continued response to Parkland

Since my first post touching on the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, I have continued to be impressed by the response of the students at the school and other teens. They have been speaking out strongly in traditional and social media, at rallies and public gatherings, calling on local, state, and national authorities and elected officials to protect them and the rest of the public by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks and licensing, and improving mental health services.

They are making plans for a march in Washington, DC and other cities on March 24. There are also plans for a nationwide student walkout on April 20th, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, the first mass shooting at a high school that sent shockwaves across the country.

There are some early indications that their message is having an impact on politicians. While long-time gun-control advocates are adding their voices to those of the students, some additional people are speaking out. Just this morning, I saw an interview with a wealthy long-time donor to Republican candidates, stating that he will no longer give to politicians who oppose common-sense gun control measures, such as an assault weapon ban. During a previous time when the United States did have an assault weapons ban, the rate of mass shootings was significantly lower.

The United States also has the examples of many other nations who protect their citizens from gun violence with stricter gun regulations. These countries also have better health care access, which means that fewer people in their communities have the sorts of untreated mental health problems that lead them to harm themselves and others. (I realize that most mental health diagnoses do not involve violence, but society is also served when each member has access to the full range of health and preventive services.)

Yesterday at church, we had a minute of silent prayer for the victims of the Parkland shooting. While my mind went first to those who were killed or wounded, it also went to the teen-aged gunman. Our society failed him as well. Despite numerous encounters with school authorities, police, and social services, he was left to fend for himself after the death of his adoptive mother without access to continuing mental health services. Proper treatment and enhanced background checks might have prevented him from killing and wounding so many people.

Mass shootings should not be the price the United States has to pay because of the Second Amendment. Contrary to the interpretation that some now hold, the intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the public from attack. There was no standing army at that time, so the “well-regulated militia” of which the amendment speaks was the defense against foreign invasion. Guns in more rural areas would also have been needed for hunting and for protection from bears, cougars, etc., but the right to bear arms was not intended as a blanket right for any kind of weaponry to be owned by anyone anytime. The United States already does restrict many kinds of military weapons from civilian ownership; it would not be unconstitutional to add more types of guns and ammunition to this list.

After other mass shootings, particularly Sandy Hook, it seemed that the country might have reached a tipping point where public opinion was strong enough to overcome the National Rifle Association and other anti-gun control groups.  Sadly, while there were some changes in some states, such as New York, the overall policies in the country either remained the same or became even more lax regarding gun access.

Will Parkland, with the strong voices of the teens ringing out, finally lead to societal change, the passage of gun control legislation, and better mental health care?

There is hope.

 

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SoCS: poetic language

This week in a meeting of my poetry critique group, I managed to say that I can’t write poems with cursing or profanity, which led to a lively discussion of the use of language, in poems and in general.

I was brought up to use proper English at all times and not to swear. Unlike today, where cursing, profanity, and slang is used frequently and is nearly impossible to avoid, when I was growing up, in a town of two hundred souls in rural New England, one seldom heard any colorful language – or backtalk. I do remember our first through fourth grade teacher literally washing out a boy’s mouth with soap once, but I don’t know what he said to warrant that reaction from the teacher. Actually, I’m pretty sure she could have gotten in trouble as corporal punishment was not allowed in Massachusetts schools, but I doubt anyone would have reported it.

Someone did ask me what I would say if I dropped a roast from the oven onto my foot and I were totally alone in the house. I would probably say, “Ouch!” or maybe I would just start crying.

One of the poets thought I should do an assignment: to write a poem with profanity, but that isn’t going to happen. It wouldn’t be true to who I am and I think that that would show. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to read it aloud. I find it difficult, if not impossible to say certain words aloud, even if they are on a page in front of me. Good thing I didn’t get to take acting classes because I would probably be bad at it. I would only be able to play characters who never swear!

As it was, just the discussion had me blushing!

And now you know why my language here at Top of JC’s Mind is so tame…
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This (politely worded) post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday series. This week’s prompt is “language.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-1317/

 

Haiti project

In these divisive days around the US elections, I have been clinging to any positive news of people reaching out and offering love, hope, and acceptance. I want to share this story from this past Sunday at my church.

There is a parishioner who co-teaches a service learning course at the local community college. Part of this course is a service trip to Haiti, to a village in the northern section of the island. The church has raised funds and donated materials for the projects on a regular basis over the last several years, so she gives us periodic updates.

The group went to Haiti in October. Because of flooding and hurricane Matthew, the village had endured damage to many of the mudbrick and straw buildings, but other repairs had already been made. The water system that protects the people from water-borne diseases was back in service. The two-classroom school that was part of the earlier iterations of the project had re-opened. Two more classrooms will be added soon. They and the adjoining church, which also serves as a community gathering place, are powered by solar panels and there is enough energy storage to allow the children to do homework at the school after dark, using LED lights. Computers that were donated are part of the school curriculum. There is also a newly-opened sewing school with donated machines that is helping local people learn a useful trade.

Last year, land was cleared for a community garden which grows food for the schoolchildren’s lunch. They had been growing staples like corn and beans which can be dried for later use, as there is no refrigeration available. The community had decided to grow rice as well, which wound up being a fortuitous decision; when the floods came, the rice crop continued to grow nicely and they just had their first rice harvest, with many bags of rice in storage for future school lunches.

The school lunch program is especially important as many of the children will eat their only meal of the day at school.

School costs the equivalent of $25 a year, but that sum is too much for some of the families, so there is a new scholarship fund in place to help more children attend school. There is also a plan to add a kitchen with solar ovens to the school, so that the cooks who make the school lunch can also bake breads and pies for sale to benefit the lunch program.

The people in the village are filled with hope, as they work steadily toward making their lives safer and more comfortable with the help of their friends and partners from our area.

We all need hope. We all need to reach out to each other, to help each other, to recognize that every person has inherent dignity.

Thank you to the villagers in Haiti for reminding me of the power of hope.

 

Fridays are Magical: First Grade Poetry Workshops

This evening, in the adult version of Binghamton Poetry Project, I wrote my first tanka. Here, I am sharing the precious post about some of the first grade poets who are loving, learning, and creating with the BPP.

by: Heather Dorn

Fridays have been magical since I stopped working weekends. Something about those last few hours drowning in research before stepping off the cliff to endless weekend possibilities, or a good afternoon coffee, makes me giddy. But when I’m teaching 1st graders, Fridays become even more magical.

First graders are poets who haven’t unlearned how to be poets.

For the past month, instructors from the Binghamton Poetry Project have been running first grade poetry workshops at Charles F. Johnson Elementary and Johnson City Primary. Instructors Heather Humphrey, Tim Lavis, Assistant Director Clara Barnhart, and myself, Director Heather Dorn, visited the schools on Fridays to offer lessons about the sounds, shapes, and ideas that poems can have. Though we don’t stress terminology, we aimed to teach rhyme, alliteration, simile and concrete poems, while fostering a positive attitude toward poetry. The third year we have had…

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SoCS: yet again with the deflated footballs

Hold onto your hats, but there has been more in the news on the topic of Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, and deflated footballs.

Despite not being a big follower of American football – or even what the rest of the world calls football and the US calls soccer – I have written about this topic a number of times. (here and here and here and here and here)

The story was back in the news this week because a seventh grader who lives near Boston won a prize at a science fair by showing with science that the footballs would have dropped about 2 psi due to the field conditions of the game.

Weirdly, he shares a last name with the football commissioner who wanted to sanction Brady, even though there is no proof that he or anyone actually deflated the footballs.

And, yes, this does have to do with things like the ideal gas law that I and others posted about months ago.

Will the National Football League finally acknowledge science and admit they were wrong in their report?

Probably not…
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “ball.” Join the fun! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/03/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-1216/

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A big thank you!

I’m grateful to everyone who has been visiting Top of JC’s Mind over these past couple of weeks. Since I did my 500(ish) followers and SoCS posts, I have received many encouraging compliments, likes, and follows.

It is so heart-warming and affirming that I have been trying to get a post or reblog out every day, even if it is short, as this one will be. It’s a busy week, as we try to fit in appointments, family visits, shopping, packing, and move-in for T in the one week between the end of her summer internship and the start of the semester.

It’s finally starting to sink in that this is the last year of grad school for both E and T. The end of the journey of having one or both daughters in formal schooling which began in 1991.

Wow! That looks like such a long time when it is written down.

Maybe I should take a rest…

Discovering Dyslexia

This is my comment on this post:  https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/the-journey-of-a-thousand-books-sets-sail/ from Rowena of Beyond the Flow. I thought readers here would appreciate it, too.

The most compelling reading story in my family is my niece Skye. She was struggling with reading and her school was not being very helpful. My sister finally took her to a specialist for evaluation and they discovered that she had a form of inherited dyslexia. My sister was perplexed, as she didn’t know of anyone in our family who was affected. When she told my parents about the diagnosis, my father recognized that Skye had the same problems that he did. At the age of 80, he discovered that the reading difficulties that he had worked around his whole life, without telling anyone about it, were caused by dyslexia! Skye’s older brother with the help of his parents started raising funds for the organization that was aiding Skye to help her access the world of books and Skye took on the project when she was older. It became known as The Paco Project. There is a video on the site telling the story of Skye and her grandfather, whom we call Paco.

As Skye was in her high school years, she became an advocate for dyslexic students in New York City, where she lives, and for other kids who were being marginalized for other reasons. As its final project, The Paco Project raised $25,000 to help NYC kids who needed help with reading. In a few weeks, Skye will start college. She will be studying Early Childhood Education, with an eye to spotting potential reading problems in pre-schoolers, so that they always have the tools they need to succeed. We are all so proud of her and my dad for what they have done to help others.