On today’s ninth anniversary, we are remembering all those who died or were injured in the shooting at the American Civic Association in Binghamton NY.
Although we have made some progress at the state level, I am saddened that there has been so little at the federal level, both on gun and immigration reform.
I so appreciate the Parkland students and their student and adult allies who are bringing gun violence issues to the forefront of the national conversation and motivating lawmakers to take steps to protect students and the public.
In light of the president declaring DACA dead, I hope that Congress will finally return to bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for Dreamers, those under TPS, and other long-time residents. If they pass such legislation with a veto-proof margin, we will confirm and honor our national identity as a diverse nation where everyone person’s human dignity is recognized and cherished.
As part of my continuing reflection on the Parkland shooting, I wanted to share this moving video of a Parkland student speaking in a listening session with the president, who was holding notes to help him respond with seeming empathy. I continue to react with awe to the voices and activism of the Parkland students and the other teens who have mobilized to demand that lawmakers and other authorities take steps to help protect students and the general public from gun violence.
While many people are advancing serious strategies, others have responded with suggestions that are problematic. The president and some others are promoting the idea of arming teachers, which is opposed by teachers’ organizations and many individual teachers, parents, school board and community members. There was an armed police officer on duty at the high school in Parkland, but he, despite his training and experience, did not intervene in the shooting and has since resigned. How could teachers, with much lower levels of training and experience, ever hope to wound or kill an armed intruder without shooting bystanders? How many accidental discharges or mistakes would there be if 20% of all teachers were armed? In other countries that have suffered a mass shooting and taken effective action, the solution has always been to reduce the firepower in civilian hands, not increase it.
I am also appalled to report that the member of the House of Representatives from my district, Claudia Tenney, has made a number of reprehensible remarks after Parkland, most notably that “so many of these people that commit the mass murders wind up being Democrats.” (There is no data to back up this claim.)
I find this particularly offensive to those of us who live in the Binghamton area. When the mass shooting at the American Civic Association here occurred in 2009, it did not matter whether the shooter was a Republican, Democrat, independent, or not a voter at all. What mattered was that people were killed and wounded, families and communities shattered, and a beloved civic institution damaged. That Representative Tenney could be so dismissive of those of us in the southern part of her district as she vociferously supports a gun manufacturer nearer to where she lives is ye another reason that many of us have already mobilized to hold her to account for her views and votes and to back strong candidates to oppose her in the November election. We deserve a representative who is thoughtful, honest, and committed to the common good.
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.