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You have to climb the damn tree!

out on a limb

That’s right…and there’s no two ways about it. Unfortunately today we have been so hoodwinked by people in power that we believe that you shouldn’t climb trees, primarily because you actually might think for yourself. And if you do have the courage to climb the tree…and you actually believe the tree is worth climbing…the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is go out on a limb.  Take a stand and have the courage of your convictions.

Might you fall?  More likely than not there is a very, very, very good chance you might fall down. Mind you I said “might fall down” not “will fall down.”

Because we live in world of non-stop news there are so many goddamn trees in the forest, that it is overwhelming.

Just last week there was another tragic school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent people.  There are not enough words in every language combined to say anything that might make some sense out of the senseless.

Following the shooting a million of Giant Redwoods sprang up all over America.  I’m certain one or more of them is in you own backyard. This tree is called, like so many other trees in the forest of bewilderment, the tree of opinion.  While we ALL might agree that the loss of life is so very tragic, we don’t all agree on what we can do or needs to be done so this particular tree never grows up again on the YBR.

Some argue that a school shooting tree won’t ever grow again if we:
1) Get rid of all the guns in America
2) Ban any type of assault weapon
3) Dismantle the NRA
4) Raise the age of gun ownership to 21
5) Make gun ownership applications much more detailed and quintuple-checked
6) Prevent anyone with a prior record or anyone with a certified mental illness from buying a gun
7) Put guns in the hands of trained and qualified educators
8) Place at least one armed officer in every school
9) Build walls around all our schools
10) Placing a 2000% tak on any weapon and limiting the number of bullets a gun owner can buy…and raise the price of a bullet to $3648.92.

Number ten was my addition and I added it to cover all the ridiculous suggestions people are making.  Number 1 through 9 are not ridiculous, but none of them win unanimous approval.

I have no suggestions other than we do need to find a way to make our schools and everywhere for that matter…safe.  Our children should never, ever have to worry about their safety in school. No teacher or educator should ever have to worry that this might be the day a school shooter comes into our school. And no parent should ever, ever, ever have to think for a second that when they kiss their child good-bye for school that it might be the last time they kiss their child.

Some argue that a school shooting tree won’t ever grow again if we:
1) Spend more money and time on dealing with mental illness
2) Find ways to identify possible school shooters before they do the unthinkable by being much more observant and looking for the signs
3) Train people in law enforcement to take warnings more seriously and by looking into what people are saying after seeing.
4) Institutionalize those who have been identified as individuals who represent a threat to themselves and/or others

It will take  greater minds than my simple mind to come up with a real, permanent solution because the problem with guns is only a (big) part of it…not the whole.

.But, now that I’ve climbed the school shooting tragic tree, I’m going to go out on a limb.

While there is no way in hell that I can find a smidgen of a reason to condone the school shooting. And if I’m saying that, I have to take the next step, and say that I cannot find any reasonable excuse why the shooter did what he did.

I said “excuse.”  There is no excuse, (I’m not out on the limb, so don’t start shaking the branch.)

Would I be too far out on the limb if I introduced the idea of finding the reason why the shooter did what he did?

Having listened to some credible talk show hosts…and their callers… condemn the shooter by saying he should be roasted alive on national television, should be executed asap, should be sent to a jail where the other prisoners were given the green light to beat the shit out of the shooter, and other such punishments courtesy of the Dark Ages…

I have the heard the word “crazy” thrown around this past week more than I’ve ever heard this “dangerous” word used in a long, long time.

To say the shooter was crazy, sick, the devil incarnate, etc.  is not going to bring back any of the lives lost.  To say that he gave more than ample warning signs that were ignored, is another story altogether.  “We” dropped the ball on that one.

But, it’s easier to shift the light of blame on the shooter, who, without a doubt performed a heinous act.

I heard some talk show hosts say that there are thousands of people in America who had similar mental issues and family situations…even the death of parents…but they did not go pout and buy an assault rifle and shoot up a school.  And I’d have to agree with them.  God knows how many people out there matched the Florida school shooter’s profile but did not gun down innocent people.

But, I think we are masking our doubts with rage. It is better, I fear many believe, to kill the monster and hang him from the highest tree, without thinking he could have been my son, my grandson, my brother, my cousin, my nephew, my best friend’s son, a kid in my class…or even me.

According to the 2010 Federal Census Bureau, there were some 30 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 and 53 million between the ages of 5 and 17.  So, if we combine those age groups, it might be safe to say that in 2010 there were 37-40 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, the age of what might be called the “target” school shooter.

One percent of 38 million is 380,000. Half a percent is !90,00. A quarter percent is 95,000.  And .1% is 38,000.  Taken one more time, .01 percent of 38 million is 3,800. (For fractional people, that’s 1/1000. Small in comparison to 1/100 or one percent, but consider how many people in that same age group suffer from some form of mental illness?

Check these facts to see the whole picture

Sorting through the numbers I think it’s safe to say that 10% of our 38 million (14-24) suffer from some form of mental illness…or by the numbers that would be 3.8 million.

Let’s then say that 99.9% of those 3.8 million would never, ever pick up a gun and go on a school shooting rampage.  That leaves 3,800 (or .1%) who might consider it…and a mere 1% 3,800 you with 38.

38 people spread out over the breadth and width of America makes them virtually invisible. No one should ever be invisible!

I worked with some of these invisibles when I was in college where I used to go up to Hillcrest Academy (Poughkeepsie, NY) before Geraldo Rivera did an amazing job by exposing the horrors at Willowbrook.

I can’t tell you how many children were institutionalized at Hillcrest, but in the boys section with children between the ages of three and ten there must have been at least 20 boys. Boys who were dropped off at Hillcrest with many of them never to see family again.

We cannot, I repeat, ever go back to the age of Hillcrest.

Where am I on the limb?  I think we need to take a hard look at mental illness in our country and remove all the use of words like crazy and stop saying what one person with mental illness would or would not do.

The Florida shooter was 19. Not a little kid. But he was a kid once upon a time.  Did he fall through the cracks?  Was he physically not lovable enough?  Did he grow up invisible?  Was there ever a time in his life when he could have been thrown a life raft?

Last year the Federal Government spent some 54 million dollars in an anti-smoking campaign.  As much as I want to wipe out smoking (how about banning the product…there is no Constitutional Amendment protecting our right to smoke) imagine in half of  what the government spends on anti-smoking went to helping the mentally ill.

Okay, you can now begin shaking the limb.

 

 

 

 

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2018 gold medal

If following the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were an event, I wouldn’t be on the medal podium. Nonetheless, I have been watching many of the events.  In doing so, my Americanism comes out. Not that I’m anti any other participating country, but…you know what I mean.

Recently I heard a number of reporters talk about America’s poor showing at the games (hte lowest medal count in two decades is what I heard.)

Just because we’re America does that mean we have to win a gazillion gold and a similar number of silver and bronze medals.  Are we supposed to be embarrassed? Are we supposed to make excuses and say wait until 2022?

I was never in the spotlight so I can’t honestly tell you what it must be like to bear the burden of always being number one.  Or, are we at fault because we brag about how great we are in everything?

At a time in history when nationalism should be minimized on the world stage, we, the people of the world, seem to be more nationalistic than ever.

It made me think about being an American in the Trump years.  I distance myself from the president because on a personal level he would be the last person I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with.

I believe America’s number one export should be unvarnished kindness and our number one import should be unfettered understanding.  Instead of building walls, we need to be paving the world with yellow bricks that criss-cross the world.  In our desire to conquer space, we need to conquer fear and hatred right here on earth.

I was tempted to post this in an abbreviated form on Facebook, I opted not to because lately I’m feeling very uncomfortable on this popular form of social media.

Because I have no WordPress blog friends I don’t have to get any likes.  I just have to like what I said.

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afric's gift to America

When I was in seventh grade my father gave me a book, It was “Africa’s Gift to America.” It not only change the way I saw the world, it changed my life because it opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was four years old, and Rosa Parks bold move had happened six years earlier.  I was too young to fully grasp what was happening in the country, but I believe my father thought I needed some educating.

And what an education it was.  Page after page was filled with information and stories about the many great gifts African-Americans had given to a country that was supposed to be founded on the belief that all men were created equal.

I kept the book on my bookshelf until I went to college.  While the pages were not  dog-eared, the book did show definite signs of wear.  I used what I considered one of my favorite books for more than a paper or two in high school. And never tired of reading it.

As a college sophomore I donated my copy of “Africa’s Gift to America” to the library because I believed it needed to be shared.

Close to three-decades after my father gave me “Africa’s Gift to America,” I wrote a story greatly influenced by the book.

FreedomsLight.jpg

Black History was always more than a month for me.

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The Tin Man’s heart goes out to all the victims of the latest “unnecessary” tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to their families, friends and the surrounding community.

How many more tears need to be shed?

crying tinman two

Meaningful art from: https://only-enemy.deviantart.com/art/The-Tin-Man-Lost-His-Heart-208524222

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fur coat

THE COAT LEFT BEHIND

(Back in 1972 I wrote a Christmas story I included with my Christmas card. It became a tradition.  Just sharing my story for 2017)

Xmas 2017 The Coat

 

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Tweeting on the YBR.

Looking back to a seven year old blog.

Along The Yellow Brick Road

Dorothy completed her journey along the yellow brick road without the benefit of any manner of technology. The jury is still out on how much better out lives are because we live in such high-tech times.

Indulge me in a “what-if” moment. What if Dorothy did have access to some 21st century wizardry? What if she had had the ability to ‘tweet.’ What would she have tweeted. Perhaps some of the following might have been found on her Twitter account:

You call that a gentle breeze, Aunt Em? Gentle breeze my fanny. It was a twister. And yeah, hanks for locking me out of the storm cellar.

Just dropped in on this woman. Have to be a little more careful if I ever expect to get a driver’s license.

The vertically challenged citizens say they’re Munchkins. Whatever.

Talk about being over-dressed. Glinda, the hat was a bit much, but thanks…

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ybr in fall

There is something about autumn that I like…even a little more than the other seasons. And since today (Friday, September 22, 2017) autumn will begin at 4:02 pm (EST), what better way to extol the virtues of his amazing season.

Autumn doesn’t come in like the Lion on the yellow brick road. Rather it creeps up on us often masquerading as summer until one morning we wake up and all the leaves on the trees have turned from green to a painter’s pallet of reds, oranges and yellows.

I think autumn is a season to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. If summer is the season where we inhale, autumn is the season where we slowly exhale. It’s the season that gives us a chance to catch our breath.

My time on the YBR has told me that people don’t really want to exhale. People would rather hold their breath than to let it out.  I think people are so afraid of letting go.

British novelist, Samuel Butler, once said “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”

Despite the political chaos that is spinning out of control like a wicked twister, we would be wise to welcome the mellow and let it wash over us.

There’s nothing better than autumn on the YBR.

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