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Archive for January, 2013

Toto

 

Lest I be accused of pooping on the President’s second inaugural address, I give the President a three bark review for his speech. I take exception, or let me say, I question one particular piece of his speech. Early on the President said: “When a little girls born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free and she is equal not just in the eyes of God, but ours.”

Would that only be the case. But let’s be real Mr. President. Do you actually believe that a girl born into the bleakest poverty knows she has THE SAME CHANCE to succeed as ANYBODY ELSE?

Talk about not being in Kansas anymore! Anyone born into the bleakest poverty SHOULD have the same chance as anybody else to succeed, but reality, which is often as bleak as poverty, does not side with the President on his sentiment.

One only has to look at the many reports on the effects of poverty on success. One only has to read the paper to see what life really has in store for someone who has to deal with all the baggage that comes with being born into poverty.

To be sure that WE don’t exclude people on the basis of one’s bank account, but children born into poverty are often born into one parent households or households burdened with many almost insurmountable problems. Children born into poverty often don’t get the attention they need to actualize their academic potential. And while many children born into poverty have many loving and caring teachers, the overall learning environment is impoverished. Children born in the bleakest poverty often live and grow up in neighborhoods where drugs and violence are normal.

Mr. President. We want to believe that all Americans have equal opportunities, but that’s not the case. And sometimes I believe we are doing more harm than good by dangling the golden carrot in front of a child when we know that opportunities are not always equal and that we still live in a land where advantage just does that…it offers advantage to those children NOT born in the bleakest poverty.

Does this mean that it is impossible for someone born in the bleakest poverty to succeed and to achieve great things? No. But we need to remember that while hope is wonderful, hope is not a plan. And until we have a plan in place that provides all children born in America with the tools for success, we risk being hope-less.

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disconnected2

Children of all ages love the Wizard of Oz. By today’s standards it is a relatively innocuous tale filled with its share of colorful characters of two varieties: good and evil. That there is some violence in the Oz narrative is obvious to any child who closed his/her eyes whenever the Wicked Witch of the West made an appearance. The WWW was fond of using violence to attain her goals. Had Dorothy not been protected by her special shoes…and by the indelible mark left on her forehead when she was kissed by the Good Witch…the CSI agents in Oz would have had another case on their hands.

The history of violence is as old as the history of human kind. And while the word “violence” did not come into vogue until the 13th century, it had its roots in the Latin word “violentia” which meant “vehement.” Today we would not confuse the word “violent” with “vehemence,” because vehemence is often considered noble, especially when we say we are “vehemently opposed to something.” I imagine if we knew that what we were saying is that we would resort to violence to support our convictions we might look for another word.

A dictionary definition of the word “violence”  is ‘physical force used to inflict injury or damage.’ If we were to agree to that definition we would also have to agree that the reason for using physical force has no bearing on the nature of the act, be it “good” or “bad.”  Bombing a city, attacking a country and any acts of war would, by definition be considered acts of violence.

Today, however, we have narrowed our focus and much of what we call violence is limited to physical force used to inflict injury to innocent people as was the case recently at Sandy Hook Elementary where  26 innocent lives were lost due to the violent actions of one man.

The headline in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, Wed. Jan 9, 2013) reads” How can we stop the gun violence?

I believe the question is more like a conundrum. That we have witnessed the violent use of guns in this country more and more is obvious. Doing something to control the use of guns definitely needs to be on top of every political and social agenda. However, I don’t believe even a perfect gun control solution will put an end to violence in America.

Let’s be honest. We glorify violence in our movies, on television, in gaming and in contemporary music. And when it comes to entertainment media, guns get star billing. So, if we fill the minds of the American people with violence how can we not expect to have a culture of violence?

The kid on the ball field might not resort to using a gun, but when that kid turns the power of the game into combat by using “physical force to deliberately inflict injury or damage” we are witnessing violence. Even though we say we won’t tolerate such behavior on the playing filed, far too many “victimizers” are secretly given a slap on the back as a sign of encouragement.

But I digress. I do have a point to make. I think violence is a result of the shift in how one sees himself in the world. When a person believes he/she has a place in the world and somehow matters, that person can believe in him or her self. Because the world is so big, it is very easy for us to feel small and anonymous. Feeling insignificant in the pre-world-wide-web days was not as painful as it is in a world where social media is how many people find their identity. Having 43,583 facebook friends, 3,880 twitter followers and being really linked-in helps us feel less insignificant. Having a facebook post get a gazillion likes tends to make us feel warm and fuzzy. (Note: There is much good about social media, so don’t think I am anti-social media.)

What about those lost souls who are disconnected? What about those individuals who have no facebook friends, who don’t tweet and are not linked to anything? Not all of these people are your stereotypical outcast or misfit. Most of them go unnoticed. They do no harm or do no foul. Many of them light up inside when someone smiles at them…when someone takes note of them.

Growing up I had a particularly sensitive radar mechanism that detected the lost and the lonely. I can remember as a high school senior I was at a party. John had been invited…and while he rarely came to any of our parties, he was there at one of them. Everyone was having a good time. John, however, was not having a “time.” In fact, he was physically there, but emotionally he was absent. I looked over at him and he was sitting/squatting against a wall. I went over to him and sat next to him. I didn’t say much to him. I just wanted to let him know he wasn’t alone.

John, by the way, was a genius. He was also an amazing violinist.

Putting aside the violence visited upon the world on 9/11, much of the violence in this country seems to be traced to people who are physically there but emotionally absent. I believe years of emotional absence has its toll on the soul. And when a person’s soul is diminished (especially if the loss has played with a person’s mental capacity) I believe we have created an environment for the perfect storm when a person violently lashes out and because guns are so readily available innocent lives are lost.

I say get our guns under control. I also say use your power as a human being to embrace everyone who comes across our path on the YBR and say to them: you are not alone.

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