Being the Change


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I’m heading out in a few minutes. Going into Boston to join the revolution.

The March for Our Lives has left me soaked in tears. I feel hopeful, uplifted, empowered, renewed. When I see the clear eyed courage of our young leaders, I feel strong enough to get myself out there and march.

But every time I close my eyes, I see the faces of those little one from Newtown. I see the images from Columbine. I see the images of the teachers who died trying to save them.

I am thrown back to the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, standing in the window of my fifth grade classroom, watching my students run and play at recess. I was terrified. I wanted to bring them back in, I wanted them with me. I wanted them where I could touch each of them, and hold them safely beside me.

I once again feel the hopelessness of that day. I remember moving the furniture in my classroom, after the children had gone home. Maybe if I put this book case near the door, I could push it over if someone burst in with a gun. Maybe I could hit him with my broom.

I remember being told to keep cans of beans in my classroom. Being told that I should be ready to throw beans at an invading assassin. I remember the rage I felt when those whose lives are protected by the armed Secret Service simply shrugged off my fear.

Last night I dreamed of the kids who were in my care on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. I dreamed that they were being swept away in a crowd, and I couldn’t keep track of them. I dreamed of trying to scream their names, but having no voice.

Last night I dreamed of trying to save my students with a can of beans.

This morning I am drying my tears, putting on warm clothes, and getting my aging self out there. My heart still hurts. I’m still afraid.

But today I don’t feel hopeless.

Today I feel enraged. Today I plan to channel the anger and the power of those Parkland kids and all the young activists around this country. I plan to scream until I’m hoarse.

We will be the change we want to see in the world. We will.

Thank God for children, whose energy and spirit and determination can bring the rest of us along the right path.

A Letter To the Parkland Teens


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Dear young activists,

First of all, I am so sorry. I don’t know how to address you. To this 62 year old grandmother, you are children. But I see your strength and courage in the face of tragedy, and I know that you are already grown. To this retired teacher, you are students. But as I watch you lead this lost country toward a better future, I know that you are our teachers.

So I will not call you “children” or “students”. I will go with “young activists,” as I send you this letter.

Dear young activists,

My heart is broken for you. You should NEVER have had to cower in fear in your classrooms. You should never have had to text “goodbye” to your families. You should never have had to bury your friends.  I grieve for you and with you. I wish that my tears could wash away this terror and this pain.

But my dear young powerful Americans,

I thank you. I have been fighting for sensible gun control in this country for so many years. I took my then teen aged daughter to the Million Mom March back in 2000. In those early, innocent days, we were fighting to limit access to handguns.  No one had even imagined semi-automatic rifles.

Can you even imagine?

My dear young survivors,

I want to hug you. I want to take care of you. I am old enough be your grandma. Please remember that even as you call upon all of that incredible youthful energy and rage and fire, you are still only human. Take care of yourself.

I can’t make you a nice plate of pasta, as I constantly wish I could, but I can offer you these few words of advice, taken from my many years of activist work:

  1. Trust yourselves. Stick together. When outside forces seek to weaken you by comparing you to each other or singling one of you out, stay strong, stay true, stay together. You will never find better friends or allies than those who stand with you now.
  2. Keep to your message. The media and the public will try to move you onto other topics, other problems, other issues. Be true to your cause.
  3. Take care of yourselves!! Sleep. Rest. Eat good food. Eat delicious but bad-for-you food. Laugh. Cry. Watch some mindless TV. Recharge. I know too well that we all operate like rechargeable batteries. Don’t let yourselves be drained.
  4. Don’t listen to anyone other than each other. Take every bit of adult advice, suggestion and guidance with a big old grain of salt, including this one. YOU know who you are, and what you need to do.
  5. Let us help you as we can. Let us send you money, but don’t listen when we tell you how to spend it. Let us drive you to your interview, but don’t let us give you a script.

My dear young activists,

I’m sorry that you find yourselves where you are.  I’m so happy to find you in the place where we most need you. You have a very rare and unique opportunity to change the world for the better. And that puts all of you in a very vulnerable place.

I wish you all success and strength and power. I wish you peace, and healing and an end to your sorrow. I wish you a safe place to learn and to grow.

And when the limelight fades, I wish you lives of ordinary beauty and everyday joy. I wish you moments of reflection when you can look back and think, “I made the world better.”

We will march with you on March 24th. We will continue this long, long fight for sanity and safety. 

Love and thanks,

One inspired Nonni

 

 

Here’s a Challenge


Donald J. Trump, the man whose “bone spurs” kept him out of the military, just told a room full of American governors that if he had been there, he would have run right into the school where bullets were ripping people apart. In fact, he said,

‘I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon’

What do I say about such an outrageously stupid comment? Most people move past their superhero fantasies by the time they reach High School. The proof of Trump’s arrested development and pathetic self-aggrandizing is part of my visceral reaction of disgust to these comments.

But more enraging to me is the fact that this overweight, out of shape, coddled, spoiled, rich brat of an old man can say anything he wants, because he will never, ever have to prove it.

On the other hand, if he sticks a gun into the hands of a classroom teacher, that teacher may very well have to prove their courage or die in the attempt.

What a pile of bloviating, steaming, fly infested bull shit.

So I have a challenge for Trump. I’ll issue the same one to Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch, those shameless apologist whores for the NRA.  All three of them have called for arming teachers in order to protect our students from the bullets being sprayed out by military weapons.

I challenge all three of these people to take up a gun themselves.

I challenge all three of them to take part in a simulated active shooter drill. They should carry a loaded gun in a classroom.  The classroom would be filled with real, live, active, bouncy, excitable children. Like most classrooms in this country, it would be overcrowded.

I’d put them in a sixth grade class, since sixth grade is halfway through our public school experience. The kids would have all of the real issues of real kids. ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, hearing loss, physical disabilities, crazy-out-of-control hormones, allergies, divorced parents, hunger, poverty, autism….You know. The regular public school classroom.

I would ask Loesch, LaPierre and Trump to teach math, science, literature, social interactions, civics and history to those kids for a few weeks. They would need to manage recess, lunch, homework corrections, testing, lesson planning, modification of the curriculum to meet the needs of each child.  You know, a regular public school teacher’s job.

At some point when they least expect it, the school should be fake attacked, with a bad guy breaking into the classroom.

Let’s see how well the three Stooges would do in countering an attack with an AR-15 (armed with blanks, of course! We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone!).

Is there anyone on earth who really thinks they would manage to calmly organize the kids, face the shooter and get off a shot? A killing shot?

I dare them.

I challenge them.

Let them try take on this challenge before they have the unmitigated gall to tell me that my daughter needs to carry loaded weapon in her classroom.

If they don’t, then they really need to shut the fuck up and find a REAL solution.

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Put up or shut up, you big fat jackass.

 

THIS is the kind of thing I’d like to see these idiots try.

Proof That Concealed Permit Holders Live In a Dream World

Parental Sacrifice


Remember when your kids were little? It was funny, annoying and sweet to catch yourself making ridiculous sacrifices for them.

I know in my house we sacrificed our precious sleep just to keep those little cuties alive. I bet you did, too!

We sacrificed our date nights when we couldn’t find sitters. We sacrificed our weekends to hockey tournaments and band practice and girl scout camping trips. That’s what adults do for kids! We set aside our own needs and preferences for the children who depended on us.

Whether it was the pulp in our orange juice or the crunch in our peanut butter, we were willing to give up our own pleasures to keep our kids happy.

As a teacher, I remember sacrificing my lunch break for kids who needed someone to talk to. We all sacrificed our weekends to lesson plans so that the kids would have the best week possible.

That’s what adults do. That is how every species has managed to survive. We sacrifice our own needs so that the next generation can thrive.

I know that if someone told me that I should give up a dangerous vice in order to protect our children, I would do it. I have skipped that glass of wine with dinner so I could safely drive the kids to a lesson or a game. I have given up the warmth and comfort of our wood stove, knowing that it made it harder for the kids to breathe.

Adults are genetically predisposed to protect children.

So if I was a person who really had a fabulous time juggling hand grenades, I’d be willing to give that up if I knew it might hurt the kids in my neighborhood. If I was a driver who really enjoyed driving a tank around town, I’d grudgingly stop doing it in order to prevent kids from getting squished.

This is what human being are designed to do. We are designed to protect our children.

So.

Why do the “I really have a good time shooting my AR-15” people think that their “fun” is more important than the lives of our kids? It makes no sense. It defies logic.

I know that if I could save the life of one child by giving up my TV, I’d do it. If I could save the lives of a dozen kids by giving up my laptop, it would be gone. Save a hundred kids by giving up my car? Yup, you can have it.

Save thousands of kids every single year by giving up my assault weapon?

Why would any human being say no to that?

I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

Oh, Those Kids Today


You know what I loved about teaching? It wasn’t the enormous salary or the fabulous overtime pay. It wasn’t the big clunky desk with the three stuck drawers, or the little bathroom that I shared with 25 other adults of both genders.

Nope.

I didn’t love teaching because the 14 meetings a week were so riveting or because the sound of the copy machine was music to my ears. It wasn’t the 15 minute lunches eaten at my desk or the joy of lugging 20 pound curriculum boxes up and down stairs.

None of that was what kept me teaching for three decades.

I loved teaching because there is nothing as exciting as watching children discover their inner power. I loved being in the presence of children who were learning to stretch their tender wings. Watching them learn to take risks, to open themselves to the possibility of failure, to push themselves to take on challenges that loomed so large in front of them…those were the moments that made me catch and hold my breath. Those were the moments that brought tears to my eyes.

 

Children grow, and stretch and carefully inch their way into adulthood. They do it with joy and fear and a constant sense of wonder. When you are in the presence of children, you are filled with the sense of the possible.

In the past week, I have watched hundreds of children turn their rage and their grief into powerful action. The young people of Parkland Florida have humbled me and brought me to tears over and over again. They are articulate, using the force of all that emotion to perfectly express what so many of us have been feeling for years.

They are unfiltered, because they are honest. They don’t know how to twist the truth of what they lived. They don’t try. They lived through their worst nightmares, and they are determined to make us understand what that was like for them.

They are powerful. They believe that they can change the world, so they will. They are still innocent enough to believe that there is justice in this country, so I will believe that for them. They have faith that there is honor in those who sit in our seats of power. But they are wise enough to know that if that honor doesn’t shine at this terrible moment, those seats can be taken away.

Like every one of the children I taught, these young people humble me.

The future belongs to them, and they are beginning to understand that. The students of Parkland, Florida, the students of my home state of Massachusetts, the students in Newtown Connecticut…all of them lift me up. They give me the courage to stand beside them, to keep on fighting, to speak truth to corrupt power.

Children are what keeps this very sad, discouraged old teacher lady going.

Kids today.

Thank the good Lord in Heaven for kids today.

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My Terrible Truth


I try to write carefully on this blog. I try to be thoughtful, to be careful of what I say and how I say it.

I try not to be awful.

But I have learned a terrible, terrible truth today, and this post will focus on that fact. I am afraid that my words will not be chosen carefully today, because they are being lit by the fuse of this terrible truth.

I discovered today that if the circumstances were right, I could kill another human being.

I do not say this lightly. I have often wondered if I would be able to kill an animal if I had to do it in order to feed my family. I’ve never been sure.

I know that I could kill a fish, having done that more than once. I have no qualms about killing and eating a fresh, sweet clam.

If the dark days ever came and my grandkids were truly hungry, I think I could force myself to kill a duck or a turkey. But I doubt that I could ever, ever kill a deer. I can’t stand the thought of killing something so beautiful and so alive.

I see myself as a coward when it comes to taking life. I eat meat, and I don’t condemn those who hunt for food. Still, I have never believed that I myself could actually make the kill.

Until today, I was sure that nothing in the world could ever make me take the life of another human being.  I’ve never served in the military. I’ve never been in law enforcement.

I’m a gentle, tender hearted, nurturing mother figure. I have been a teacher, a speech therapist for disabled children, a mother, a nonni. I rock babies. I cook nutritious soups. I capture spiders and put them back outside.

I hate violence of any kind. I won’t watch violent shows or movies. Other than mosquitoes, I don’t kill anything.

So today, as I sat rocking my 8 month old grandson in my arms, watching the winter afternoon drift by, I thought of myself as a giver of life. A giver of life and tenderness and understanding.

As I sat breathing in the sweet baby smell of my little Johnny’s hair, I didn’t expect the terrible truth to assault me the way that it did.

But the news was on.

And I saw yet another public school surrounded by swat teams, and armored vehicles and men in combat gear. I saw even more children running out of their classrooms with their arms in the air.

Another school shooting. The 18th in the past 6 weeks? The 19th? We are nearly at one a day!

“Again?!” I gasped out loud. “Again??!!!”

I held Johnny tighter. I thought about his mother, my daughter, my child. She is a teacher. She trusts me to keep her babies safe while she nurtures and cares for other people’s children. I am so incredibly afraid for her!

I thought of my former colleagues, at the school where I taught for two decades. I am afraid for them.

I am afraid for every child in this country who kisses their momma goodbye and gets on that big yellow bus.

And as I rocked my baby boy and cried into the softness of his silky hair, I was hit, hard, by the realization that I would happily, joyfully, gleefully blow the fucking heads off of those who have allowed this country to become a place where public schools are shot up every single week.

I tried to stop that thought. It goes against every instinct that I have to harbor such violent wishes.

But you know what?

Just once, just this once, I wish that I could use the complete lack of gun control to satisfy my own desire to protect our teachers and our children.

If I had the guts…..no, let’s be honest….if I had the opportunity… to be in the presence of Wayne LaPierre (head of the NRA), any NRA lobbyist, or any of the members of Congress who have taken money from the gun whores of the NRA…..

I would happily take my legally obtained AR-15 and cheerily insert it directly into the open mouth of any one of them. I would pull the trigger with a sense of relief and pleasure. I would step over the ugly mess that their brains and skull bones made as they were spattered on the nearby wall.

Then I’d offer their families my thoughts and prayers and deepest condolences.

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The face of a killer…in the right circumstances.

She was only a baby


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There was another shooting at another school in the United States this past week.

I know. Yawn, yawn. It doesn’t even make the headlines anymore.

But still.

Think of the teachers who kiss their children goodbye every morning and grab their travel mugs of coffee as they head to school. Think of the parents, millions of them, who pack lunches for their kids and check homework. Picture them kissing their children and putting them on the big yellow bus.

Think about how much trust it takes to send children off to spend the day in the care of other adults. Think about how much trust it takes to go into work every day as a teacher. Think about the number of school shootings that take place in this country every month.

I used to be a teacher. I went to those terrible, horrifying trainings on how to react to a live shooter in our school. I had to keep my door locked at all times, in the event of a shooter coming in to get us.

I used to stay awake at night picturing how I would react if someone burst into my classroom with a weapon. I imagined using my broom to hit the bad guy in the chest or the throat. I imagined telling my ten year old students to lie flat on the floor as I did this. I thought about kicking the weapon away from the killer and I thought about hitting him with my broom, or my feet, or with a big dictionary.

It never felt real. And it never felt it would be enough.

What kind of country asks its children to practice hiding from guns, rather than keeping the guns out of the schools? What kind of insane society asks its teachers to practice taking out a murderer during a reading lesson?

The other day a little girl took hold of a gun and brought it to her Los Angeles middle school. She shot her classmates.

She was 12 years old.

Let me say that again.

She was TWELVE.

She was too young to vote, to order a glass of wine or to get a credit card. She was too young to understand that death is eternal. She was a child. A young child. She was an unhappy pre-adolescent girl who felt bad about herself.

What kind of country would allow her access to a weapon? What kind of sick, twisted, insane society would put this kind of gun into the hand of a sad little girl who doesn’t understand its power?

I am so ashamed to be an American. I am. THIS is why.

I am ashamed because I live in a country that believes that the right to shoot for fun outweighs the rights of children to go to school in safety. I am ashamed because I live in a country that has decided that the millions of NRA dollars are more important the lives of millions of teachers.

We have so completely lost our way, America.

A TWELVE YEAR OLD brought a gun to school and shot up the kids who were bugging her. And nobody in power gives a shit. It didn’t even make the front pages of our national newspapers.

We have lost our way. We are lost. We have abdicated our right to call ourselves merciful, kind or nurturing.

I am sick at heart. And I will forever mourn the adults who let this little girl destroy her own life and the lives of her classmates just so they can tell themselves that they are big old badass gun toting Mericans.

If Canada would have me, I’d be there next week.

 

Again? AGAIN? How Many Babies Have To Die?


I am a liberal. A progressive. A no-war, all peace, hippy dippy Nonni.

But when I saw the faces of those Syrian babies, choking and dying, I wanted to go over there myself and beat the living shit out of Assad, the Russians and everyone who ever helped to create a chemical weapon.

I despise and loathe Donald Trump and everything he stands for. He disgusts me on every level.

But when I saw those babies, gasping for breath, and dying because a bunch of stupid, ignorant, self-absorbed, power hungry adults don’t care enough to protect them, I applauded those bombs dropped in Syria.

Now here I am. Once again. Thinking about babies who are dead for NO REASON at all. NONE.

But this time I’m not talking about war that’s happening thousands of miles away. This time, again, once again, I’m talking about a war on American children. Right here in our own homeland. Right in our towns.

Right there in the classrooms of our youngest children.

Guns. Fucking useless guns.

This time the NRA has once again succeeded in letting an angry, depressed American have a gun. This angry man lived in San Bernardino, California. He was mad at his wife.

He had a gun.

Remember that old saying? “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”?

When you’re depressed, angry, feeling hopeless, and all you have is a killing machine, everything looks like a target.

Even your wife.

Even the sweet, innocent, eight year old boy who happened to be chatting with his teacher when you burst into the room with your slaughtering tool.

And here we are again.

Our government is willing to spend over 70 million dollars to protest the lost lives of those children murdered by their government. But not one of those swaggering macho gunslingers in Washington has the balls to stand up the NRA in defense of little ones like the child who was massacred today while talking to his teacher.

Not one of our so-called leaders has the basic human decency to stand up and say that Newtown was ENOUGH.

I am crying again tonight for the brutal death of a child whose only crime was being born in a country that values the bottom line of the gun industry over its own tender babies.

I’m disgusted.

I feel powerless. I am filled with rage.

Its a damn good thing for the people in Washington that I don’t own a gun.

 

Arms Race


“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It seems that the founding fathers wanted us all to be able to bear arms, without having that right infringed upon in any way.  And the Supreme Court has ruled that these words apply to the rights of individuals, and not just to local militias, no matter that the grammar in the actual amendment seems to say otherwise.

I don’t actually agree with either premise. I don’t think that the founding fathers wanted us all armed, and I don’t think that the second amendment to the Constitution was talking about individual rights.  But I have been overruled.  The law of the land, as interpreted by the Nine Black Riders…..I mean “The Supreme Court”… gives me the right, as an individual American citizen, to “bear arms”.

So let’s just think about the meaning of the word “arms” for a bit, OK?

Given that we are now interpreting the words of the Constitution very literally, we must understand that “arms” are not in any way limited to guns.

“The Arms Race” of the fifties and sixties was definitely not about guns.  That was about nukes.

When we send “arms” to the rebels in Syria/Libya/Egypt, we aren’t just sending rifles. We’re sending F-16s and anti-tank weapons, among other things.

According to Wikipedia, “Arms control is a term for restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation and usage of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction“.

So let’s be clear.

The Supreme Court has said that I, as an individual American citizen, have the absolute right to “bear arms”.

I plan to get myself one of these

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and one of these

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just so I can feel safe in case somebody tries to mess with me or my students.

If you think this seems a bit ridiculous, if you tell yourself that “obviously” that isn’t what the second amendment intended, then I will tell you that its just as obvious that the founders didn’t intend to let the average guy on the street walk around with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns — a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm. plus 500 rounds of ammunition like the Sandy Hook killer did.

We either have the absolute right to bear all kinds of arms, or we don’t.  We either decide that there are no limits, based on the words in the old documents, or we decide that its time to be reasonable and logical, and take the instruments of mass murder out of the hands of the public.

There have been 74 school shootings in this country since Newtown. There were approximately 12,042 gun deaths in the US from Dec. 2012 to Dec. 2013.