Wednesday, October 26, 2016

O, say can you see...

I cannot carry a tune so I mouth the words as  I stand whenever the national anthem begins. Initially I was angered at Colin Kaepernick’s protest sit-down on August 26, 2016, when the national anthem was played. How ironic, I thought, that a football player who plays a game woven with politics and big money and tied into the military and traditionally overtly patriotic, would disrespect the very symbols that support his (12 million dollars a year) livelihood. And, without any risk to himself or to his professional status, as the players are not required to stand during the ceremony. But then something happened, a chain reaction of events and voices in support of his statements that caught my attention and made me examine my premise. I have since reconsidered.

It is the ironies that are much like a can of wiggly assumptions being let out that made me think about Kaepernick’s protest from another perspective. I have always had trouble with "The Star Spangled Banner" being our national anthem; it is a war hymn, glorifying the victory of the Americans against the British at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The United States prides itself on being the peace-keeper of the world. In the War of 1812, there were ex-slaves fighting with the British against their former owners, which makes my favorite goose-bumping refrain, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”, hypocritical. 

It is a difficult song to sing for best professional singer, let alone the average person, but it has been preformed magnificently by many. And, spoofed and lampooned and disparaged by high and low minded of all genres. Remember Jose Feliciano’s performance at Tiger Stadium? Remember athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos with raised fists at the 1968 Olympics medal ceremony? 

Sadly, in 2005, a government-sponsored program, the National Anthem Project was initiated after a Harris poll showed many adults did not know the lyrics or the history of "The Star Spangled Banner." And, there are translations into several languages, including Latin, and the indigenous languages of the Navajo and Cherokee, many of whom fought with the British and Canadians against the Americans in the War of 1812. Yet, after the September 2011 terrorist attacks, the Queen of England allowed a performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Buckingham Palace during the Changing of the Guard and the next day, sang the anthem at a memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, as a tribute and act of support for Americans. That, in my opinion, is the best example of  transfiguration.

I am of two minds about this, but I do not see it as hypocritical or indecisive to say that I have a deep and true respect for what the flag and anthem stand for, the ideal. Yet, I do not appreciate, nor condone, our nation’s past or current history of  racism, waging unconscionable acts of aggression and wars internationally and nationally, against its own citizens. When those who protest bring to the forefront issues we must face and address, I am proud to be an American citizen where protestors have a voice, and a right to use it, and cannot be silenced easily.  A nation needs a conscience and that is the right to protest injustice guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. There are many brave voices raised in protest, past and present—Colin Kaepernick is not the first to take a hard core stance, and hopefully, he will not be the last.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 6: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Part 2)

"Well," he sighed, "perhaps we may have to come to a compromise.  Let me propose this:  I shall call you Dusty, and you may call me," he paused and squinted, but I think beneath the pained expression might have been a glint of humor, "Mr. D only," and he emphasized it again, "only when we are by ourselves.  It is especially important for you to remember this when we come before the Perfect Council.  Do we have an agreement?"

"Sure," I stuck my hand out and we shook on it.  "Now, we'd better get some food for Yugo. He's awfully hungry."

Mr. D bristled.  "I cannot.  We must wait for the Perfect Decision."

"Mr. D," I felt an upsurge of anger that swept away all the cobwebs from my head, "Yugo's fate will be decided whether or not he has a full stomach.  I wouldn't let you go hungry.  You talk about 'the way things are, the way things must be', but have you no sense of what is right or wrong?"

Yugo really perked up while I made my speech and punctuated my sentences with sharp squeals.  Mr. D appeared rather stunned, like he had been frozen for a couple of centuries in the same spot.  He must have considered what I said, because his face thawed into a smile.

"I believe there might be something that the misbegotten could ingest.  Come with me to my house."
I didn't see that we had much choice, whether or not to go to Mr. D's house or back to the desert.  This is the sort of situation you never want to try to explain to your parents, how sometimes you know you're not supposed to do something, but you don't have much of a choice, or if you have, you don't know it.

I think Yugo must have been telling me that it was all right, because I got a sense of being in the right place at the right time.  Although I thought it pretty strange that I was here, thinking about right time and place.  Some of our immediate problems were taken care of, like we were inside the city, not out, so we were some place, not lost, and we at least had the promise of being fed and sheltered.  I would really rather be at home, where I know it would be no problem taking care of Yugo or myself, for that matter.  If I want unreasonable, I have my Dad.

We were the only ones walking along the quiet, empty streets.  Rows of houses bordered the sidewalks, spaced like a perfectly planted garden of lettuce heads all in a row.  "Where are all the others, Mr. D?"

"Oh, childling," he chuckled, "everyone has a place to be and is there.  There is no reason for anyone to be about at this time."

"Is it day or night, Mr. D?"  Yugo was asleep again and I could swear he had grown in just the short time we had been here.

"It is," he answered, then added, probably because I looked like I felt, annoyed, "one and the same, here.  There is no change of season, either."

"I see."  Inside, I recoiled at the thought of sameness, the color of gray.  Yugo stirred but did not awaken.

We walked on, up one, then down another sidewalk, like we were in a brightly lit maze winding through the city, until we stopped in front of one drab, medium-sized house that looked exactly like the other beside it, with one tree per patch of brownish front lawn.

"How do you know which house is yours, Mr. D?"  I asked, not even trying to disguise my disgust.
"Why, I've always lived here!  Third house from the last, the right side of the street.  Simple."  He motioned me to enter, and before the door shut behind us, I got a quick look at the etched nameplate on the door, "Mr. dIAmand" in small, block letters.

"Oh, boy," I looked around, not the least surprised that the living room had an easy chair, one couch, a coffee table, with no magazines or clutter anywhere, and each visible room had the same off-white walls with light green fabric curtains pulled neatly in two halves from the windows.  "Nice place you've got here, Mr. D."  I plopped down on the couch and let Yugo burrow beside me.

"Yes, well, thank you.  I shall be back momentarily with food for Yugo.  If you'll excuse me."

"Sure, and thanks!" I called after him as he hurried to the kitchen.  Mr. D didn't seem all that stuffy now that we were here at his house, almost like he was happy to have us staying with him.  Maybe he had really wanted to do the right thing and take care of Yugo, but didn't want, or couldn't, put himself in the position to be responsible for that kind of decision.  I had no idea what it was going to be like before the Perfect Council, but I made up my mind I wasn't going to let it scare me, or make me do what I knew wasn't right.  Of course, I didn't like to think too much about what 'they' could make me do; I had some ugly images of blood, gore and torture.  But surely, this space and place was civilized, or so I hoped.  Then I looked down at Yugo, softly sleeping against my leg, and questioned how these beings could throw away their own babies and not care for them.  Maybe 'they' wouldn't care if I was a kid or not, no rules need apply here about what's fair or decent or right.  I only prayed that I knew what I was doing when it came time to stand up and face the Perfect Council.  I was sure that Mr. D wouldn't or couldn't offer much more assistance, and since Yugo was the problem, he sure couldn't do much in the way of helping.

Mr. D came back into the living room with a huge glass of thick, chalky stuff that smelled a lot like my old tennis shoes.  "I'm sorry to say that's all I have for him."

Maybe to change the subject quickly, he blurted,  "I have been informed that soon we will go before the Perfect Council, Eliz...Dusty."  He sat down in the easy chair, clasping his hands together and shaking his fur to lay smooth.  "They have agreed to meet in six hours."

"Why so long, why can't we get it over with sooner?"  I had difficulty getting the milkshake fast enough into Yugo's demanding mouth.  He slurped and gurgled while I tried not to slop any of it onto the couch, let alone worry about what was getting on me.  I was going to look real nice after this feeding, just perfect enough to go before the Council.

"Oh, no sooner!  Everyone will want to attend and hear the outcome.  It has become a major issue, and we will be very anxious to know the decision concerning the misbegottens.  It will affect us all, one way or the other."  For a moment, Mr. D lost his smile and I had a flash of misgiving.  "This has created a great deal of talk amongst us, you bringing the misbe...Yugo, here inside the city.  I don't think it will be an easy decision for the Council.  No," he stood and paced between the dining room and living room, "I don't think this is going to be easy for any of us.  Your being here has disrupted us already; we cannot be the same as we were before you came.  But I don't know," he stopped in front of me, clearly distressed, "if this is for the better or not!"

"Changes are always hard, even if they're good for you," I replied, wiping the last glob of liquid from Yugo's chin.  "But isn't that life?  Don't we grow and change all the time?"  I peered up at Mr. D.  "Or do you like living the life of a robot?"

"Oh, childling," he huffed, straightening to his full impressive height, "there's nothing wrong with life being predictable."

I looked pointedly from Yugo to Mr. D.  "Something's wrong with this society, something's really wrong.  And I bet there are some of you that aren't real happy with the way things are."

"Well," he stammered, "I suppose you always have malcontents, in any society.  But not enough to influence the whole network."

"If you're so happy with the way things are, then why did you take us in?"  I felt I was ice skating across the Atlantic, but if I couldn't make Mr. D see my point of view, I knew I was in for some real trouble up ahead.

 He drummed his fingers on the fireplace mantel, answering in a low voice,  "Because, Dusty, you're right.  Something is wrong, terribly wrong with our society.  And I hope," his head turned ever so slowly, his eyes seeking mine in a hard stare, "you can effect changes.  You're the only one that can."
There seemed nothing more to say and Mr. D sat down again.  I wondered just how I was going to convince 'them'.  I held onto the thin thread of hope that if I could change Mr. D's mind, I could change the Perfect Council.  I had to: it was so obviously the right thing to do that I knew I had no choice.  I hoped that if I never got back home, my Mom would somehow know what I had done and be proud of me.

Yugo stretched and purred, flopping into my hands like a cat does, totally relaxed and contented.  Without a worry.  Mr. D reclined in his chair, with his head thrown back and eyes shut, probably asleep, too.  I was wide awake, along with all my concerns.  I felt like we had used up some brownie points, and I sure hoped we hadn't emptied the cookie jar just yet.  Because, I thought as I tucked Yugo close against my leg while he slept easy, what we needed was another minor miracle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Share Why You Write on The National Day on Writing

“We all have our own reasons for why we write, and many are essential to accomplishing our daily plans, not to mention achieving our dreams.” - NCTE Why I Write

Join me and thousands of Americans as we celebrate The National Day on Writing on Thursday, October 20th. Founded by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the day draws attention to the importance of writing in all of our lives.

From text messages and social media posts to journals and novels, all of us write something every day. And, helping the younger generations understand how crucial writing is to communicating their thoughts is what English teachers around the country work tirelessly to do.

Join the celebration!
Ready for a writing challenge?
Participate in the National Novel Writing Month next month! Sign up on the website  to connect with fellow writers to get the support you need to finish before the end of November. Do you think the world is ready to hear what YOU have to day?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Peer Mediation Can Help

"If you can avoid the physical violence and bring people together, you have accomplished what, from the beginning of time, mankind has considered a noble end.” - Richard Blumenthal

“Right in front of my eyes, those 20 students transformed into leaders and into activists.”
by Danielle Ross, MyCorneroftheWorld

“I’ll never forget that Thursday morning last year when my students and I sat together in class and cried.

What could possibly bring a class full of high school students and their teacher to tears? Bullying. We were sharing our personal experiences of being bullied and reliving those feelings that we push down but that don’t ever really go away. It had been 25 years since my “friends” had called me asking about homework and giggling in the background from a party I wasn’t invited to. Twenty-five years later and the pain came rushing back when I shared the experience with my peer counseling students. And I wasn’t the only one; student after student shared similar experiences that happened to them, mostly during elementary school.”

Read the entire article>>

Making Peer Mediation a Part of Campus Life

“Teen skirmishes over rumors, perceived put-downs, and he-said-she-said arguments might seem inconsequential to adults, but to kids they can be major distractions. Mediation by peers can clear up misunderstandings quickly and improve school climate. Included: Ed World visits a peer mediation conference.

In schools, student conflicts can simmer for days. Starting with a glance, a whisper, or an innuendo, and seasoned with rumors, such conflicts can boil over into clique showdowns, shouting matches, threats, or worse.”

Read the entire article>>