Tide Pods and Heroes

 

I wasn’t going to react…I really tried hard but the “daddy” teacher in me has reared its ugly head and I will not sit on the sidelines while thousands of young people exercise their First Amendment Rights…and get ridiculed and called names for doing it.  My inner child of the Sixties has stood up and grabbed me by the ass and shook me.  I was young once and so were you…and if you didn’t do stupid things, you should probably head to the doctor and find out what is wrong with your memory.

Yes, some of these youngsters are stupid…no not stupid.  Some are immature and do stupid things.  Like, take the Tide Pod challenge.  Stupid things like goldfish swallowing contests, flagpole sitting, telephone booth stuffing, pet rocks, flappers, zoot suits, platform shoes, lily-white Irishmen in Afros and lime green leisure suits.  Abuses like beer drinking, smoking marijuana and premarital sex with the wrong woman.  Stupid things that immature young people from previous generations did (I know this for a fact)…and went on to do great things.  Before you say that I’m advocating for beer drinking, marijuana use, and premarital sex…JUST STOP IT!  That is not my point.

Growing up is being taught by caring people if you are lucky enough to have them: parents, teachers, family members, the clergy of your choice…the village.  Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, it’s also about ignoring what you were taught, striking out on your own path, and somehow managing to survive it…and learning from it.  I was lucky…I survived.  I didn’t learn much, but I hope the newest generation survives and learns.  I believe the will and that they will go on and do great things too…but they won’t do it our way.

I saw plenty of heroic young people, not one of them had a Tide Pod in their hands…or mouth.  We focus on all the immature actions and fail to recognize that they have a voice that echoes their pain, their concern, and their fear…whether they are high school students or not. They don’t have the life experiences.  Tell that to a kid whose mother works two jobs and leaves him to care for a little brother…no don’t.  You don’t have the right.

Sure, some left just to get out of class and there were, as my brother pointed out, some knuckleheads.  There would have been knuckleheads fifty years ago during YOUR or my generation, and after.

Others knelt in hallways when they weren’t allowed outside.  Peace signs were created by elementary school kids.  Shoes were placed in protest near the capital. Chicago students marched for mental illness awareness, equal educational opportunities, safety in their OWN communities and THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA, DEAD, and SURVIVORS.  I watched one young man march and stand silently…the only person in his march.  I think it was pretty goddammed heroic.

For you deflectors and detractors, sure the problem is more than JUST about gun control.  I don’t want your gun, I have one.  But their march…their conversation was about guns and dying in a school.  Organize your own march…I’ll march with you.

The PROBLEMS are about a failure in a law enforcement and background system that allows a mentally ill youngster to obtain a legal weapon that can kill thirty people in a minute.

It is about bullying, something some people still blame on the victim not being tough enough.

It’s about something being wrong with men of my race and gender who have a need to shoot up things with weapons only one or two steps down from a battlefield…and call it huntin’.

It is about violence in certain cities and the double, the national norm, unemployment figures that go with it…and the inequality in the education they receive.

It’s about prisons for profit that robs families of men who have minor brushes with the law when other men get a slap on the hand and community service.  But that’s something some of us don’t want to hear or even entertain.

It’s about a judicial system that seems to punish, more severely, one group over another.

It’s about moral depredation, Christ follower or Athiest, that must be someone else’s fault cause it ain’t mine.

And, it’s also about smart and consistent gun control, even if it means JUST enforcing the laws already on the books.

There are plenty of facets to the problem…just pick a cause…or not.  But that will be YOUR CAUSE, not theirs.  Or just sit back and denigrate young people who want to start a conversation…one we can’t seem to have without yelling.  I’d say you failed at quieting them and I think that is a good thing.

To quote Buffalo Springfield:

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was taken by Amber Nelson Wagner

Video from YouTube

 

 

Thoughts and Prayers….

PESSIMISM WARNING! I hate to pee in your Cheerios, but nothing will change. We are first in mass shootings, first in gun deaths, nearly half in suicides. More than any county of the “civilized” world, not at war. But nothing will change. We make it about anything other than intelligent gun control or an in-depth study of our violent culture and how we perpetuate it. We don’t want to spend money on education to lift up people, we would rather spend it on prisons. We would rather erect a wall than take a serious look at our own culture and its motivations and the dangers from within.

It must be about mental illness, and it is, even though we’ve made it easier for the mentally ill to possess guns. We put the killer under a microscope, scrutinize and debate race, or religion or immigration. If we can’t hang the murderer on one of those excuses we make it about politics or gun free zones or sanctuary cities or Mars ascending into Venus…when it should be about our culture. We offer our thoughts and prayers.

I consider myself a religious man, if not, a spiritual one, but our thoughts and prayers are wearing thin especially when it involves the same kind of kids and schools I taught in for forty-three years. The thinness is because I believe nothing will change. It is too much a part of our culture. We are a violent group, some with Bibles in one hand, AR-15s in the other. “Thou Shalt not Kill” should have an addendum. Thou Shalt not Kill unless it abridges my right to purchase and use an AR-15.

I probably shouldn’t be focused on the AR-15…although there is a good reason. From Aurora to Stoneman Douglas High, it seems to be the weapon of choice, whether due to popularity or ease of use, I don’t know. We’ve weaponized ourselves with all sorts of arms. I have two handguns and a shotgun myself…and a rock, car, butter knife and a fork.

There seems to be something about our manhood that goes hand in hand with a gun or rifle…and the violent tendencies we hold dear. Do they make a perfume “Ode de Gunpowder?” I’ll write about women just as soon as there is a female mass shooter. Why are our males more violent than females? They are not, women just like to inflict pain over a longer period…. Sorry.

Our country was forged on violence…from the very beginning and we glorify it. From an “Eye for an Eye,” to the cult of the warrior in the many wars we have fought, to the dubious history of the Western gunfighter. Our video games, television programs, and movies glorify violence and they have an effect. It is still about the Alpha male with the gun in one hand and the adoring, scantily clad female secured with the other. At least we’ve added movies with scantily clad, female superheroes. Hum…sex, and gunpowder….

So, as pessimistic as it sounds, I don’t think we will ever change. I believe we will continue to lead in categories we say we don’t want to lead in and continue to offer our thoughts and prayers instead of taking a meaningful look at our culture and what our culture breeds. Because we won’t take a meaningful look I expect the violence to increase…but I’m not sending any more thoughts and prayers.

Addendum

It is worse than I even thought it could be. I’m a retired teacher and coach…and a father and a grandfather. The Sandy Hooks, along with the dozens of mass shootings occurring in schools since then, hits me hard. One of the Florida school shooting victims is the son of a former student. That makes it personal. Not that anything will be done. If twenty dead first graders can’t affect change, nothing will. I would say our guns are more important than our children.