Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Love Alcohol as Much as You Love Your Gun: But I am Pro-Alcohol Regulation…Can You Say the Same?

As the conversation continues about what we can do to prevent another tragedy like what happened in Newtown from happening again, we appear to be drowning in quicksand over sticky topics that have no right or wrong answers. Gun owners do not want to talk about guns, video games enthusiasts do not want to talk about violent video games, and mental health advocates do not want all mentally ill patients to be seen as unstable mass murders (because they are not). So we push the blame around and around until the next time Lindsey Lohan is arrested or another Kardashian gets pregnant and we have something else to obsess over. Well I’m not playing the blame game. There are many issues we have to deal with if we are going to try and prevent another horrific tragedy like this one from occurring. Guns are only one piece of the equation. As I argue with pro-gun friends on Facebook, I notice something about their argument…they like guns. Some of them love guns. They have been around guns their whole life. They enjoy shooting and they do not want anything to stop them from engaging in their second amendment right. Well you know what I love as much as you love your gun…alcohol. I do love it…wine, beer, whiskey, champagne…I love it all. I have been drinking it since I was 16. What’s not to love? It makes me feel good, it can ease the stress of a long day, and it can bring out the flavor in a nice meal. And the 21st amendment ensured that I am guaranteed my right to legally enjoy alcohol. But as much as I love alcohol I do not have a problem with laws that regulate it. I will never accept a complete ban on alcohol…we tried that and it did not work. So now we regulate it. Do these regulations make it harder for me to enjoy alcohol? Yes they do. But they also try and keep us safe. Alcohol regulations against people who do not abuse alcohol, is the price we pay for being able to consume alcohol. I know that some people can abuse alcohol. They can become addicted. They can use alcohol as an excuse to hurt or rape someone. They can drive when they had too much to drink and hurt someone else. So knowing all of this, means we have to regulate alcohol. We have to try and prevent incidences of drunk driving, we have to try and keep alcohol out of the hands of kids, and we have to help those with alcohol addiction get treatment. And so we limit the sale of alcohol on certain days and times, we limit who can legally buy alcohol and we punish those who are caught driving their cars when they have had too much to drink. Have we put an end to drunk driving or alcohol poisoning? No we have not. People still drive drunk or drink until they make themselves sick. Does that mean we should stop trying? Should we let anyone who wants alcohol have it since we cannot stop people from abusing it? No it does not. The same way we cannot ban alcohol because some people will abuse it we also cannot do nothing because we cannot stop all of the abuse. So we do something. We do whatever we can to make sure people use alcohol responsibly. So why can’t we do that with your gun? Why can’t we stop people from buying a gun at a gun show without a background check? Why can’t we stop people from buying guns on the internet without a background check? Why can’t we limit who can have access to magazines that hold 30 or more rounds? Why can we not try? If you love your gun as much as I love alcohol why can’t you see that it needs to be regulated? I do not want to take your guns away like I do not want anyone to take away my booze, but I know that alcohol can be dangerous so I am thankful that we have regulations and limitations that try and keep us safe while also allowing us to enjoy an adult beverage. I wish more gun owners felt the same way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Can't Accept This.

I can’t accept this. I can’t accept that this is the world we live in. I know bad things happen. And good people die every day, and children are abused and treated poorly. I know these things. I know the world can be a very dangerous place. But I can’t accept that we now live in a world where we can’t protect 20 kindergarteners*…12 girls and 8 boys…from being murdered. I can’t accept that 4 teachers, a principal, and a school psychologist died protecting children from a gunman. I can’t accept that a mother was murdered and then her son went on a killing spree attacking children. I can’t accept this. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to normalize this. I don’t want to move on, forget, and wait until the next time. There can’t be a next time. My heart is forever broken. I was 22 years old when the Columbine school shooting happened. I was turning 24 years old in 3 days when 9/11 happened. I am 35 years old now, and I never thought I would live to experience the day when 20 children and 7 adults were gunned down…kindergarten children. I taught kindergarten. It was one of the most rewarding years of my life. It was challenging and some days I struggled but deep down I loved being a teacher. I always said kindergarten was a rough year. They were too big to be held like small babies but yet they had not matured enough to be first graders. They were so special, sweet and innocent, helpful and determined. Even the ones who gave me daily headaches could warm my heart with a smile. They were my babies and for that one year I was fortunate to be a part of their lives. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time dealing with this tragedy. The fact that the victims were kindergartners* hits too close to home. How do we accept this? How do we move on? Why would we want to? How does life go back to being normal when the lives of 20 families have been shattered? And what do we do to ensure that this never happens again? BECAUSE IT CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN! We can’t live in a world where this is the norm…where we lower the flags and go back to business as usual. Where we pay lip service to gun control and mental health support until the next tragedy occurs. We can’t let this happen again. I do not accept that this is the world we live in. I know we need to talk about gun control or what I prefer to call gun responsibility. Because it is about responsibility, not control. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to attack the NRA or demand that teachers go to school armed. I want to mourn for the victims and find a way to prevent this from ever happening again. Some say we can’t, that there is nothing we can do, but I can’t accept that. We can’t live in a world where kindergartners and their teachers are no longer safe. If we can put a man on the moon why can’t we protect our children? Don’t tell me we can’t do it. We can. We choose not to. And I can’t accept that any longer. It’s not easy talking about guns. Like abortion, it is an issue that divides us. Unlike abortion, it is not a private medical procedure that should be between a woman and her doctor. Guns affect all of us. We use guns to protect us and to harm others. And sometimes we are harmed and killed when people use guns against us. Our founding fathers wrote the right to bear arms as the second amendment to the Constitution. And although they could have never imagined what our world would be like now, they knew that fundamentally we have the right to protect ourselves from our government and fellow Americans who would want to harm us. But now things are different. And guns are big business. And it’s easier for some kids to get a gun than a job. And people who are mentally unstable can obtain guns quicker than they can receive treatment for their mental problems. And on Friday December 14, 2012, a gunman killed his mother, 20 kindergarten* children, four teachers, a principal, and a school psychologist. That is where we are today and something must be done. So if we are going to talk about guns I suggest we enforce two rules to frame the discussion: 1. We CANNOT ban all guns. 2. We HAVE TO do something to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again. I was once asked by a marine who was pro-gun if I would prefer a world where no one had guns or everyone had a gun and I of course said no one. In an ideal world we would not need guns and no one, not even police would have them. But I’m a realist and I know this is not a possibility. We can’t ban all guns, the same way we can’t deport 5 million undocumented workers. And when we try and have a meaningful conversation about gun responsibility we cannot begin with a fallacy. We cannot ever ban all guns. It is not possible. So if that is your only solution then you can’t join in this discussion. On the flip side, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. Anti-gun people might want to ban all guns, but pro-gun people want to do nothing. They don’t want to blame a gun for the deaths of those children and their teachers. They blame the shooter and we all should blame him. But he used a gun. He did not use a knife, like the guy in China, and none of his victims survived because he used a gun, not a knife. Guns kill people, when people use them to kill. They have no other purpose but to kill. It’s not OK to only blame the individual and ignore our culture that is obsessed with guns. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. If you think that now is not the time to do anything or that nothing can be cone then you can’t join in this discussion. These are my rules that should be implemented if we are going to have a meaningful conversation about guns. I hope we will have this discussion because now is the time. I hope we will listen to each other, and remember the victims from Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Columbine, and all the other victims of schools/mass shootings. We owe it to them to do something now. And in the end I pray that somehow things change. We find a way to love each other and protect our babies from all the evil in the world. We find a way to help each other and support each other when in need. I can’t take part in this meaningful conversation right now. My heart is broken and I am beyond wrecked with grief over this tragedy. All I can do is mourn and pray for God to comfort the families of the victims and to comfort all of us now as we grieve for those precious babies who were taken from us. But now is the time to talk and to do something. Because this can’t happen again...we can’t let it. Rest in Peace: Charlotte Bacon, 6 Daniel Barden, 7 Olivia Engel, 6 Josephine Gay, 7 Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 Dylan Hockley, 6 Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 Chase Kowalski, 7 Jesse Lewis, 6 James Mattioli, 6 Grace McDonnell, 7 Emilie Parker, 6 Jack Pinto, 6 Noah Pozner, 6 Caroline Previdi, 6 Jessica Rekos, 6 Aveille Richman, 6 Benjamin Wheeler, 6 Allison N Wyatt, 6 Rachel Davino, 29, Teacher Dawn Hochsprung, 47, School Principal Nancy Lanza, 52, Mother of gunman Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30, Teacher Mary Sherlach, 56, School Psychologist Victoria Soto, 27, Teacher *Update: I have learned that all of the victims were first graders not kindergarten. It doesn't change anything. Any grade is to young, even high school.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Response to the SOTU

I started writing a response to a Facebook post and then realized I had more to say. So here is my response to President Obama's State of the Union speech, especially what he had to say about education.

I'm glad he mentioned teaching to the test but the President's education plan is deeply flawed. He said we needed more competition in education and this is a huge fallacy.

Education is NOT a business.

Educating children to be competent for the future cannot be reduced to a test score. The testing industry is strangling the American public education system to death. Cash strapped schools spend precious resources on testing materials while children get less art, less music, and less physical education and recess.

I support our President. I believe he is the right man for the job. But I think he's been misled by corporate reformers who control our educational system.

I ask President Obama to think about the school his two beautiful daughters attend. I believe the school is called Sidwell Friends. If you think that school is good enough for your children then it should be good enough for all our children. Start from there. Demand that all children have access to high quality schools that you would want for your own children. Schools that do not drill and kill our children with high stakes testing and a suffocating curriculum. Want the best schools for all of America's children and then set out to make that a reality.

Listen to those who work closest with America’s children: our teachers. They are trained in education unlike you and the corporate reformers. They are invested in making public schools work. But they are kept away from a seat at the table where educational policies are put into play that has real consequences for real children. You must value the voices of the teachers and parents over the desires of corporate philanthropists, CEO’s, and hedge fund managers who seek to turn education into a commodity.

I know they talk a good game about accountability, school choice, and helping all children, but I beg of you to make sure you are hearing both sides of the education debate. There are ways to increase academic achievement and improve public schools but you will not find them on a standardized test. So why not start by asking a teacher?