Sunday, March 25, 2018

Shoot, I missed it!

I have been virulently anti-gun for decades.  Columbine deeply affected me as a Teacher, I read the book on the subject to better understand what truly transpired on that horrendous day and I recall the day of Sandy Hook I was at a "better" high school in Seattle with the class of hell that I walked out the door before my day was "technically" over and realized that this when Toto, we were not in Kansas anymore.

Since that time I cannot recall all the incidents of gun violence - in the mall, in the car, on the street, at the school, at the college, in the house, in the church, at work, at the night club and the movie theater, at a baseball game, at a town hall.   This could be the new Clue with only one weapon and many shooters - almost always white, male and under 30.

I did not go to Nashville's March for Our Lives as I did not go the Women's March nor any other public event in a city I want little or nothing to do with.  The clock is ticking like a time bomb - not that have one should anyone feel compelled to send the Cops to my door, AGAIN (thanks Vanderbilt).  This is called an expression of speech and here in the land of literal and of idiocy the ability to distinguish the two is not possible.

**On that note our School Superintendent when speaking recently about Nashville referred to the people here as crazy, then said that they are always trying to look under his skirt and its like a first date where you have gone from holding hands to aaaargh.  While I agree on the former the latter is perhaps the most absurd metaphor for the recent demands of an audit and explanation of an enrollment drop that led to a 7.5M dollar shortfall.  Yes sexual metaphors always winning in a district with 5 Title IX suits, numerous staff being investigated or terminated due to allegations of assault or sexual impropriety.  Sure good plan, whose crazy now?

Words matter, actions matter and I cannot say enough how proud I am of the students from Stoneman Douglas who organized this and managed all of this during a time of grief, anger and fear.  It is not easy in the best of times for those twice their age I cannot imagine this at age 18.  I participated in that march in my soul and wished I was in DC to see their faces, hear their words and share in their tears.  Instead I watched the CBS Special, 39 Days, which is the amount of time this has happened since the shooting in Parkland.  I was never more proud and it reminded me of why I became a Teacher as the power of kids when they choose the positive over the negative is a powerful force that Star Wars cannot compete. 

But again why I choose to not partake in Nashville is that this is a city divided by three factors: Money, Religion and Race.   Yes, race is at the last of the list as that is exactly how they divide and classify the city priorities.  I cannot stress that enough as I doubt any student from the less academic achieving schools attended said march and we already know that the black community feels slighted here by the movement as theirs are the ones most affected by guns.    Again seeing the correlation that it is the issue of guns that is the commonality and that by access and availability to buy, sell and steal guns the reality is that this community has had way too many young lives lost to gun violence.  And no the black community cannot solve this on their own, they need work, jobs and education in which to climb said proverbial ladder that we know is already wobbly, missing rungs and inadequate, especially those that hold black men.  But through division we conquer. 

I see a conflicted and very typical conundrum when I moved here to the South.  The reality of poverty and marginalization and how that affects generation after generation here as I am constantly reminded of on every corner, outside my window, on every building, sidewalk, building, every park.  Just like guns the signs that mark some utterly irrelevant person or moment in history is there as a constant reminder that this area came from violence; violence that led to people enslaved against their rights and denied their freedoms as established by the same Constitution the gun fuck nuts hold so dear.  A region marked by violence to defend said rights to condemn to servitude individuals brought into a country in which they neither knew or had no choice.  

And that struggle is ongoing today.  Still in shackles but of a different kind, the drug wars, mass incarceration and other bizarre laws to be oddly offset by a litany of social services that are in some ways to compensate and enable the white lords to excuse themselves for it all.  Clearly that did not work.    We have tried laws, we have tried action and we have come back full circle to realize that enough was not enough when it comes to equality.  

So what about guns?  This is parallel to many movements that preceded it and from the children we shall learn.   I have learned many things from the children of Nashville and none of it positive, none of it good.  I write daily about my experiences in the schools and truly I have not been able to count on one hand the positive experiences or encounters I have had with students here.  It makes me embarrassed, angry and sad. I am in total social isolation as with passing encounters the conversations veer towards God, Money and Race.  The reality is that money wants to be in the primary location but in good taste it falls second and then race if addressed is only in veiled words and inferences. 

The tragedy in Parkland is something again in Nashville they ignore with deliberation as little news coverage was given to the march yesterday and little to any of it here at all.   Again not surprising as there is a weird hyper-competitiveness here that is oddly coupled with resignation that dominates all encounters. They spend hours here listing where Nashville falls on ubiquitous lists, still calling itself the "it" city which has long moved on, the endless obsession with sports where even a former terminated football coach called the area what?  Crazy.   Gee ya think?  

Yesterday the "international" airport with only one "international" flight direct did a drill yesterday to demonstrate their handling of an emergency if two planes collided mid air. Not if they collided on the tarmac but MID AIR!  They did this on a Saturday morning where anyone waiting for a flight could witness.  How comforting or how fucking bizarre?   Have they had any major incidents here regarding planes ever?  No.  No Broadway musical will be written about the diversion of flights during a disaster I can assure you.  

I have never seen a city wish, hope and aspire like this one and it includes terrorism, disasters and violence.  They do a fuck all shitty job on the small scale violence that occurs here daily.  Our news is filled with story after story about crimes after crimes, followed by traffic accidents, fires and some more crime then weather than any other news story.  So the march? Barely acknowledged in passing.  And the way it was discussed it was mentioned as "adversarial" and "accusatory" on one station.  And the legion of counter-protesters that usually dominates the discussion were oddly quiet yesterday.  They are all pro life except when it comes to gun violence.  Ah that Jesus thing again.  I guess he packed heat.

At one point I do laugh and then I realized I am laughing not with them but at them.  I have no interest in trying anymore.  As I walk into schools I go to the classroom, remove any potential problems or issues.  Sadly you cannot even put them just on the Teacher's desk as they have no sense of personal space just taking stuff off the desk and I cannot tell you how many signs or instructions about this are posted but reading is not fundamental here. I again experienced this first hand where I wrote the student's instructions on the board about what they needed to do, put the work on a table, in trays, labeled the trays "In" "Out"  and told them to take one from the out box and then put the finished work in the in box, the confusion that resulted blew my mind.. not with a gun.   

Then we have the issues about sex, body space and familiarity as again further demonstrated  in this same school and many others when kids  enter the room and embrace me.   I find this appalling unless you are 8 years old, 16 not so much.   These kids are so fucked up and why I get the puberty thing it transcends anything I have ever seen before.   I am beyond trying to excuse, explain let alone understand any of it.  

So as my clock ticks down, like the time bomb metaphor, I have a year left in which to figure out the road out of here.  I plan on jumping on a plane that won't crash mid air and leave.  Come from away?  I would just to see the "it" city and if 'it' has been cured.  I doubt it. This is terminal.  


'Something has got to be done:' Activists across Tennessee take to streets for gun control
Natalie Allison, USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee Published March 24, 2018 |

As hundreds of thousands of people around the nation marched Saturday in a call for increased gun control, youth and adults in Tennessee were among those moved to action.

In Nashville and Memphis, thousands filled the streets to take part in the nationwide March for Our Lives, a largely student-led event against gun violence in light of a shooting that left 17 dead last month at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

Marchers in Nashville, an estimated 10,000 to 12,000, according to event organizers, filed into the streets of downtown carrying signs with photos of their children, slogans about the danger of attending school and demands for politicians to act.

Families with children and babies in strollers marched alongside teenagers, young adults and the elderly in a diverse demonstration involving a wide spectrum of participants.

“Nineteen grandchildren and I want to keep them,” she said.

"My son was killed by a gun," read the sign Tommy Bugg, 77, held high during the event.

With tears in his eyes throughout the morning, he hugged others he had just met at the march, which was the first time Bugg had attended a protest to make his feelings known about the need for background checks and bans on bump stocks and assault weapons.

In 1981 in Rutherford County, his 17-year-old son Mark Bugg bought a handgun at a firearm store and used it to commit suicide at their home. Bugg, a Navy veteran, said he is still traumatized from finding the teenager dead in the bathtub, fully clothed, with a gunshot wound.

In the years since, he has written letters to his representatives, to senators and to governors calling for laws that make it more difficult to buy a gun — all to no avail, Bugg said. Like others gathered at the Nashville march, many of whom were children and young adults, Saturday was a new experience in activism.

It was that for Catherine Eagle and her daughter Chloe, 17, who drove from Knoxville at 4 a.m. to be a part of the demonstration in Nashville.

The march was a somewhat unlikely activity for a family that takes guns to the shooting range and for a woman who is a member of the National Rifle Association, though Catherine Eagle said she has "always been for gun control."

"I'm all for people having guns within regulations, but we had to be here," she said. "Something has got to be done."

The group was met with nearly zero opposition, bringing out only a couple counterprotesters who regularly show up with religious signs at events around Nashville.

In Clarksville, instead of marching, a small group gathered at McGregor Park, where some shared songs and speeches against gun violence.

More: Students rally for safer schools at March for Our Lives Clarksville

Protests began later in the day at the University of Tennessee, where approximately 1,000 students and activists gathered for the Knoxville March for Our Lives.

Those attending listened to anti-gun violence speakers and then marched to Circle Park.

Dinah Haney, a 15-year-old Powell High School student, was one of several speakers. She said she is "part of the mass shooting generation."

Ed Nelson, Navy veteran and UT student, listed off gun violence events around the country at the Knoxville event, adding "thoughts and prayers," after each. The crowd met it with booing and: "Thoughts and prayers are not enough!"

"I look around you all today and it looks like those thoughts and prayers have been answered," Nelson said at the end.

Led by students chanting "enough is enough," an estimated 1,500 protesters in Memphis marched down Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, bound for the National Civil Rights Museum.

There, they heard from children and young adults who have lost family members to gun violence before the crowd broke into chants of "Don't stop here," calling for those gathered to move to the polls, as speakers did in Nashville.

About 1.500 people swarmed downtown Memphis for the March For Our Lives Saturday morning, calling for stricter gun control laws and safer schools. Brad Vest/The Commercial Appeal

Nashville Mayor David Briley, who took the stage outside Metro Courthouse just before the march began, said to the crowd that "being here is not enough" and was "not going to change" the situation without voting. He urged them to take part in the May 1 primary, which in Nashville also includes a $5.4 billion transit referendum backed by Briley.

"Until you do that, until you start showing that the young people are willing to stand up and see this country go in a different direction, it will not happen," Briley said.

He compared the growing movement calling for gun reform to civil rights actions in the 1960s, likening student organizer Abby Braffman, a Vanderbilt University freshman from Parkland, to Nashville activist Diane Nash.

In 1960, Nash stood on the steps of city hall in Nashville, where Briley and the others had gathered, to ask then-mayor Ben West whether he believed segregation was wrong. West agreed that it was.

"Find out how you're going to sacrifice to change the direction of this city and country," Briley said.

When the group returned to Public Square after the march, Naomi Tutu, daughter of South African anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, warned the group that they "cannot stop here."

Braffman is also new to activism and stumbled into the role of organizer after returning from Parkland after the shooting and making a Facebook event. She said her goal was to gather 5,000 for the march in Nashville. With funds raised, organizers plan to hold another public event.

"Today made me so proud,” she said addressing the crowd as she closed the march. "This has been an incredible roller coaster and the journey does not stop here. I’ve said it a few times and I’ll continue to say it, this is a movement and not a march.”

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