April 20 2007

 We Don’t Have to Send our Children off to War -  They’re Fighting One Right Here in Their Own Country 

My teenage daughter didn’t go to school today.


My husband and I wouldn’t let her. 


Rumor had it that some kids from her school were really, really angry and wanted to let the whole world know it. They had “suggested” to others that maybe people might finally listen to them and do something about all the bullying and name calling they have to put up with everyday in their school if they...


arrive with shotguns and blow people away. Yeah, that’ll teach them.


After all, this is the anniversary of the Columbine School Massacre, so the timing seemed appropriate. Plus, these kids had just lost two of their friends within three weeks. The boy had shot himself in the head, the girl, just yesterday, followed suit. They blame other kids, and perhaps parents too, for their loss and their friends’ misery.  


So yes, the timing was appropriate. Not only that, but there was all the press reports on Virginia Tech where one boy, just one lost boy, made his anger known and now he’ll be forever famous. It’s probably the only way he would have been remembered. Doesn’t matter for a horrific reason. He has made the history books. 


Yep, it all seemed appropriate. 


Word spread Thursday night like hateful rounds of ammunition. Kids told parents (Thank God) and parents called police. Friday morning 80% of kids (some say more) didn’t show up for school [I’ll decline to name which one, and it certainly was not the only school facing this very issue across the nation today].


When I called to report my daughter was absence, the mail box was “full.” I then turned to every news broadcast for more information – what have they found out? Have they made any arrests? I heard only about another local high school, which experienced the exact same kind of threats and opted to close its doors for the day. But not a word about this other school. Why not?


The principal who decided to close his school said it was because emotions were running so high from this weeks’ tragic events, and this day being the anniversary of Columbine, it simply wasn’t worth the risk. 


I agreed - as did every parent who kept their children home today. So why, and who, determined that the threat wasn’t great enough for this other high school – of more than 2, 000 students - to shut down when the threats were the same – and neither had real proof at this point.


[The next day, a local paper reported this principal stating that every year there has been “some kind of issue” relating to this time of year and that “They have just been rumors that have spun out of control.”] 


So how, and when, do you determine how serious the rumors have to be to take some action? Where is the line drawn between out-of-control-rumors, and out-of-control gunslingers? 


Even the city police dismissed this horrific threat to our young people and school administrators because “they thoroughly investigated it” (REALLY? Seems hundreds of kids know more about this situation than these authorities appear to) and “found no evidence of any real danger.” So how did they determine that? Because none of these angry kids actually got on the phone and called the authorities directly?!


And doesn’t hard evidence usually make itself known only after a disaster happens?


If these threats are on public display through a “popular social networking site,” isn’t that enough basis to take these kids seriously?  


Even if authorities did not know for sure who these kids were – someone was making harsh enough threats to alert hundreds, if not nearly a thousand, of other kids (Readers, Take Note: If you ever want something to get out – and fast – forget the news media, just give a teenager a cell phone, sit back and watch how rapid news can indeed travel).  


Of course the tough question here is just how can you know if they’re serious or simply venting? And while I disagree vehemently with this principal’s decision not to close the school in light of these threats – and their timing – I realize that if you close one day, what about the next, and the next?


Then there’s this: If you make a huge deal out of their behavior, you give them what they want, and more attention than they deserve. Yet if you tuck it under the radar (such as this case where there was no mention of it on TV, that I, or anyone I know who watched for it, saw), they may retaliate because they indeed got so little attention, and no one took them seriously. A classic case of damn if ya do, damn if ya don’t. 


But damn it, we better figure out some way to deal with this before it happens again.  


I’m not much up on certain laws, but aren’t verbal threats such as “we’re gonna come in with shotguns and kill people” enough to say YOU WILL BE SEVERELY PUNISHED FOR THIS KIND OF THREAT, or at the very least, WATCHED OVER EVERYTHING YOU DO AND WE WILL BE YOUR BIGGEST NIGHTMARE?


Anyone who does this should be made to wear some kind of warning label, perhaps like a scarlet letter, but instead of a red letter A - how about a bright shade of orange (like the national alert system) of the letters, PK, for Potential Killer. 


And yes, I know that at this point, those who engage in this kind of activity are way beyond feeling like, well maybe this isn’t a good idea. But it’s high time we all pay better attention to those big red flags waving, so we don’t have to pull our American ones down later - at half-mast.


These are tortured souls and anyone in contact with them seem to know who they are, and they need to get the help they so desperately need before they kill themselves (such as those two kids in my daughter’s high school) or someone else. Or packs of them.


We need to speak up more often when we hear or see something that seems a bit off.  Even if we may be wrong. As one woman on the news said yesterday, “Better to be safe than sorry.”


We all know now about the many warning signs others noticed about Cho, yet school administrators couldn’t even alert his family about his increasingly disturbing behavior – for years - because of some sort of “privacy law?” Are you kidding me?


Wake up people. This is the millennium, times have changed, and so should some laws.






It’s interesting that this should come on the heels of the Don Imus debacle. Actually, I’d like to thank him for finally saying something that really - finally - got people mad enough to say, Now you’ve crossed the line. Personally, I think the line’s been crossed way long ago and way too often. 


And I’m sorry (well, actually I’m not) but there is just too much bad stuff that hides under the umbrella of freedom of speech. Yes, I’m a writer and yes, I believe in our right to express our personal opinion (like I’m doing now) and YES, I know all about the endless query on where do you in fact draw that line, and who draws it?  


Here’s a thought: The line gets drawn when you rudely and crudely insult people for shock value, when you use that medium to spread evil into the minds and spirit of others, and when you threaten other people’s lives. Period. 


And the line gets drawn when we let ourselves accept a steady stream of negativity and gratuitous violence into our lives, ignoring the very real fact that little-by-little it eats away at our human spirit. Especially in the past ten years, there’s been so much of it in our faces in every medium that we humans are now immune to much of it. We watch people put guns to heads, or slice hooded hostages, or a hundred of other images (some fiction, others horrifyingly real), on TV and feel nothing. We watch, then simply go about our busy lives. When those real tragedies occur, the only time it really affects us is if it’s someone we know, or we see those innocent faces in the newspaper and on the television screen. We feel it then. But only until we turn the pages, or click on some bizarre reality show to get us away from our own bizarre reality.  


And yes, I know I’m gonna catch hell for this and hear from all those people who say, “Well, it’s our right and all that stuff really doesn’t affect me - it only affects those people who already have mental issues. YA THINK?


And aren’t those the very ones we’re supposed to be worried about?


I rest my case.


Because I’ve got way too much to say on the issue of violence, nasty song lyrics and such, and just not enough time.  


I do believe, as a human race, we are becoming immune to these horrific acts, both fiction and nonfiction. It takes so much more to really shock us these days that it is, in fact, shocking. We’ve allowed all that violence and hatred to seep into our psyche and pay little attention to what it’s doing to us as a human being.


And I’m not just talking TV, radio, video games and CDs when it comes to everything negative – Next time you go into the grocery store, take a look at all those tabloids on the shelves – Here’s just a few regular samplings on relationships (expect of course for those exciting “hot new romances”):


So-and-So Walks Out on So-and So.


So-and-So Seeks Counseling for their Rocky Marriage.


So-and-So says She/He has HAD IT!


Then there’s the latest Rehab Patient, the DUI arrests, the venting of racial slurs, and let’s not forget the “Who’s my baby’s daddy?” so many women ask themselves because they, as my dear sweet grandmother used to say, “just can’t keep their legs together. . . 


And don’t even get me started with how some folks treat their children (ok, I’ll name just one fine example – Alex Baldwin’s phone message to his “11 or 12” year old (seems he’s not quite sure) calling her a pig – AND the fact that his ex, Kim Bassinger, then releases it to the media (uh, I mean, allegedly released it).


Yeah, let’s make it all even worse – particularly to the total humiliation and shame (no, not Alex’s, he deserve it … in my opinion) of that poor daughter caught in the web of pure hatred and blind anger. Simply unbelievable. . .  


I will add, however, that much as I wish I was, I am not a great activist. I’ve tried to shake things up on several issues, such as the massive use of violence and hatred on TV and in music lyrics. I’ve written to sponsors, joined some mailing group where members spread the word about how damaging it is to the human spirit, and talked about the topic to other concerned parents in hopes we could all ban together and make a difference for the next generation.


Yeah, like the flower children on Vietnam. They got far, too, huh?


We’re doing a crappy job at getting it.  


But at least if we’re aware of it, we can strive to move in the right direction. But we’ve got a long way to go and part of that has to do with greed (which I’ll kindly save for another time).  


And yes, we really do need to be nicer to one another - especially you kids who feel that bullying others is fun – look around you and see where it leads.


Sticks and stones do break bones, but names and mean words break spirits.


(For further reading on the kindness issue, please see February’s Entry below] 




But all in all, Life is STILL GOOD!


As previously mentioned, I’m a proud Pollyanna and I think there is still are a lot of my kind of people out there. Despite the tragic events of this week, and others, I still believe that there is more good in the world than bad (one clear example is the way those wonderful and impressive students at Virginia Tech dealt with their tragedy - during and after. I hail them). In closing on these disturbing issues I’ve addressed here, I want to leave you with one of the most profound quotations I have ever read. It reminds us to REMEMBER THE VICTIMS - NOT THE SHOOTER! Surely a step in the right direction.


It comes from Peter Read, father of Mary Read, one of the Virginia Tech victims (and a very wise man): 


“I want to issue a direct personal plea to all the major media. For the love of God and our children, stop broadcasting those images and those words. Choose to focus on life and the love and the light that our children brought into the world, and not on the darkness and the madness and the death.” 




One Good Thing That Happened This Week  


My favorite oldest child (as opposed to my favorite youngest child) had a birthday this week. She made it through her teens (and so did we!) and has grown into one beautiful person, both inside and out.


And while you always want more for your children than you had, and you don’t always agree with some of their decisions (because they’re not yours), if they can step out in the world and stand on their own two feet, and have compassion for people, animals, and nature, get down on your knees and thank God that you brought such a positive force into the world.


We got lucky, twice. Or rather, blessed.


Happy Birthday, Honey 


And spring has finally sprung here in Northeast Ohio. The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and looking out my window just now, I see a para-glider sailing through the blues skies. It is a beautiful scene.  


Yep. Life still is good. 


So till next time -  be grateful for those little things, that really is the big stuff.