Osama Bin Laden might scare me.  A young frightened face can paralyze me.  Bush bellowing his belief, we must “rid the world of the evil-doers” causes me great grief and anxiety.  However, none of these negates the lesson I learned at a very young age.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  Actually, each of the images in 1964 and 2006 campaign commercials solidify my understanding.  No matter what we do to protect ourselves from imagined fears, we cannot change the will of others.

Each of these public notices proclaim, “The stakes are high.”  Yes, “The stakes are high,” particularly in this election year.  Sadly, they are getting higher.  I could rejoice as some Democrats do and begin to declare victory.  I might imagine the Republicans are running scared.  However, I believe the Progressives, Liberals, Democrats, and Independents are as well.  Fear is flourishing all around us.  Thus, campaigns such as this newer advertisement can be successfully introduced.  They may fail.  I know not.  I only observe the climate is right for such a cynical campaign.

I understand as many do.  As Americans reflect on the fall of Saddam Hussein, they assess the once declared victory, and they ponder the effects of the Iraqi War.  As they do so they realize “spreading democracy” is not the “bed of roses” they were told it would be.  Currently, many of our countrymen and women think they have more to fear than fear itself.  American citizens are apprehensive about the future. 

In pondering what will be, constituents are concluding they must rid themselves of what we have now.  Today we have a Republican controlled House, Senate, and White House.  This is scary, at least for some, myself included. 

However, I ask as many do, will the Democrats truly do better?  I sigh and trust they cannot do worse.  Nevertheless, most of those on the Left initially supported the war.  A war I did not and do not support.  I never have advocated violence of any sort. 

I acknowledge that the Left, the “Right,” and the Middle are each mired in a belief that I do not hold.  They think we can eliminate terrorism by aggressing against the aggressor.  We can secure our borders and protect ourselves from invaders.  Americans seem to believe that we can control the will of others through punitive or mechanical protective measures.  I think these beliefs are such foolishness.

I share this true story to illustrate my conviction.  In the 1960s, my family was living in a very affluent neighborhood in the North East suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  My Mom was home alone.  A man broke into our home.  He jimmied an unlocked window to gain entrance. 

This intruder stumbled upon my Mom.  He panicked and threatened to rape her.  She did not resist; she craved no confrontations.  The thief feared her openness and proceeded to place her in the living room closet.  In his terror, he neglected to lock the wardrobe door.  The robber stole a car, money, and material goods, then left.  When my Mom felt certain the man was gone, she exited her cubbyhole and telephoned the police.

After this experience my Mom concluded, if a person wishes to commit a crime, they will.  If this burglar chose to use a crow bar to pry open an unlocked window, why secure the portals at all.  People, with intent are powerful.

I propose we must understand the motivation of a man or woman if we are to prevent future outrages.  The mind is our master.  Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Thus, I ask, in the future will we address human will as a means of prevention, or will we continue to charge ahead telling others they must change.  I inquire; if we do what was done, will we ever be effective.  Will peace ever come?

I believe a superpower with bombs will do little to maintain national security.  A President making broad pronouncements will not deliver us from “evil.”  Our shores will not be safe when we see enemies everywhere.  When we as a community look suspiciously at certain ethnic origins then we create what we fear, discordance.

I surmise as long as we, the people, accept a world where bombs are built, people will build bombs.  I trust that when our countrymen proudly promote war, or any form of combat, as an option, then people will die in such conflicts.  I offer, we can lock our doors; close our borders, troll our telephones, remove our shoes at airports, or argue the effectiveness of advertisements that promote fear.  As long as we focus on such follies, nothing will change.

Thieves will pry open unlocked windows, because that is what they do or believe they need to.  Terrorists will capture airplanes, and fly these into buildings.  That is what they think is reasonable.  Television campaigns and political parties will tell us to fear.  This strategy has often proven to be a “winning way” in the past.  You might recall numerous electors were thankful that Ronny saw the bear in the woods.

“Right,” Left, or wrong, 2006 is reminiscent of 1964.  We see evidence; life goes on just as it has.  We can debate this commercial or that.  Nevertheless, change will come only when we ourselves choose to change. 

Please recall, Democrats and Republicans alike have used “scare tactics” to promote their agendas.  Perchance, we need not question the strategy.  I think we must query ourselves.  How often do we work to protect ourselves from self-perceived foes?  Could we not challenge our perceptions and succeed in creating alliances?  I sigh and say, let the commercial come; it will not influence my perception.  As I assess society, then or now, I know that I experience deep sadness.  Oh, how I crave peace and perceptions of unity.

  • May I offer a paradoxical and poignant phrase uttered by former President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the close of his now infamous commercial.  Poet, Wystan Hugh Auden wrote the beautiful acknowledgement;
    “We must either love each other.  Or we must die.”

  • Please review the “Daisy Advertisement.”  Listen intently and ponder the prospect of love or death.

    ? Please appraise “These Are The Stakes.”  The clock is ticking or so we are told.



  • Please Peruse The Reasons For Fear . . .

  • Classic Political Ad: Daisy Girl (1964)
  • Republican edge on security wanes as elections near, By Liz Sidoti. Associated Press. USA Today. October 21, 2006
  • “The Stakes are High!” Republican National Committee
  • “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address History Matters.
  • Low Blows and High Rhetoric: Political Ads on Television, By Maggie Riechers. Humanities. July – August Edition. 1999, Volume 20. Number 4
  • Going Negative: How Political Advertisements Shrink and Polarize the Electorate,  By Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar. Quill Magazine. Stanford University. May 1996
  • Scary Ads Take Campaign to a Grim New Level, By Jim Rutenburg. The New York Times. October 17, 2004
  • The Man Behind The Movement, By Jack Beatty. Atlantic Unbound. August 8, 2001
  • Bush vows to rid the world of ‘evil-doers.’ By Manuel Perez-Rivas. Cable News Network. September 16, 2001
  • Bear (Reagan) The Museum of the Moving Image
  • W. H. Auden. Poets.org
  • A politics of love, By James Carroll. Boston Globe. October 19, 2004
  • 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 . .  .

    War in the Wind, Blast Buries New York City Building ©

    9/11 Photograph, By Ted S. Warren, Associated Press.
    WABC News. Photograph July 10, 2006.

    A building in New York City is buried.  Fires are blazing.  It is highly possible people were killed or injured.  The public speculates.  Could it be a bomb blast, an act of terrorism, homegrown or international?  Might the cause be a gas leak or an electrical explosion?  Perhaps, it is a crime of vengeance.  Early on, suicide was not considered.  For me, while the cause is important, it pales in comparison to the fact.

    War is in the air; it blows with the wind.  Acts of violence travel.  They cannot be isolated or contained to lands far from our shores.  If we accept war anywhere, we consent to it here.  Warfare is not a concept; it is concrete.  Combat comes easily to the minds of men or women in conflict.  Witness today, yesterday, and everyday.  We as a nation are at war.  While the struggle is far from our shores, it looms large in our collective psyche.

    Our leaders reassure us, and on the surface, Americans accept the façade they present.  [Some] Americans love when Bush bellows and Cheney chants, “We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.”  Americans applaud this non-sequitur logic.  They surmise war can be isolated and they are insulated.  In 2004, that was the battle cry.  There were no terrorist attacks on American shores since September 11, 2001.  Therefore, the theory was proposed, President Bush and his hawkish policies protected us.  Many accepted this as true.

    They then cast their ballots for this magnificent man.  They gave the Bush, Cheney team their mandate, or so that is how the Administration framed it.  Again, and again the Emperor exclaimed he had capital to spend and he spent it.  Thus, we have the cost of war.

    Causalities abound; the numbers are climbing.  Iraqi civilians are raped, maimed, murdered; yet, they do not count.  They are merely collateral damage.  Citizens of the United States remain safe, sane, or so it appears.  Thus, we support our President and allow him to continue in office.

    However, in our heart-of-hearts, we know; America is not out of harm’s way.  We recognize war is in the wind.  When a building explodes or implodes in New York City, we all panic with reason.  Citizens understand what they never wish to express.  As long as we accept war is an option, we are admitting that it can and will touch us, just as it affects our “enemies.”  No one is sheltered from the scars combat causes.

    King George II cannot protect and defend America from farther feuds; nor can Cheney or Rumsfeld.  These lovelies created what comes closer.  With thanks to our beloved President and his Cabinet, the possibility of war within the United States is real.

    For now, the prospect settles only in the recesses of our minds, and on drawing boards elsewhere.  Still, we all know the threat is valid.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can rant and rage about States rights; yet, she too has no power to guard against the aggression she helped to promote.

    Once the notion is placed on the table, the tremors will be felt throughout the globe.  No man is an island; nor can any of us ever be insulated or isolated.

    After receiving many replies to this treatise, I realized that what might be so obvious to me, the writer, is not apparent, to many a dear reader.  Perchance I was not clear in my communication.

    Possibly some are so offended by this Administration and the ample accusations; terrorists are everywhere, they missed my message.  Those persons, and admittedly, typically I am among these, distrust Bush and the Bunch so much, that they see any talk of terrorism as a means for distracting Americans from the real issues.

    There are those that awoke hours after the initial blasts.  They already read and heard the theories.  These individuals knew the explosion was likely a suicide attempt.  Therefore, these bookworms thought I was telling tales.  I was stirring the National Security soup of the day.  For these persons, I was making an issue of what was nothing more than a “normal” event in the course of any day.

    Numerous persons are concerned even consumed with an exit strategy.  They want us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  An event in a single day is not their focus.  These individuals might not question the entrance into war per se.  They struggle with the constant loss this conflict brings.  They may think stuff happens; hostilities occur, related to Iraq or not.

    I am repeatedly reminded, that as a whole, most people think war is an option, the one of last resort; however, the alternative is often considered acceptable.

    Conceivably, that may be the challenge.  When I wrote this treatise, I was speaking of my truth.  For me, “War is not an option, not now or ever!”  I do not think terrorism is a reason for combat.  I believe slavery, genocide, homicide, rape, and racism were not the causes of wars in the past.  Economic power and the desire for supremacy are, in my mind, the rationale behind battles and bickering.

    For me, the blast was a reminder of where we have been.  It is where we still are.  On this planet, war is in the wind!  It has been for centuries.

    For those that rose hours after investigations began, they could again sink into the comfort of complacency.  For the many that bash-Bush, more power to you.  I was not denying the validity of your beliefs.  I share these.  My only question was and is, why is war an option, ever?  I believe that if it is in the wind in the East, it will be in the air traveling westward.

    We can sit in the comfort of our cushy chairs.  We can profess how terrible the terrorist are or how awful the insurgent Bush is.  However, as long as we, Americans, allow for and accept war as an option, on our shores or on those aboard, then we can never know with certainty where the next strike will hit.  I think this is why those on the streets at the time of the blast were shaken.

    When I penned this missive, I was speaking to the stress exhibited by those there, near the building in New York City.  I was also addressing my own eternal anxiety.  Why is violent behavior ever an option?  Even now, believing the cause of the blast was an attempted suicide does not ease my mind.  Why do we aggressively strike out and hurt others or ourselves?

    I hope this communiqué helps to clarify my intent.  Perhaps, those that felt confused will re-visit the message.

    Please Peruse the Possibilities When War is in the Wind.

    Four-Story Building Collapses on East Side of Manhattan, New York Times. The Associated Press. July 10, 2006
    New York building collapses, burns, CNN News. July 10, 2006
    At least 11 injured in Manhattan building collapse, By Wil Cruz, Lauren Johnston and Chick Benett. Newsday.com. July 10, 2006
    UPDATE 2-Building collapses in New York City, Reuters. July 10, 2006. 9:59am ET
    President Bush Discusses Progress in the War on Terror July 12, 2004
    Policies in Focus. National Security Strategy, The White House.
    Cost of War.
    Causalities
    Iraq Body Count.
    Bush has a big agenda for 2005, By David Gregory, Chief White House correspondent. NBC News. December 30, 2004
    President Holds Press Conference. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” November 4, 2004
    Iraq insurgency in ‘last throes,’ Cheney says, CNN News. Monday, June 20, 2005
    Iraq: Collateral damage, By Ashok Mitra. Rediff.com India Limited. March 25, 2003
    Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11. Book Says President Called Secrecy Vital. By William Hamilton. Washington Post. Saturday, April 17, 2004
    How Many Dead Iraqis? Guessing about collateral damage. By Fred Kaplan. Slate.Tuesday, February 25, 2003
    Strictly Confidential. Likely Humanitarian Scenarios. United Nations Document.  December 10, 2002
    Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?, By Tim McGirk, Baghdad. Time Magazine. March 19, 2006, PDF version
    The Promise of Democratic Peace, Why Promoting Freedom Is the Only Realistic Path to Security. By Condoleezza Rice. The Washington Post. Sunday, December 11, 2005
    Remarks at the American University in Cairo, By Secretary Condoleezza. Rice Cairo, Egypt. June 20, 2005
    “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”
    The Iran Plans,
    Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? By Seymour M. Hersh. The New Yorker. April 17, 2006
    North Korea missles rattle European markets, El Financiero en línea. July 5, 2006

    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. . . .

    What Will Be . . . ©

    What will be the next detractor, distracter?  What will divert our attention and what will we attend to . . .

    What will we avoid?  What do we not wish to know, to think of, and what will attract our attention next?

    Will next be related to Schiavo,
    A reaction to Schiavo,
    Actions taken with thanks to Schiavo,
    Distractions from Schiavo,
    Or fractionalizing the effects of Schiavo.

    Next as it relates,
    Temple News, Americans Should Not Decide Life or Death for Others, Noah Potvin
    Next as a reaction,
    CBS News Poll, Keep Feeding Tube Out,
    March 23, 2005 – CBS Poll, THE SCHIAVO CASE
    As actions,
    Miami Herald, Much Legal Debate About Action Taken by Congress, Viglucci and Lebowitz
    As distractions,
    Maureen Dowd discusses, “DeLay, Deny, and Demagogue”
    Or as fractionalizing.
    San Francisco Chronicle, Schiavo case widens divide between Congress and courts, by Bob Egelko
    Atrios, offers “It was fitting that reporters were in danger of outnumbering pro-life supporters”
    Daily Kos, “Republican Backlash Against DeLay?” By Armando

    May Terri Schiavo find peace and serenity.  Written on the morning of her passing and stated with sadness for diminished dignity.