Gun Control: WHEN?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked in two professions: journalism and education.

As a newspaper reporter in Danbury, CT, I covered local government: everything from elections to zoning meetings. I attended lengthy Board of Education meetings and would return to the newsroom to write for a midnight deadline. The News-Times then was an afternoon paper. During the day, I’d often return to town hall to meet with government officials, who patiently answered my endless questions about mill rates and taxation, planning and zoning, and all the other aspects of running a town.

I also wrote features on anything I could—human interest it was called, and readers wanted to read about their neighbors doing interesting things. I covered ball games and school plays. I loved the work and newsroom camaraderie — the night staff was mostly young college graduates starting out in their first journalism jobs.

As a teacher, I taught middle schoolers Language Arts, everything from grammar to Shakespeare, test prep and poetry. I loved interacting with my students and nurturing the love of reading and writing. I had wonderful, dedicated colleagues.

In both careers, I never worried about getting killed. I didn’t don a flak jacket and helmet to go to work. I was armed with reporter notebooks, pens, and a camera; and with books, paper clips, markers, and chalk.

Sure,  at town hall, there were some contentious debates and angry constituents. I remember the building of an addition to the library being particularly divisive. In school, I met with parents upset about their child’s progress and even had to defend a popular short story anthology against a group that wanted it banned. (The book won.)

The town I wrote about was Newtown, CT , a sleepy suburb made famous for the horrific school shooting in 2012. I taught in New Jersey, in the city of Newark and the town of South Orange.

Below appears in today’s New York Times:

TO OUR FALLEN COLLEAGUES

Gerald Fischman
Rob Hiaasen
John McNamara
Rebecca Smith
Wendi Winters

These dedicated employees of the Capital Gazette lost their lives on Thursday serving their community. The Times Editorial Board has urged lawmakers to take action to prevent such tragedies: strengthen background checks, take guns away from stalkers and domestic abusers, enact red-flag laws and ban assault weapons. Such moves are still needed. But today we honor these men and women for the sacrifice they made in the name of a free press. They lost their lives for printing the truth.

Please support your local media. Their work is vital, and as this week’s events show, the stakes are high.

Without gun control, anyone who disagrees with you, who suffers from mental illness, who just is in the mood, can purchase a gun and create an instant tragedy.

It’s been 20 years since Columbine. Isn’t it time to say enough? A local press provides information to communities; they are as vital as national and international news organizations. Education and press are backbones of Democracy. I’ve been writing about gun control a lot; I sure would love to retire the subject.

 

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Sharing Amanda at Bat

It’s summer! Little League baseball and t-ball games are in full swing. Before school let out, I shared Amanda at Bat with fourth graders at a public school in Teaneck, NJ. My friend Caleb, one of the teachers, invited me to his class and arranged for me to speak to two others.

I always enjoy the chance to connect with students and loved hearing their reactions and answering their questions. Here are some excerpts from some of the letters they sent me:

We had a great day with you here on Thursday! I loved how you read with expression! Another thing I liked is when Amanda was sad, you showed that she was sad. I loved how you showed how everyone was feeling like sad, happy, angry, and all that. Another thing I liked was when Amanda stood up for herself and you showed her confidence. This is why my class loved you here!– Ashley

It was really cool meeting a book writer because it was my first time, and I enjoyed it. I’m normally into fantasy and my favorite author is Rick Riordan and I would only read Rick but I did like your book. Sometimes some of my friends don’t get picked for baseball teams and they felt the pain but they did make another team they soon got their time to shine. That could be motivational to some people because it may have happened to them also. —  Demetrius   

Thank you for spending your time to come stay with us. I have to say… It was a true honor having a journalist come into our class and reading to us. –Hunain

Thank you for coming in and reading for my class, we don’t get many chances in the whole entire year to have someone read to us like that. Maybe you can write a book about the whole class, that will sure make us happy.  –Jalen

 Amanda at Bat was an amazing story. Please write more books. –Lesley                                                                                    

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Melania’s Coat

via Melania’s Coat

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What A Wonderful World?

This morning I attended my 4-year-old grandson’s end of year show. The class had studied the earth’s biomes all year and each child wore a different costume and sang songs to reflect the many different climates and animals on the planet. My grandson was a proud penguin. 

Before the performance began, the children waved and blew kisses to their beaming parents.

The show’s theme, “What A Wonderful World” contrasted sharply with the images and reports from the news. Watching the show, I saw children filled with promise, excited about summer: day camp, library programs, travel to grandparents, and lazy days swimming and going for ice cream. My joy for my grandson mixed with anger about the children, the same age as those in the room and younger, being separated from their parents.

On the radio, as I drove, I heard horror stories. Tales straight out of both fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, and fact, Nazi Germany, an event  generations have vowed: “never again.”

It’s also UN World Refugee Day.  I want to share my sister Madeline’s Facebook post. She teaches English as a Second Language in the DC area.

A week ago, I delivered a promotion speech to the English Language Learners at my school. I told them how they had left me deeply humbled. In a society where ELL students are seen as limitations or students who are lagging behind their peers, these kids have proven they can do anything at all. They arrived shattered and beyond hope. They came seeking asylum in a country built by immigrants who once sought asylum. My students and all the immigrants before them came here to learn English and build a better life. In the process, they shared lessons about experiences no one should have to witness; about starting over and about transformation. Let’s remember what this country was built on and by whom. When my grandparents, (asylum seekers) came to America, they were greeted: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,……” Their journey wasn’t easy but it wasn’t further traumatized by being put in a cage. This policy is nothing less than inhumane.

As the children sang, “What a Wonderful World” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3yCcXgbKrE, my eyes misted.

Surely, we can do better.

The November election can’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Biking Brittany

Entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont Saint-Michel,  my husband recalled that the former fortress inspired the depiction of Minas Tirith in the third Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King.

And I told him that St. Malo, where we’d biked and toured the previous day, was one of the settings for Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See.

We spent a week cycling in Brittany, France, (though Mont Saint- Michel is on the Normandy border), savoring rolling hills, coastal flats, pastures of cows, fish, wine, bread, desserts. The French respect cyclists, giving wide berth as they drive by. The country’s vast system of bike paths helped us navigate out of the small city of Rennes with ease. The  cycling touring company Abicyclette helped plan our self-guided trip, providing GPS navigation, luggage transfer from hotel to hotel, and airport transfers.

Vive La France!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birthday Giving

My birthday is next Saturday. 

In the morning, I’ll be participating in training to be a debate moderator, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. My local league, which comprises three towns, gets more requests than it can satisfy for moderators for municipal, state, and federal elections.

Later in the day, I’m flying to France for a cycling trip through Brittany.

So as far as birthdays go, I can’t complain. I’ll have a combination of learning, exercising, and eating great food in a beautiful location.

Facebook, because it can’t seem to mind its own business, has already asked me if I’d like to ask my followers to donate to a favorite charity; they even provide a lengthy list to choose from.

I’ve given to many friends’ causes over the years: walks, runs, bike rides for all sorts of charities. All good causes.

So since I’m the girl who needs nothing, I’m asking my friends to donate to any of these charities that are important to me.

League of Women Voters https://www.lwv.org/

I joined the league last year and have been appointed to its board.  I assist in voter registration drives and  I have written and presented “Why Voting Matters” to area school children and hope to expand the program.

Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

I’m reading Cecile Richards’ memoir about her 10 years running this important organization dedicated to women’s health. We have to fight to preserve her legacy.

Son of A Saint http://sonofasaint.org/

I met Sonny Lee nearly four years ago and became immediately inspired by his devotion to ending the cycle of violence that plagues New Orleans youth, particularly boys. I’ve recently joined the SOAS board and am excited to be part of its growth.

If none of these interest you, please donate money or your time to a local Democratic candidate. Our kids’ future and our planet are at stake.

Or the charity of your choice.

Thank you.

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Facing History: Removing Statues

A statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims (1813-1883) was removed from New York City’s Central Park yesterday, after holding court for 84 years. Sims, dubbed “the father of gynecology,” performed surgical experiments on female slaves without anesthesia. His statue will be moved to a cemetery in Brooklyn, where he is buried.

The statue of the South Carolina native was the only one to be removed among several city statues under review. Theodore Roosevelt will remain in front of the Museum of Natural History; Christopher Columbus will stay in Columbus Circle, however markers noting the explorer’s mistreatment of Native Americans will be erected nearby.

New York City isn’t alone in examining the veracity of the history behind its statues, streets, and buildings. Cities and universities are weighing past relationships to slavery and changing names following many protests and debates.

Names matter. To understand why these statues have to come down, read Mitch Landrieu’s In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.

The two-term New Orleans Mayor and former Louisiana lieutenant governor tackles the issue head-on. The statues don’t honor history or heroes.

“They were created as political weapons, part of an effort to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. They helped distort history…. to distract from the terror tactics that deprived African Americans of fundamental rights from the Reconstruction years through Jim Crow until the civil rights movement and the federal court decisions of the 1960s. Institutional inequities in the economic, education, criminal justice, and housing systems exist to this very day,” writes Landrieu.

A visit to Auschwitz in 1980 left an indelible mark on the then 20-year-old college student. Like many, he’d studied the Holocaust in school.

“To read about it from afar is to get a grasp on history and that unspeakable horror. It also allows denial to creep in—That was then, this is now. It is not us. This can never happen in the United States. But when you stand in the very place where so many human beings were murdered in one of the world’s worst atrocities, you wonder how a group of people could become so cruel…”

…”And then the realization came that we had done something like this in America with slavery…”

As mayor, Landrieu, persuaded by his personal friend and New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis, set out to remove the city’s offensive statues. With the city council’s approval, the statues were removed under cover of darkness and amid protests on both sides last year.

…“We can be proud of our ancestors who served the Confederacy as men who fought courageously for a cause larger than themselves. We can also recognize that in the context of history they were wrong.”

Read the book. Pass it along to others. Mitch Landrieu gets what’s wrong with America. I bet he could fix it too.

 

 

 

Posted in Books, Civil Rights History, commentary, Education, New York City, news, Reading, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments