Schools and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

School and Safety; What We Do When We Deny

© copyright 2013 Betsy L. Angert empathyeducates

Look to the left. Look to the “right.” In respect to education each side is willing to talk about sensitive subjects. Granted the two sides differ in respect to the specifics and the solutions.  Nevertheless, either or each will dive deeply into a dialogue.  

In reference to the subject of Common Core, the Left and Right cannot get enough.  Many Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with Federally imposed curriculum restrictions and requirements.  “Teacher Professionalism,” each embraces the topic, although again their values and views vary. But publicly state that Black and Brown persons do not feel safe in their neighborhoods and that this veracity has a profound effect on education and people will come after you!

The politically astute and apathetically proud alike, pounce when asked to ponder the problem of urban violence and its affect on parents and children in the community.  Cyber-bullying and bullying in general are constructs we can discuss.  But speak of the unspeakable and people will likely proclaim that you are being unjustly punitive, politically incorrect, or in short, you are a racist.   “Shhh” they say.  Let us not talk about that.  Other subjects, yes.  We can discuss those, but not how anxious an inner city resident feels when in their own home or community.  Instead, let us talk about Common Core, bad teachers, and great ones.  Those topics are fine; even favorites amongst the education elite. But how fragile life is for the Black and Brown persons who fear crime in their communities? Many say: let’s not go there – literally or metaphorically. The effects of crime on the psyches of children of color, and its impact on education, are rarely discussed.

Let’s not go there intellectually either, or at least not in any great depth. Skating along the surface will suffice.  Academics admittedly do not wish to tempt the fate that of the Moynihan Report [1965] on the Black family.  The mainstream too is timid.  On occasion, the Press will dip their toes in the waters of awareness.  Indeed, in recent months and in the last few years nationally Broadcasters gently touch that tender topic of “violence on our streets.” However, mostly these stories feature tales of mass carnage – the shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Milwaukee, and more recently Newtown, a white suburban Connecticut community, but none of these approach that dreaded third rail, violence in Black and Brown communities and its effect on education.  

Mentions of the circumstances that cause youth to use the term  Chi-raq when speaking of Chicago are scant and indiscriminate.   Even these, when discussed, rarely venture into the overlap evident in education.  Neighborhoods severely affected by violence are also the communities in which schools are forced to closed, poverty is high, hopes are low, and fear is ever-present.  

On one occasion recently, we were afforded a glimpse into what occurs in inner cities.  First Lady Michelle Obama paid homage to a teen who was struck down in the heart of the  Windy City. However, once again, the real issue was not on view.  Gun Violence supplanted the subject; frequently people of color, parents and their progeny, do not feel safe in their own urban homes.  And why would they?  Roadways are riddled with danger.  Playgrounds too can be quite perilous.  Incident after incident affirms what remains invisible from the masses.  The streets are not safe and too often, urban schools and surrounding areas are no sanctuary.

As she does at the end of every school day, Rakayia Thompson waited for her 12-year-old outside the Parkside Community Academy just before 3 p.m. last week.

“Next thing you know, gunshots,” she said.

As she stood outside with her 6-year-old son and her 7-year-old daughter, a flood of bullets suddenly came their way from East End Avenue, near 70th Street, next to the playground.

Panic followed the incident on Nov. 20, Thompson recalled. The stream of kids leaving the pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school scattered in every direction.

“There were kids’ shoes everywhere,” said Angel White, who had been waiting for her three kids. “They ran out [of] their shoes.”

Thompson said kids were falling and busting their lips as they scrambled.

“They tried to shoot me!” her 5-year-old son interjected.

Real-life stories from Camden, Philadelphia. Detroit, Baltimore and St. Louis, rarely see the light of day and when they do the discussion is gun violence, not the root causes or the insidious effects of inner city violence.

Again, the public avoids the physicality that is the condition of our communities, and more importantly, emotionally we disconnect. Granted, we study the situation from afar and make recommendations. Experts engage in theoretical and methodological research.  Some study the fear urban residents feel, be it real or imagined. Scholars look at the individual’s sense of vulnerability.  Others examine social disorganization, (rate of marriage, racial heterogeneity,  familial disruption,  socioeconomic status,  and urbanization (core indicators of social disorganization)) and again, avoid the people.

The public favors assumptions.  Some prefer the numbers. Densely populated areas or drugs are to blame for violent behavior, although the statistics do not always bear this out.  Countless of our largest cities are relatively safe. An analytic examination reveals that disinvestment delivers the despair, despondency, and dread that at any moment, you too may be murdered.

Andrew Schiller, Neighborhood Scout’s founder noted that “in many cases, city centers, which benefit from development, an influx of people and more amenities, experience less crime than outskirts and even inner ring suburbs.”

Regardless of the look and separate from the literature, the consensus is the same; stay away from what frightens you. Gun shots. Children murdering children.  Crime on inner city streets, or the inner city itself, people believe these are the problem.  Indeed, a too constant refrain is  “It is those urban communities and the persons who reside within them who commit violent offenses and victimize their own.  Such statements preclude preventative policies. These serve as excuses for suburban and rural Americans who tend to think that people need to take care of their own.  

Oh, the more “sensitive” will say the reactionary rhetoric is not true.  Academics will defend the downtrodden. However, these individuals too take no real ownership. Poverty, the intellectuals will say, that is the problem; it is as simple as that.”  Simple? Safety and the reality that a bullet in the hallway or coming through the window will kill you or your child instantly  is not a simple subject.  Nor is it one that as a society we can rightly dismiss.

It is easy to place blame on a circumstance, or put the onus on the “other,” but perhaps there is more that can be done.  What might that be? Face our selves and our folly.  Ask yourself; will we ever dare do what is difficult; look at the ways in which we, or more significantly our silence contributes to crime in urban poor communities.  Could we acknowledge and accept that the greater paradox and bigger problem is that we do not even challenge our perceptions or see what is right there, in front of our faces.

The children cry. Parents plead; ‘see us!’  Feel our pain!  Understand that we fear crime in “our communities!”  Fifty-four [54] percent of Black adults see violence as a “very serious problem” in their communities.  Sixty-nine [69] percent believe it is fairly serious issue, one among many.  The presence of guns is a grave proposition, one that haunts adults of color each and ever day.  However, it is not the only issue that burdens our poorer and impoverished citizens. It is but the most obvious one, the one uppermost in the minds of persons who by circumstances are forced to question their mortality and it is also the one that is “safest” to discuss.

Fueling these concerns is the reality that for too many Black young children, there are too few safe harbors from these ills that plague their neighborhoods, schools, and for some, their homes. Children and adults alike identify neighborhood violence, drug-related violence, gun violence, and violence in schools as areas of significant concern.

When a young girl in Memphis was asked to name one thing that if changed would help her to achieve her goals for the future, she replied:  “To help me live through this dangerous world today so I can [grow up] to be a marine biologist.”  – Young person, age 11 to 14, Memphis, TN

The prevailing view among Black adults, caregivers and leaders is that today, the situation for people of color is worse than it was a score ago. Disenfranchisement and disinvestment have destroyed the fabric of their communities.   Guns only deliver a more deadly and frequently final blow.  The newer and insidious issues that have emerged in the last few decades,  have had a devastating effect on Black communities and the children growing up in them.  Economic isolation and unemployment.  Disproportionately high Black imprisonment rates, especially among Black young men, and then, of course, the older challenges exacerbate  the crisis’ that plagued Black communities. Violence.  Drugs and addiction.  Failing schools made more so by policies that presume failure before it is proven.  Negative cultural and media influences.  Fractured Black families and communities, which conceivably lead to a loss of moral values.  Teen pregnancy.

Adults, caregivers, and leaders look to the future and express guarded optimism.  Innumerable say they are hopeful, that is if they and the young survive.  According to Black Perspectives on Black Children Face and What Their Future Holds “Two-thirds of caregivers worry a great deal (45%) or quite a bit (20%) about their child or children they know being victimized and a large majority believe that many Black children will be victimized before reaching adulthood.

“I asked a 17-year-old the question you asked me: What do you see in 10 years?  How do you [see your life] in 10 or 15 years? And the bottom line was he said I don’t think I’m going to be living after four years.  Now that blew me away, because I knew the young man was serious.” Low-income caregiver, Washington, D.C.

The starkness of this thought and the reality that prompts such a dire reflection is all too common in disenfranchised communities. Yet, we do not discuss it. The subject is too delicate, or is it the thought that we might be criticized, as Patrick Moynihan was when he asked Americans to assess what their inaction and inattention condones.  Could we at least begin to have the conversations previously left behind?  In June of 2013, The Urban Institute chose to Revisit The Moynihan Report.   Might we?

Surely, silence and surface assessments have not served us, our children, or troubled communities well.  Indeed, Black and Brown people state that life in their communities is now worse.   Saying safety is not an issue for those who live in fear or that it is less significant than poverty as a whole is like saying my pangs of hunger have nothing to do with the reality that there is no food in my cupboard or money do buy fare.

Disinvestment, poverty and hopelessness are borne out of neglect.  Let us neglect no more.



References:…

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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Thoughts on Crops

copyright 2010. Jerry Northington. Jerry Northington.com

Growing up in farm country in mid-America the relationship between seed and crop was more than easy to see in our back fields.  The land was rented to local farmers who grew corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops year after year all my time at home.  Those farmers saw the proof of the old adage, “You reap what you sow.”

A few days ago I was reminded about another similar adage.  Those who sow violence (read that any who institute a violent act of any sort) may solve one problem but very likely another issue will arise.  The reaction to violence in most human cultures is more and escalating violence.

Today we live in a world of escalating military expenditures, increasing amounts of arms and ammunition, and a continual race to be the biggest of them all.  To what purpose?  What benefit does humankind see from more and more arms and armament?  Is national security made more sure by a nuclear arsenal that could turn our planet to a cinder in minutes?

My heart tells me if we sow violence we are likely to reap more of the same.  What about if we as a nation were to take on the course of sowing peace?  There are

many examples around the world of peaceable intervention leading to improved lives.  What is to stop us as a people from doing even more.

The sowing of peace can begin with each of us in every aspect of our lives.  Instead of responding in kind to that unkind word or gesture perhaps we would be better to respond with a measure of kindness and friendly words. We need not allow ourselves to become doormats accepting all the misfortune people can hand out, but maybe if we reduce the level of the adversity in the situation we can in the end spread a message of peace and reduced militarism around the world.  At least in my mind the idea is one worth a moment or two of real thought and honest consideration.

Peace.

Quote of the Day:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

~ Mother Teresa

For Further Information on Northington Notes

I am keeping my hand in Delaware politics.  Regular commentaries will appear on the blog at

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Thanks for your time, and I look forward to keeping in touch and joining with you in activism to address the great issues of our time.

Peace,

Jerry Northington

If you wish to communicate with Jerry Northington

Jerry Northington, DVM

Jerry@JerryNorthington.com

Post Office Box 7987?Wilmington, DE 19803

The Stonecutter

copyright © 2009. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the blog.

Much may be made of what seems like permanent material when a stonecutter takes his tools and begins to work.  The stonecutter aiming to break off a piece of a larger stone block hits the stone time and time again with his mallet and chisel.  A final blow is struck and the stone breaks.  The stonecutter knows the final blow was not the one that broke the stone.  It was instead the accumulation of patient effort and many blows that led to the final changing of the stone.  So it is with a nation trying to restore itself in the name of liberty and justice for all.

Many steps must be taken to insure the proper outcome.  Some are already in progress with the administration’s order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  Detainees are humans who deserve the same rights and privileges as any other human being.  Under our system of laws a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  If we are to restore our lost standing in the eyes of the world we must begin to give the detainees the same access to trial we ask for ourselves.  Those declared innocent must have their freedom restored.  Those found guilty of crimes may serve their appropriate punishment under our laws.

If we are to become again a nation of laws rather than a nation of rules put forth by people ignoring the law we have much work to do.  President Obama has already reversed many of the executive orders left in place by the last administration.  Rules promulgated without adequate public notice are being reviewed and changed as the days continue to pass by.  Like the stonecutter working at his task, the administration continues to strike one blow at a time in the name of justice and liberty.

We, the people, are the ones who will in the end be served best of all by a return to our founding principles.  We must continue to be patient, but we need not allow these days to be the best we will enjoy.  There is always a better nation right around the corner so long as we keep pushing for change and for real improvement.

Peace.

Quote of the week:

Violence is an admission that one’s ideals and goals cannot prevail on their own merits.

~ Edward M. Kennedy

250 Million

copyright © 2009 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

I recently heard that there are an estimated 250 million guns in the United States. There are an estimated 111 million households in America. Using these numbers that would mean there are 2.2 guns for every household in America. That seems like a lot of guns to me. As I began to ponder these numbers I wondered with all of these guns are we a safer nation? Have all of these guns provided us with the security many of us are seeking?

??I began researching the facts concerning gun violence in America in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. What I found was shocking not in what it said about guns but what it said about our culture. With or without guns we live in a violent culture. Confrontation and violence seems to be ingrained in our national psyche. In America, violence appears to be the first remedy to situations both by the government and its people. Do I believe there are too many guns in America? Yes I do, but I don’t believe that the problem for all the violence in America is guns.  

I believe in trying to reduce the number of guns not because I believe it will make us less violent of a society but because guns make killing and violence too easy. Guns make killing too quick and too efficient. People kill today without thinking and without remorse and with guns you can do that. Imagine if there were fewer guns killing would become more difficult. Guns make killing too detached. Without guns you would have to face down your intended target and it would be messier.

I want to provide some figures to illustrate but the problem with the NRA and other gun lobbyists is that any talk of restricting guns is immediately met with hyperbole and demagoguery. The problem with not considering the arguments and opinions of others is that you begin to seem irrational and foolish. By the way the armed militia argument being necessary to prevent tyranny is wrong on many levels. We aren’t providing arms to minutemen soldiers but to any idiot that can get one.

Also an armed society has proven to be no safer a democracy than a non armed society. The US has 90 guns for every 100 people making it the most heavily armed country in the world. (1) The second most armed nation is Yemen, that bastion of democracy. Are the people in England, Canada, or Greece more in danger of losing their democracies because they are not as armed as the US?

On the list of murders per capita in the world the United States ranks 24th. We rank higher than any of the industrialized nations except Russia. We trail countries like Columbia, Mexico, and Zimbabwe; not bad company for the richest nation on earth.??· In 2005 there were 30,694 gun deaths in the US. (2) In 1998 gun homicides in the rest of the industrialized world were as follows (3)

  • 373 – Germany?
  • 51 – Canada?
  • 57 – Australia?
  • 19 – Japan?
  • 54 – England?
  • 11,789 – US??

More guns have obviously not made us safer. However guns alone are not the problem. We must begin to adopt ways to reduce the level of violence in our culture and in our society at large. This will be extremely difficult in a society that glamorizes violence and disseminates it through all forms of media. The economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama have led to an increase in the number of requests for background checks for gun purchases. In November they were up 40% over the previous year and in December they were up by 25%. People are feeling less secure about the future and showing this unease by purchasing more guns.

We have made killing too easy in our country and have not addressed the underlying culture of violence. You cannot glorify violence and then have easy access to guns. Somehow we must tone down the aggression and teach our children that violence is not the answer to all of life’s challenges and difficulties.

We must develop a responsible and comprehensive way of reducing the number of guns or none of us will be safe. Just as the drug kingpin Carlos Escobar was held responsible for flooding our streets with dangerous drugs so the gun manufacturers must be held accountable for flooding our streets with guns. We can no longer decide arbitrarily which dangers we seek to address and which ones we don’t. Where there is arbitrary power, there is tyranny.??

Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.

~  John Adams

References . . .

1.  U.S. most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people, By Laura MacInnis.  Reuters. August 28, 2007 1:57pm EDT

2.  CDC Mortality Report 2008

3.  Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Ticking Time Bomb

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

There is a story taking place in America that is being buried by the media, the armed forces, and the politicians. This story is so frightening that no one wants to address it or even talk about it. This story has the potential to bring more violence to the streets of America than any terrorist attack. The frightening tale that is being ignored is the fact that we have ticking time bombs within our midst. They do not belong to al Qaeda or any other shady terrorist cell, they will not be profiled because they don’t have Mid-Eastern ancestry, nor are they Muslim extremists. These ticking time bombs are our own sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers. They are the returning soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just like everything else in these wars the brunt of the fighting has fallen on a very small group of individuals and their numbers are shrinking. These unfortunate few have been forced to fight this war on an almost constant deployment. No sooner than they arrive home, they are redeployed back to the war zone. Many are unable to retire or discharge themselves from their respective services due to stopgap measures instituted by the White House and the services designed to keep those shrinking numbers on a constant rotation. Because we have never fought a war like this one no one knows the consequences of placing these young men and women in this state of constant fear and agitation. Whenever there is any clinical evidence concerning the stress levels of returning service people it is buried.

I have often wondered why with so many Americans against this war there isn’t a stronger outpouring of protest and outrage. Then I am reminded of how the warrior sheep have framed and prosecuted this war. Short of the relatively small number of families being asked to prosecute this war, the rest of us have had to make little if any sacrifices. The warrior sheep have placed the cost of the war on future generations. They are satisfied with using  a dwindling volunteer force, a rogue mercenary army staffed by US security firms, and proxy forces from countries who cannot enforce the rule of law in their own nations, so there is no draft. We still have plenty of commodities albeit more expensive than before the war, but there are no shortages and rationing. So honestly, what is this war costing us?

The study found troops in the unit reported low morale, spousal abuse and attempted suicides. And yet, troops had to wait up to two months for an appointment with a mental health expert once they returned, it said.

A separate report by the Army released earlier this month found that soldiers on their third or fourth combat deployment were at particular risk of suffering mental health problems.

Major General Gale Pollock, the Army’s deputy surgeon general, said the results simply “show the effects of a long war.”

A similar report by the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team released in 2007 found that 28 percent of soldiers who had been in high-intensity combat were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or acute stress. Middle East Online

What is disconcerting about these numbers is that they keep rising. The original studies concerning PTSD in returning Iraqi veterans placed the numbers at 1 in 12, now they are at 1 in 4. The numbers are rising not due to the nature of the conflict but due to the continued policy of longer and more repeated deployments. Or as the General in the study called it, “the results of a long war”. Eventually what is going to happen is that these ticking time bombs are going to begin to explode. They are not getting the psychological treatment they deserve and need and at some point they are going to break. Humans can only take so much stress and trauma before we psychologically break.

For those too young to know the term “going postal” came into existence because of a large number of veterans given jobs at the Postal Service for their years of service and sacrifice for their country began to break with reality and began killing supervisors and customers. I believe that if these psychological issues are not addressed soon we are going to see a level of violence unprecedented in American history. We are already seeing the number of suicides rise among these veterans, eventually that violence will be turned away from themselves and towards society. The thing about the false patriots in this country is that they are only patriotic at others expense, they have put nothing in place to deal with the trauma they have helped to create. This type of phenomenon happens over the course of years, it was years after Vietnam that the “postal” veterans began striking.

The scary thing about all of this is that you will not know when or where it is going to happen. That fine young man sitting next to you at Starbucks could be just waiting to open up his coat and unleash a barrage of death and destruction. The randomness of it will be what makes it so frightening. And of course our warrior sheep will blame everything but the war for these homegrown suicidal killers. These will be the terrorists created by the war on terror. How ironic. Because we don’t fully understand or can predict the causes and extent of the damage of these PTSD sufferers isolating or tracking them will be next to impossible. We have no conclusive evidence of what causes or who suffers from these horrors of war. But make no mistake in the end we will all suffer as innocents begin to be slaughtered by war heroes.

But given her research, and the study in this week’s New England Journal, it’s clear that brain injuries don’t have to be massive to cause significant emotional and mental problems, and that “shell shock,” as it used to be called, may be caused by physical injury or, in turn, cause physical symptoms – it’s not just a reaction to the horrors of war. And if that’s the case, better and earlier medical and psychological intervention, along with better protective armor that shields the body as well as the head, could make life after combat a lot easier to endure. Time

Remember just because the story is being buried doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. One of the most repugnant aspects of the Neo-Con mindset  is that they believe if they ignore or deny something enough then it doesn’t exist or by the same token if they say something enough then it does exist. The question is then, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound? I guess depending on how you answer that question will determine your depth of knowledge concerning this storm on the horizon. Do we honestly think we can bring home all of these psychologically scarred  people and there not be any fallout? I guess it is just considered more collateral damage.  We haven’t even begun to study the mercenary armies of the security firms. What skeletons are going to come falling out of that closet is anybody’s guess. We have already begun to see the mental cases they have under arms and in charge. Tick, Tick, Tick…

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

~ Josh Billings

The Warning; America Accepts Distractions Abound


ArtofMentalWarfare.com: The Warning.

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The world is filled with distractions.  Sex is on the streets. Violence filters through videos.  Sensationalism  flitters across silver screens.  Television broadcasters speak of Senators in bathrooms.  Fallen sports stars are caught in criminal acts.  Americans are consumed with consumption.  We eat fast.  We play faster.  We work to attend to the world woes.  Yet, our eyes wander away from cold, hard, combative facts. 

It is easier to escape than it is to cope with the realities that we create.

Americans were informed; global warning is caused by and accelerated through human activity.  Still, citizens of the United States want the many possessions that enter our homes and garages.  This is the era of plastic and petroleum.

Clothing, carpets, even candies can contain an ounce of oil.  What we will not do for deliverance.  One hundred dollars a barrel or two . . . We admit to our dependence; however, we trust harm will not come in our lifetime.

We buy, buy, buy, and then trash, trash, trash.  Factory smoke billows, even if now the fumes come more from abroad then at home.  Products are placed “on-line,” assembled piece by piece or purchased in cyberspace.  Big box stores sell and Americans acquire.  We are satiated, although still not satisfied. 

Our prized possession is our car.  Vehicles provide the power we yearn to feel.  An automobile of our own grants us a sense of freedom and autonomy.  Forget the fact that the emissions pollute the air.  Ignore the waste we create when we build in obsolescence.  Our countrymen clamor,  “I crave a machine with horse power.”  Bring the petroleum home.  The boys and girls can stay and fight.

We understand war kills.  Yet, ultimately, unilaterally, we attack.  Administrators threaten to fight again and again.  More will die.  Americans do not heed the warning.  They continue to recreate.  We amuse ourselves with our bodies, with our toys, with sex, drugs, and violence. 

The nation is distracted and the planet destroyed.  Thus, is the nature of The Warning.  Caution is left to blow in the wind.

Measured Peace. Global Peace Index Ranks America Poorly



Peace Train by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is official; America is not a nation at peace.  We are not tranquil people.  There is violence in our streets and we war wherever and whenever we can.  According to the Global Peace Index, the United States ranks ninety-sixth [96] out of one hundred and twenty one [121] countries studied.  This “superpower” is slightly more serene than Iran; yet less calm than Yemen. 

Interestingly, Iraq is considered the most violent of all countries.  The Index, created by The Economist Intelligence Unit does not presume a possible correlation between Iraq and the United States.  However, it might be said that what occurs in that particular Middle Eastern region is directly related to American politics.  If we were to truly assess the doings in that sovereign State, we could easily accept that Iraq is merely an extension of the United States, a colony of sorts.  Perhaps that is only my perception.  Nonetheless, the two countries are unmistakably coupled.

These two territories are separate from the tranquil land of Norway, which is listed as the most peaceful country in the world.  Germany, with its notorious history was declared the twelfth among serene States.  Even Cuba is calm in contrast to America.  This small island nation is not nearly as violent as its Northern neighbor.  Cuba was assessed to be fifty-ninth [59] among all countries.

We might muse that one country is profoundly peaceful while another civilization is cruel; however, until now there was no way of authentically measuring such an estimation.

“The objective of the Global Peace Index was to go beyond a crude measure of wars by systemically exploring the texture of peace,” said Global Peace Index President Clyde McConaghy.

He said the inaugural effort proves “peace can and has and will continue to be measured.”

The index was compiled based on 24 indicators measuring peace inside and outside of a country.  They included the number of wars a country was involved in the past five years, how many soldiers were killed overseas, and how much money was made in arms sales.

Domestic indicators included the level of violent crimes, relations with neighboring countries and level of distrust in other citizens.

The results were then reviewed by a panel of international experts.

“We were trying to find out what positive qualities lead to peace,” said Leo Abruzzese, the North American editorial director of the intelligence unit that is part of The Economist Group that publishes the well known magazine.

It seems a Democratic system did not necessarily destine a nation for peace.

?Democracy didn?t actually correlate with peace, but a well-functioning democracy did.  Efficient, accountable government seems to be the leading determinant of peace.  Beyond that, income helps.?

Imagine that money may not buy happiness.  Competence counts.  Might we muse that if the two exist together in one nation, much can be done to promote peace. 

Social Scientist would not be surprised.  Abraham Maslow speaks of a hierarchy of needs.  When we feel safe, secure, and trust that our life is stable, we are able to self-actualize, achieve fulfillment.  When an individual is free to be, life for that person is good.  When a group of people are capable of performing to their potential, peace is possible, perhaps inevitable.

The prospect for peace may be found in satisfying personal and public needs effectively.  Empathy integrated into economic policy may create calm.

Fifteen of the top 20 most peaceful nations are in Western Europe, and countries with higher income appeared to lead to higher levels of peace, he [Abruzzese] said.

It is an interesting study.  I invite you to share your own theories and conclusions.  I offer the numbers as published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  Peruse with pleasure.  As you do, watch your back.  If you are an American, the streets are not safe.

121 Global Peace Index [GPI] rankings

Countries most at peace ranked first
Rank/Country/Score?

1 Norway 1.357
2 New Zealand 1.363
3 Denmark 1.377
4 Ireland 1.396
5 Japan 1.413
6 Finland 1.447
7 Sweden 1.478
8 Canada 1.481
9 Portugal 1.481
10 Austria 1.483
11 Belgium 1.498
12 Germany 1.523
13 Czech Republic 1.524
14 Switzerland 1.526
15 Slovenia 1.539
16 Chile 1.568
17 Slovakia 1.571
18 Hungary 1.575
19 Bhutan 1.611
20 Netherlands 1.620
21 Spain 1.633
22 Oman 1.641
23 Hong Kong 1.657
24 Uruguay 1.661
25 Australia 1.664
26 Romania 1.682
27 Poland 1.683
28 Estonia 1.684
29 Singapore 1.692
30 Qatar 1.702
31 Costa Rica 1.702
32 South Korea 1.719
33 Italy 1.724
34 France 1.729
35 Vietnam 1.729
36 Taiwan 1.731
37 Malaysia 1.744
38 United Arab Emirates 1.747
39 Tunisia 1.762
40 Ghana 1.765
41 Madagascar 1.766
42 Botswana 1.786
43 Lithuania 1.788
44 Greece 1.791
45 Panama 1.798
46 Kuwait 1.818
47 Latvia 1.848
48 Morocco 1.893
49 United Kingdom 1.898
50 Mozambique 1.909
51 Cyprus 1.915
52 Argentina 1.923
53 Zambia 1.930
54 Bulgaria 1.936
55 Paraguay 1.946
56 Gabon 1.952
57 Tanzania 1.966
58 Libya 1.967
59 Cuba 1.968
60 China 1.980
61 Kazakhstan 1.995
62 Bahrain 1.995
63 Jordan 1.997
64 Namibia 2.003
65 Senegal 2.017
66 Nicaragua 2.020
67 Croatia 2.030
68 Malawi 2.038
69 Bolivia 2.052
70 Peru 2.056
71 Equatorial Guinea 2.059
72 Moldova 2.059
73 Egypt 2.068?
74 Dominican Republic 2.071
75 Bosnia and Herzegovina 2.089
76 Cameroon 2.093
77 Syria 2.106
78 Indonesia 2.111
79 Mexico 2.125
80 Ukraine 2.150
81 Jamaica 2.164?
82 Macedonia 2.170
83 Brazil 2.173
84 Serbia 2.181
85 Cambodia 2.197
86 Bangladesh 2.219
87 Ecuador 2.219
88 Papua New Guinea 2.223
89 El Salvador 2.244
90 Saudi Arabia 2.246
91 Kenya 2.258
92 Turkey 2.272
93 Guatemala 2.285
94 Trinidad and Tobago 2.286
95 Yemen 2.309
96 United States of America 2.317
97 Iran 2.320
98 Honduras 2.390
99 South Africa 2.399
100 Philippines 2.428
101 Azerbaijan 2.448
102 Venezuela 2.453
103 Ethiopia 2.479
104 Uganda 2.489
105 Thailand 2.491
106 Zimbabwe 2.495
107 Algeria 2.503
108 Myanmar 2.524
109 India 2.530
110 Uzbekistan 2.542
111 Sri Lanka 2.575
112 Angola 2.587
113 Cote d?Ivoire 2.638
114 Lebanon 2.662
115 Pakistan 2.697
116 Colombia 2.770
117 Nigeria 2.898
118 Russia 2.903
119 Israel 3.033
120 Sudan 3.182
121 Iraq 3.437

References for your review . . .

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit
  • US ranks low, just above Iran on new peace index, By Deborah Charles. Reuters. May 30, 2007
  • First Global Peace Index Ranks 121 Countries Norway tops list, U.S. comes in at 96. By: Global Peace Index. YubaNet. May 30, 2007
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Educational Psychology Interactive.