(This post was mostly written yesterday morning, 9/11/21.)
Twenty years ago today, at almost this exact time — 9am, I was standing in front of a small class of seventh and eighth graders. The final bell signaling the start of the day had just wrung. I was new to that school, having just transferred from a different assignment; but we were all rather new considering the school year had only started a week or so prior. A teacher from across the hall came to the door that day and simply said, “You might want to turn on the television, something important has just happened.”
I did not intend to write this postand tell this story, but his morning I found myself unable to think of other things. It was hard, of course, not to think of 9/11/2001 in recent days. The television, newspapers and radio that I peruse has been full of it, and rightly so. What really got me reflecting is that, once again, I was going to be standing in front of many young and impressionable minds, the day before –a Friday– this tragedy’s 20th anniversary. What should I say to them about it?
Sadly, I chose to sayNothing! I considered talking to them of it; they were not even born in ’01; I felt I had an obligation. And it would have been a difficult discussion. The students at the high school, at which I am now substitute teaching on a long term assignment, are not a highly sophisticated group, but they are a diverse group. We have a significant population of Muslim students and a significant group of working class white students who come from politically conservative families (when these families choose to be political at all.) I wish the current situation was more ideal. I would have liked to try it. Imagine attempting to explain the religious background of this historical event.
But our current situation is far from ideal. I am at my maximum in work and issues. In my 8th period class, out of 22, 15 were not present, but of those absent, 4 were out for reasons not of sickness or quarantine. Our high schoolers are encouraged to wear masks but only middle schoolers and lower are required to mask by our district. I am occasionally called by administrators and asked to look back at my notes and try to recount to them who was in contact or near or wearing a mask in the vicinity of a particular student now positively Corona-tested. And those students that are frequently attending, many of them are not re-adjusting well to a return to full-time learning. Motivation and on-task behavior are a frequent issue. I am teaching mostly juniors in their English class, and they have not had a normal and uninterrupted school year since their 8th grade year!
So, I chose not to mention 9/11 and no student did either.We have enough of our own tragedies today.
But, 20 years ago, we did not. Why did I turn on the television that day 20 years ago? I was teaching a Special Education class that was composed of mostly a small group of boys with ADHD, anger issues, non-compliance, and less severe autism. I have often thought since then, why did I so automatically just tune in? I think I had the confidence that I could walk them through whatever was happening.
No sooner than we tuned in, and no sooner than I was explaining that it was a terrorist attack, The Second Plane came curving into sight and crashed into the second tower! We sat in shock and watched, as did much of the rest of the nation!
My students handled it well, and I talked and explained and re-assured them for many hours that day. We did not watch the reporting for the entire school day, and an hour or two in, I decided to attempt to return to some normal school activities. I told my students, that is what we must do, that “the terrorists want us to panic and stop doing what we should do.” That went really well, those young guys rose to the occasion.
There are two things that stand out in my memoryfrom the rest of that day. First, throughout the day as we sat trying to focus on school work, the PA system began to increasingly interrupt us calling individual students to go to the office for dismissal. Parents were taking their kids home. Kids were calling home asking to be removed. By the end of the day, it was strange sitting there and talking to the students who remained, many of whom were kids in my room (thus part of the nature of Special Ed — families a little bit different).
Secondly, I remember a comment by one of my students, a rather highly-charged eighth grader This special ed. class had what is called, “a levels system.” It was to monitor good behavior and reward increasing or decreasing opportunities according to performance. “Level 1” was the lowest level for students needing the most guidance, the most structure, the most care. They were not even allowed to walk down the hall alone to the fountain, an adult had to escort them. After watching and discussing the tragedy for quite awhile, his comment was “I feel like I want to be on Level 1.” My response was, “Joey, I think we all feel that way.” Indeed, in the days of that tragedy 20 years ago, we all needed extra care, extra guidance and whatever additional security we could find. Today’s world feels a bit the same.
There are some interesting developments in the schools these days. I cannot comment on all schools, of course, only the few in which I work, and that is what I have been doing lately—working. I have taken on a long-term subbing job in a public high school, teaching algebra to the end of the year (about three weeks). Why, you may ask?
The school is an interesting one, to me. It is on the southwest side of Columbus (not far from my home) in an area that is rather impoverished and crime ridden. The neighborhood is definitely “blue collar” and high school educated at best. The school’s student population is very diverse. I will estimate racially, about 50+% White, 15% Black, 15% Hispanic, 15% Somalian (and other Africans), and even a small contingent of Ukrainians! In spite of these demographics, the school has been called “a little gem,” by some. It is generally orderly, and many students there are fairly successful in diverse ways. A veteran teacher once commented that “the kids are not great students, but they are good kids.” “Good” as in, good-hearted, well-intended, but not necessarily quiet and focused on the teacher.
Well, I am a retired teacher and I do enjoy the interaction with these kids, many of them at least. Even some ofthe less cooperative provide an opportunity for me to be influential: be creative verbally, engage them personally with a few jests-jibes and challenging directives. Some of them, you just mostly sit back; unfortunately, there is little to be done or little they will let you try to do to encourage them that school is worth trying. In three of my class periods I have the assistance of a co-teacher, an Intervention Specialist, because those classes have many students with “special needs,” like “learning disabilities” or “behavior problems” or both. And many of the kids are great, and very appreciative of my attention, concern, enthusiastic teaching, and treachery silliness. I do say and do things that often incite laughter or at least smiles.
One of my classes is “ESL” students, English as a Second Language, and this means mostly Hispanic kids in this school. It surprised me at first to learn that this does not mean overwhelmingly Mexican; a significant percentage of these students are Honduran, Porto Rican, Guatemalan. To me, they all seemed ‘just’ Hispanic, but to them, these differences are obvious and somewhat important. The famous tradition, Night of The Dead, is not celebrated much beyond Mexico, for example; various phrases and slang are also limited to specific parts of Central America.
One example of fun at school, involves this group of mostly sophomores and juniors. Recently when I continued to try to insist that they focus on algebra and less on chatting and silliness as they too often do; I was saying again that it is “rude” to be talking while I am trying to address the class. One of the louder and most prominent boys suggested that I tell the group in these situations, “mucho chingas,” to which most of the group snickered. I asked him what that meant and he said “too much talk.” And when I continued to seek clarification, several of the guys ended up agreeing that it meant ‘too much disrespectful talking.’ These students often have small discussions about what is the most accurate translation of a phrase they use, into English.
Well, I did then bark out, “Mucho chingas, Back to work!” but retained suspicions. The next day, I used the phrase several times, much to the delight of most of the class, but then cornered some of the “nicest’ and most studious girls later and asked, “Now, what does that Exactly mean?” They could not, and even would not, say; but all agreed– in the end — that I should not say it.
Now, I had to find out for sure, its exact meaning. When I had the opportunity, I went upstairs to the Spanish-Speakers Translator, and asked. Several students were present, and all present, including me, began chuckling. At first, she (the translator) had no precise answer but did say it meant something like “too much talk,” but there was a more precise translation that she could not tell me. “What?” I said, “does it have to do with sex or something?” and she said “No.” I persisted, asking her to whisper it to me quietly, but she said she could not. More laughter, by all present. Finally, she typed it into her lap top for a translation (which I could have done!) and showed me the answer. “Too much shit.”
Not All is Fun and Games
Being the end of the year, my duties included reviewing for the final Unit Test (quadratic equations), and its administration, and the same for the Final Exam which is coming this week. I take this Algebra seriously, but also try to make it like a puzzle, and a challenge that all can rise to. I pride myself on my ability to explain things clearly, and sometimes kids acknowledge that.
In the third period each day, I do a study hall, usually an easy assignment. This week, in the back of the class, a girl I had always marked as absent, and did not know, suddenly appeared on Monday and sat — quietly — looking at her phone. I did not engage her other than to remark I was glad she was here. The same went for Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, a few minutes after the start-bell, Markya (Mar-k[long i ] short a—but no real names used) stood up and quietly and quickly walked out the class door near her seat in the back. Luckily, I had noticed and wondered. After several minutes and she did not return, I went back to investigate. Thinking she had shot out to use the restroom (without asking), I looked down the hall only to here some rather loud voices from a nearby classroom. Soon the voices got louder. I heard someone yell, “You white bitch” and then the volume really increased. “Trouble,” I thought, and I turned to secure my own class, thinking “they’ll break it up.”
But a break-up did not occur. The shouting increased, noises of a scuffle became evident, and still I stood in the door directing my class to stay seated and calm. Soon, with my class cooperating and the fight seemingly escalating, I went to help.
As I was heading there, about three doors down, I was directing students to stay in their rooms, when another student I knew was rushing from the other direction. I told Serina to go back to her class, but she ignored me and rushed in ahead.
Serina is a very uncooperative girl. I knew her from my first period class. She is a junior and physically attractive, rather large and very fit; she should be a track athlete but is not. My experience with her in first period is she usually comes late and then does no work, instead talks on her phone. Twice when asked for her tardy slip, she did not have one. When asked to go get one, she just simply looked at us coldly and firmly said “No.” The day before we both arrived at that door at the same time, I had written her up for various acts of insubordination and defiance. Apparently, the write-up did not get processed in time.
So as I looked in that door of the room of the commotion, all I saw was a large tangle of people.Chaos. Some were students fighting; some were students trying to break it up, I later realized. Several staff were in there trying to disengage students. There was a lot of yelling and furniture knocking about. I could discern very little organization to it. Who were the combatants? Who were the aggressors? What exactly was going on?
But Serina apparently knew. She had been texted. She knew it was going down, who was getting jumped and why. So she went flying in ahead of me and went right to the middle of it and leaped on top with fists flailing. At least I could discern her role! I took her by the waste and pulled her back, but I could not hold her! She was like a bull; her adrenalin flowing full force. I turned to try to help some staff next to me who were pulling apart two girls who had hold of fistfuls of each other’s hair, only to realize it was making one of them totally vulnerable to the blows of a third girl.
At that point I began to worry. This fight was too much for us. We could not stop it, and I began to back out, thinking that I was not helping, that I could easily be hurt, and that re-enforcements were necessary. Just then, a male student suddenly stumbled toward me with a smaller girl in his grasp. She was screaming that she was going “to kill that bitch” and fighting his efforts to remove her from the battle. I took hold of one of her arms and told him, “lets get her out of here” and we pulled her to the nearby door, out of the room and across the hall to an empty class. She ranted and raved for a couple of minutes, but then started to calm. An assistant principal (and former college football player) soon came in and took over.
Apparently, across the hall re-enforcements had arrived, and the fight had been dissected into its individual raging girls, who had finally been separated and confined. Gladly, I returned to my room where I tried to catch my breath, thank my students for behaving so appropriately, and report to the principals what I knew.
Yes, Markya was the first girl from outside that class to arrive and help start the attack on the girl being jumped. The girl attacked did a fairly good job of defending herself after being sucker punched, and may have had some help from a friend. Serina was also one of the main aggressors and was suspended for the rest of the year. As last I heard, it was determined that there were 4 or 5 girls basically fighting, with three the definite aggressors.
Markya, I later learned from the Intervention Specialist, has had a rough row to hoe. Homeless with her mother for most of the year, now she was in a foster home. Those three days before the fight were the only days she had been at school for months, but no one gave me a heads-up. Those three days, and up to the the third period fight, are the only schooling she received (or will receive) in a long time. Suspended the rest of this school year. Sadly, that is the way it seems to work, sometimes and for some people.
I hope you don’t give up, Markya! Things can be better.
The Pandemic’s Effect on Some Children
I was talking to one of the older, lady teachers the other day, and she had some insightful comments. She felt that our juniors were like sophomores, academically and emotionally. They had missed an entire year and more of Normal Schooling; missed our influence on their emotional development on a day to day basis and under Normal Circumstances. There is a lot of absenteeism. At this point, when we are trying to resume normality, these students are behind and feeling awkward and struggling with Regular Schooling. These are high-schoolers. My wife says her pre-schoolers and kindergarteners are emotional basket cases; they cry at the least provocation. Each– pre-school and high school– have been isolated too long from the influence of our larger society.
With our children, we are going to have to play catch-up. The pandemic took this emotional toll, too.
Back to teaching Algebra Tuesday, Final Exams start Wednesday!
Acts of political and personal courage should be acknowledged, especially these days. Liz Cheney is standing firm against “The Big Lie,” that her party actually won the past presidential election, that it was “stolen.” 70% of Republicans believe it was illegitimate, according to CBS Nightly News. Cheney is the daughter of Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney and a conservative congresswoman from Wyoming. Despite these bone fides she is under attack from Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership for her efforts to uphold our country’s democratic integrity.
“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote May 5th in an op-ed for the Washington Post. She declares that Republicans must stand with “the rule of law” and reject “the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”
Here in Ohio, we face a similar challenge. Will Jane Timken attempt to defend the indefensible? In her guest column in The Dispatch of 4/13, “President, Allies on Reckless Tax-and-Spend Policy Program,” Timken—former chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party– emphasizes her allegiance to former President Trump.
She will “advance an America First agenda.” She will oppose “the far-left agenda” of the “radical” Green New Deal. She credits Mr. Trump with the development of the vaccines that have “turned a corner” on the COVID pandemic. Yes, these same vaccines that many Republicans now refuse to get.
This last contention, especially, raises the question, will she play fast and loose with the facts as does Trump? We all know that the Trump administration deserves no credit for containing or defeating this virus. Mr. Trump opposed mask-wearing and declined to social distance. Several of his events became mass spreaders. His administration provided little guidance, support or coordination to our states during this clearly national crisis.
Ms. Timken seeks the Republican nomination for Ohio’s soon-to-be-vacated senatorial seat. At the start of every Q & A session of her campaign she should be asked, “Do you believe the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen by the Democrats?” Unless she clearly and unequivocally rejects this lie, it should be held as the central issue of her candidacy.
There is little question that there is no real or ample proof of a fraudulent election. Beyond Cheney, other stalwart Republicans are disavowing the lie.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’scourageous speech after the traitorous events of January 6th stands out as a highlight in contemporary American politics. “Enough is enough,” he said, “It is over…Joe Biden is the legitimate President of The United States.” Graham continued by saying that he has been told there are thousands of fraudulent votes in Georgia and Arizona, to which he replied, “give me ten”—show me proof of ten—but the result was zero, “haven’t got one.” No proof has been presented to him, he declared.
Recently, an old hand in Ohio and American Republican politics—John Boehner, commented (NPR, 4/12) that he believes former President Trump has “abused the loyalty and trust of his supporters.” On the supposed illegitimate votes, “There’s really been nothing of any significance that would have changed one state’s election outcome, not one…nothing even close,” he said. Boehner is a former Ohio congressman and Speaker of The House of Representatives.
This lie needs to be rejected. The self-serving, delusional, and paranoid thinking that is at its basis, needs to be rejected. American politics is not often pretty, but our electoral integrity stands true.It is our American “miracle” writes Cheney, quoting the Republican Party idol, former President Ronald Reagan.
2092 Steffi Dr. Hilliard, 43026; phone: 614-625-2338
It feels like a massive storm has descended upon us, a storm of biblical proportions. For more than 40 days and 40 nights we have endured. Mercifully, the George Floyd jury found former Officer Chauvin guilty on Tuesday 4/20. Without that, our boat may have swamped.
No sooner than the skies started to clear with that verdict, actually about 20 minutes before its announcement, here in my own Columbus another tragedy befell us. Ma’Khia Bryant was shot to death by a police officer. She was a 16 year old African-American girl in the act of swinging a knife at another girl in the midst of an apparent brawl. All caught on body camera. Further, the officer, himself, was but a kid, a 23 years old and on the force one year.
Tragedy is the norm these days, and bullets were also raining in this town on the previous Saturday, 4/17. In an event worthy of much more attention, LaToya Renee Carpenter, 32, died when struck in the head by a stray while driving to pick up her 11 year old at 7:30 pm. Ironically, a vigil was in process on the southeast side for a homicide that occurred one year previously in a “drug deal gone bad” according to The Columbus Dispatch and police reports. An SUV drove by this vigil, and sprayed the small group with bullets injuring 9 and killing LaToya while in the act of being a good mother—her daughter now motherless and her fiancé without a partner.
Black lives do matter, and very sadly they are being wasted on all fronts. The Violence Data Brief for Franklin County compiled by the City of Columbus informs us that African-Americans are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized by firearms-related assault than Whites. Black men are 14 times more likely to die by gun violence than white men—48.4 to 3.4 per 100,000. Latoya Carpenter’s death was the 60th this year, a full two months ahead of last year’s record-setting pace of 170 homicides for this city. Almost 75% of U.S. homicides are committed with a gun.
And indeed they are. We are also amidst a tsunami of mass murder.
Atlanta, March 16; 8 shot dead at spas by a man seeking to solve his sex addiction by eliminating the temptation, according to him.
Bolder, March 22; 10 killed while shopping for groceries by a man prone to outbursts of rage.
Rock Hill, South Carolina, April 7; 6 killed (two of which children), shot for no apparent reason by a man mentally ill ever since his professional football career, contends his father.
Indianapolis, April 15; 8 killed at a Fed Ex terminal by a pimpled 19 year old whose mother had legally removed a shotgun from his possession only to have him buy new assault rifles to commit this blood-letting.
So, what to do? There are many things that could be done and many things that should be tried. New police training, removal of officers with questionable records, discontinuation of the use of police as the initial and primary intervention in mental health and domestic problems. Even minor traffic issues are not always best resolved by the intervention of a white man with badge and gun.
And what of the guns themselves? Too many, too easy to get, too easy to use, too carelessly owned, too powerful for any reasonable purpose. It’s time to rebuild our flood walls and stop the flow of these vile devices. If only they were just used for hunting and self-defense! No real right need be violated to stem these waters.
There is too much death in our time. I’m drowning. We’re drowning! Efforts will continue to mitigate this disaster. Please help. More votes will be taken, petitions signed, more marches will be held, and we need to be there. My sign will say, “Too Much Violence, Too Many Guns.”
(This old business is sad business! Three mass shooting in the US in less than a month! I have a new sign in my front yard, but still no progress on gun regulation in Ohio or in Washington, though President Biden is planning to take some executive actions.
I found this draft of a post in my file and decided to run it at this point. My wife asked me not to publish it initially, she was worried by the threatening letter I had received. At this point, over a year and a half after the mass murder in my home town of Dayton, our Republican Governor’s modest package of gun controls has been rejected by our Republican controlled legislature.
But now, after the Atlanta, Bolder, and Texas shootings, I refuse to give up especially in light of the stupidity that composes so much of the opposition to any efforts to control these vile and excessive weapons!The weapon used in Bolder was a semi-automatic pistol with modifications. Here is the original draft –following the pictures–now published with some modifications.)
(Top Left, one of three shooting sites inAtlanta area where 8 woman were killed by a 21 year old “strict” Christian man who said he had a sex addiction and was eliminating his temptation.. Middle, King Sooper grocery store where 10 were killed by a young man with known mental problems using a semi-automatic pistol that he had purchased just days before; he shot it out with police in store before being arrested. Right or Bottom, Texas cabinet factory where a 27 year old disgruntled worker killed 1 and wounded 5 two of which still in critical condition, one a responding police officer.)
The Original Post following the Dayton Murders
On Sept. 13, (2019) The Columbus Dispatch published a letter I submitted arguing for a tightening of Ohio gun laws. The paper is not “The Disgrace”, far from it; it has a moderate Republican orientation and went so far as to endorse Hillary in ’16 and is calling for gun control now. About five weeks after the mass shooting in Dayton took the lives of 9 innocent people in a 24 second hail of gunfire, I wrote the editor and was published. It still shocks and angers me that in 24 seconds, 9 people could be killed and 17 injured. My letter was most immediately prompted by a set of proposals tentatively put forward by our Governor. In response to my letter, I received at home through the mail a rather peculiar and unfortunate response. My letter and parts of the reply are printed below. Its writer included a fake name and address, I discovered upon further research.
Momentum is building for gun restrictions
Our Republican governor has conjured up the courage to defy the National Rifle Association and the bulk of his party’s elected officials and will be putting forth a weak-kneed proposal involving 17 actions — including some mental health up-grades — that is far better than nothing. It is time to turn the cultural tide against guns.
It is time to expand the limitations of the right to own a gun, a right that has already been appropriately limited with our agreed-upon outlawing of automatic weapons. We obviously need to go further.
Ohioans have the right to public safety. Our children have the right to be safe in school. Manhood is not about owning a gun and certainly not about owning a military-style weapon.
Better than the governor’s upcoming “red flag” proposal is the one currently being sponsored by state Democrats and the courageous and clear-thinking Republican state Sen. Peggy Lehner from the Dayton area. It proposes a court hearing on the safety of a given individual’s possession of a gun and then allows that individual to respond in court if the weapons are removed.
Even in Washington, D.C., there is renewed pressure to, as the people of Dayton shouted, “Do something!”
Readers should call or write their elected officials. Put a sign in the yard. There is an upcoming rally and march downtown on Wednesday with the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Act now!
A rather simple and straight-forward set of points. All except for the manhood comment, which I was rather surprised The Dispatch printed. I am familiar with letters to editor (LTE) and I thought that comment would be removed in editing as too testy.
Here are some exerts from the response I received. My wife has asked me not to make too much of this incident, not wanting to provoke further hostility. I agree, and will provide for you just a sense of it. It consisted of two pages, the first is described below. It was extreme. His caps and bolding.
HEY……WHAT THE FUCK WOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT MANHOOD! My take upon reading your LTE submittal to The Columbus DisGrace is YOU are undoubtedly a naive, sniveling , sentient cry-baby pussy who collapses at the slightest provocative action! You could be a #MeToo, or a tree-huggin enviroWacko ! BTW, I’m continually amazed that The Columbus Disgrace doesn’t run out of confused Democrat schlubs like you….
LISTEN UP YOU COWARDLY DUMB MOTHER-FUCKER! Red Flag Laws or Universal BackGround Checks maybe feel good non-remedies to the Gee I Pissed My Pants Crowd but they are also utterly useless and ineffective deterrents ! Admit it ASSWIPE You want “gun confiscation” and abolishment of 2nd Amendment ! …Americans will NEVER….NEVER …EVER give up their guns! Guess who looses this argument ?….
KNOW THIS, YOU’RE A POOR EXCUSE FOR A MALE AND AN AMERICAN! Know also that when the anarchy for which you unwittingly advocate for and promulgate breaks out….it’s most probable that you won’t be able to scatter your old wrinkly , pansy ASS to the tall weeds ! Why’s that you axe ? Well….. could it be a dull machete intervened ? Could be , since the God of Abraham knows where you live. The (3) Eyed Raven has now been assigned to keep a vigilant eye on you. There will be a reckoning! Praise the Lord ! Amen!
Note in the third paragraph near the end, he seems to threaten me with the “dull machete” reference. Obviously he knows where I live; heck, I’m in the phone book.
It appears that my manhood comment bothered this guy. Note the reference to it several times and all the disparaging phrases referencing to women in various ways. Following the above, he had a sketch similar to below of “the three-eyed raven” he refers to as “CORVUS CORAX” which is the scientific name for the raven species.
Also on the first page and to the side was this statement (all bold):
“HEY BOZO! Hope this does not ‘bunch up’ your panties! NO ONE has a right to public safety! An expectation …..yes…but not a right! Own/Bear arms is a RIGHT and I can prove it !!!!!”
Now, The Declaration of Independence does state, in paragraph two, that there are “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To me, that would imply public safety, but I will give him the point that that is not literally stated in The Constitution.
The first page of his letter ends with a reprinting of my letter to the editor in the bottom right corner.
The second page is a ‘wanted poster’. In large letters it starts “WANTED” and then has the pictures of eight Democrats including Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Hillary, and Barack Obama. “For TREASON & HIGH CRIMES“, it continues on the bottom, and then ends with a picture of a noose and a drawing of a firing squad.
(Well, there it is. I can assure you that appropriate steps were taken. I spoke to the Columbus Police and the local FBI office. Both said that there is a lot of this that is around, and that not much would probably come of it. Both inspected the letter [I mailed a copy to the FBI on request] and indeed, nothing further has become of it, from the writer or the authorities.)
Please Keep Up Your Efforts to Control Guns through State and National Legislation!
But some ‘Persons,’through their Mental Illness and arbitrary acts, endanger the Social Foundations of Meaningfulness. Other Persons, through their misguided Abstract Thinking, enable these attacks on A Secure and Meaningful Human Togetherness!
Well after all, Ritual is just sentimental foolishness. It’s all fluff and no substance. Why celebrate and commemorate a birthday, a wedding, a death? What is real and true are the forces in the world and the universe that churn away relentlessly; they are out there beyond us and have no interest in our petty subjective concerns. We hanker for objectivity and the independence of real fact, real forces, and the objectively true!
Yet on Wednesday, January the 20th, a calm settled over this nation. A sense of relief and normalcy began to restore itself, in many a mind. Songs were sung. Oaths were taken. Speeches were made. Promises were bestowed. Parades were (virtually) marched. History was cited and speculations as to our future abounded. It’s what we do as an American People at our best. We re-establish our unity. We confirm our commitment to the shared Principles, Goals, and Behaviors that will facilitate our close proximity: house to house, apartment to apartment, farm to farm, city to city, “from sea to shining sea.”
Ritual is one of the pillars of Human Mind. It is an essential way for us to ‘get on the same page’ Subjectively! Far from subjectivity being arbitrary, largely private, and lacking in orderly substance, it was in Ritual —as a rehearsal, idealization, test run, and then a constitution of our many coordinated behaviors— that the eventual conceptual split between the Subjective and the Objective was initiated, but not necessarily accurately. Group hunting, mate selection, birth and death, verbal communication, fear and joy, curiosity, were all being orchestrated and objectified for various human groups, and most especially “our group”, which ever you happened to be in. The Human Mind is our coordinated behavior and our coordinated ideas and emotions about that Collective Behavior, Our Larger Unity. These are Patterns that are Objective to Us, but not totally independent of us,says the philosopher Dan Dennett.
(ORGANIZING OUR BEHAVIOR, IDEAS AND EMOTIONS THROUGH RITUAL: the American Nation (top left), Anansi the trickster god for West Africa, the Team, the Hunt of caribou, the Scientific Method, mistletoe with Meaning for ancient Druids (bottom left), Birth and Womanhood portrayed in a Venus figure of Cro-Magnon Europeans, a Commemorative Hindu expression, modern American’s feeling The Spirit.EXAMPLES IN A HISTORY OF HUMANS ATTEMPTING TO ORGANIZE THEIR BEHAVIOR AND THEIR EMOTIONAL LIVES. IT IS AN ONGOING SEARCH, AN ONGOING DISCUSSION concerning our joint behavior and its interpretations.)
Yet The American Nation remains seriously divided. Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have pledged to work for unity, but too many Americans, too many Republicans, refuse to adequately disavow the obvious illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the thug Trump.
And also in My Family; who will work to restore its unity? The “soothing realities of American Democratic Ritual” have yet to take hold firmly enough here also. On the day of the Trump-Led Insurrection, in complete exasperation, I called my Pro-Trump Brother In Law as I watched. I said (in effect), “Look where you guys have gotten us!” He was shocked by it and watching too, but he refused to take the lion’s share of the blame. “It is also the Democrats”, he insisted. Pelosi and Schumer and Cortez, just as much as Trump and his whack-job conspiracy-mongering followers, “They got us here too”, he insisted.
We did not talk long; it was going nowhere.
Later I found out that his wife, my sister in law, also received a phone call from her brother that day. He too put the pressure on, again basically saying, “Look at the nonsense you have helped create!” She also tried to shift too much blame onto “The Democrats”, I learned.
I had told my wife I had called her brother that Wednesday of the lawlessness, when I was off work and watching as she was at work, teaching. She took it pretty well, at that point, partly because I assured her I did not push it too far or too long and it was not an overly acrimonious conversation. But several days later, as we were relaxing and enjoying some wine and reviewing all the upsetting historical developments, her fears and anger came forth. It was I who started talking politics with her family, she said.“Look at the mess you have created now!” (a familiar phrase in this whole story) she now demanded of me!
My wife had always been cautious not to bring politics into her family, and initially when I had, it went well. Those were before the days of Trump, when her brother and I had polite, quiet, and interesting exchanges of opinions and facts. But since the poisonous Trump, conversation had stopped, only to burst forth again with the emotions of insurrection!
What soothing rituals will help bind these wounds and bring this family back together?And our Nation?Oh, woe is me!
In the post of last week, “The Big Lie…” and our national political disaster of January 6th, (https://wordpress.com/post/naturereligionconnection.org/6891), I ended by commenting on my apprehensions for the following Sunday and Inauguration Day. I was concerned that more of the Right-Wing Hitler-like Putsch would continue on those following occasions.
It did not! Not nationally nor locally did Insurrection or even demonstrations occur at a significant scale. Here locally in the Central O-H-I-O, that following Sunday witnessed a very minor event at The State Capital, one that was ironically made light of by our very decent newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch.
Only several dozens of demonstrators appeared and they were overwhelmingly outnumbered by police and state National Guard. It did begin ominously with the appearance at noon of an armed and marching contingent of “Boogaloo Boys”, but they quickly declared their intention to the police to be “peaceful” and merely to practice their right to bear arms.
(These boogaloos stressed to reporters that they were not “Proud Boys” nor were they there to support President Trump’s efforts to resist the results of the election.)
The Dispatch reporters ended their story with the wry observation that the demonstration started to wind down soon and was done by 3pm, leaving amply time for everyone to get home to watch the big professional football game involving the Cleveland Browns. Hey, even revolutionaries have a variety of priorities.
On the National Scene, two local men, ages 36 and 27, were arrested in Columbus and charged for their participation in the Capitol Building Riot. The men were initially approached by Capitol Police as they were waiting for an Uber ride to return them to their hotel after the incursion.
When they were informed the ride could not reach them in the security zone, they turned to walk further but one of them stopped to pick up the fancy wooden coat tree with brass hooks that stood near them. Police then (duhhh!) demanded he stop, but he dropped the coat tree and ran. The other man waited and cooperated with police and was found to be wearing an armored vest, and have in his backpack marihuana and an open bottle of good bourbon. Upon review of Capitol security tapes both the bourbon and, obviously, the coat tree were stolen in the “insurrection.” The spoils of war, I guess.
In German, grosse Luge (roughly)can be traced back to Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925. He contended the Jewish people and Marxists told “The Big Lie” by blaming German General Ludendorff for their loss in WWI. Ludendorff was an anti-Semite and Nationalist, and thus respected by Hitler.
Hitler’s lieutenant Joseph Goebbels was probably the first to have said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, it will be believed.” But it was Hitler that gave the definitive analysis of its effectiveness in his book. “The broad masses of a nation” are “always more easily corrupted by” a big lie than a small one. The Big Lie effects “the deeper strata of their emotional nature.”
And so we saw what we saw on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, a small-time insurrection against our Democratic Government, a regular Beer Hall Putsch in Washington D.C.
The Beer Hall Putsch was part of a very unstable time in Europe and the world: the post WWI period. It may seem only a cliché, but something is deeply true about it; in society, old orders were in decline, new and uncertain forces were pushing forth. People searched for answers and some found them in different kinds of extremisms. Many people became adamant Communists; others turned to racial and ethnic identifications and discriminations — extreme Nationalists; others hung desperately to the the old system of aristocracy. This was the faction and forces represented by Ludendorff, an aristocrat himself and still an advocate for the Kaiser and the nobility; they temporarily, at least, aligned with the rising charismatic leader, Hitler. (Similarly, American Fundamentalist Christians hitched their wagon to the rising but erratic star of that vulgar, irreligious man, Donald Trump.)
Hitler attempted to follow the course of Mouselini in Italy and seize power. At a mass meeting at the Burgerbraukellar (Citizen’s Beer Cellar) Hitler leaped upon a chair and fired a shot into the ceiling with a pistol to gain attention. He declared that his Nazi Party troopers had the building surrounded and were ready to march. He demanded the support of opposition factions and eventually Ludendorff led this temporary coalition through the streets to overtake German government offices.
Well, at least Hitler had the ‘courage’ to accompany his supporters on their march. Mr. Trump, in his 80 minute incitation to sedition, promised to march with his people but that did not happen.
The Big Lie in America
A shocking series of events these were, in the U.S. of A., over these past two weeks. Our current President, Donald J. Trump, now stands Impeached for the second time in his four year term.He incited the overthrow of our government. History was made as American politics took a deep dive into the dirt, as it occasionally has in our 200 year history.
January 6th was unprecedented in American history. An out-going president urged a large group of his supporters to march on The Capitol building in protest of an election he claims he won “by landslide” but was being “stolen”. “Stop the steal”, they chanted. Trump vowed he would “never concede” and that they should “never stop fighting.” “Strength” is what is needed now, “not weakness”. he told them. One of his warm-up speakers, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, what was needed now was “a trial by combat” — a fight — to decide the issue. Trump had previously promised his people, that if they came to Washington, “it will be wild.”
And so it was “wild”, deeply disturbing, and very un-American! Five people died. One shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to forcibly enter the Chambers of the House of Representatives while its members were huddled inside. Another was a Capitol Policeman hit in the head with a fire extinguisher while resisting the seditionists. The remaining three were Trump supporters who died of medical emergencies, such as heart attack, in the uproar. One of these, her family reported, had gone to Washington in spite of their efforts to dissuade her, and that in recent months she had become deeply interested in online conspiracy theories. “It just started to spiral” said her sister.
One of the many incredible aspects of these events, was Trump’s eventual treatment of his longtime loyal Vice President, Mike Pence.
In the build-up to January 6 and the joint session of Congress to accept the Electoral College ballots to officially sanction the elections results, Trump put tremendous pressure on Pence, both privately and in public, to not accept the ballots, to rule them invalid in several key states. But, Pence did not have the power — by law — to do so, and this was overwhelmingly regarded to be the case and the historical tradition.
In the immediate hours before the joint session, the President’s supporters began to gather for their “Rally to Save America” and Trump made one last call to Pence. He cajoled him, pleaded with him and finally told him that this was his chance “to either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.“ Some of our international readers may not be familiar with that slang term; it is an extremely derogatory term for a women that simply equates her to her genitalia. (As reported by the N.Y.Times, 1/12)
But, Pence refused to break the law and ended up huddled in the Capitol basement with various Congresspersons and under tight security as the seditionists had breached the building. Some of them were chanting, “Hang Pence, hang Pence.”
Such is the character of our outgoing president. He is a massively destructive influence to American political integrity. In other words, he is not honest; he is not concerned about right or wrong, and he has no principles outside his own ambitions.
How Did It Go This Far?
There are many questions about the events of January 6, but let me focus on just one, a big one. Why did Americans follow this man?How did it get this far? And this returns us to THE BIG LIE.
As far back as September, I wrote of my concern with Trump’s reckless rhetoric concerning the upcoming election. Mr. Trump had already supercharged the political atmosphere by vilifying those that disagree with him. They are “evil”, “criminal”, “crazy”, “stupid”, “communists”, “brain-washed” (by the mainstream media), and not “true Americans”. Immigrants from Mexico are “rapists”, “thieves”, “murderers” and infiltrated by “terrorist”. Democrats “want to destroy our country”, he contended, and media organizations that criticized him were “fake news”.
I commented that discussion with his supporters was already nearly impossible because of their bizarre views, their “alternative facts” and highly charged emotions. And so, Mr. Trump has Lied Big on many occasions and as Hitler had observed, appealed to his supporters at a “deep emotional level.”
In the September post, I wrote of my particular concern about one claim of his, and that I would politely contest it with any of his supporters in spite of this toxic atmosphere. I wrote,
“I will propose that Mr. Trump is doingusall a disservice when he says, “If I lose, it is because the election is rigged.” After all, one of the spectacular realities about our country is that Our Democracy is Real.” (see The American Presidential Election…https://wordpress.com/post/naturereligionconnection.org/5926)
Mr. Trump has now played that card. The election was stolen and those that are Not True Americans will now hold power, he still believes I will not go into detail to refute this claim of the theft, sufficient to point out that 60 of his lawsuits have been dismissed, all 50 Secretary’s of our States have certified their election results as accurate, and that his own FBI chief and (former) Attorney General have declared no evidence of any significant irregularities.
But the card was played, and the January 6th attack on our Democracy was the result. The vehemence of his supporters and their delusional states were well on display. Trump has been Impeached by the House, and we will wait on the outcome in the Senate. How many Republican office holders will continue to stand by this farce and this denigration of our country? Many have abandoned it and him.
Today is Sunday, January 17th, the day further ‘rallies’ by his supporters are to take place in Washington and various state capitols. And to these, these ‘Americans’ have sworn to carry their weapons! I wait apprehensively, my only hope is that the rather thorough denunciation and negative outcry against the law-breaking and desecrations of January 6th will have dampened the mood and convictions of many of these potential and continuing insurrectionists. (But also, a huge police and National Guard presence!)
”Our state is on fire,” said the Governor on Wednesday (11/18). He is touring the state delivering this message. He has already initiated a state-wide Curfew from 10pm to 5am. He is seeking to be more surgical in his approach this time, instead of the massive and across-the-board Shut Downs he initiated in March. DeWine is a courageous and honest man! He is a Republican and is defying great push-back from his own party on both Virus Policy andMr. Trump. DeWine is one of the few Republicans to nationally acknowledge Trump’s evident defeat and the need to start the transition to Biden! Not all politicians are dishonestand shameless opportunists!
Last Tuesday, The Ohio Hospital Assoc. reported some 3,600 Ohioans in the hospital with Covid. Of those 900 were in Intensive Care Units and 440 of these on Ventilators! We are now recording 8 to 9,000 new cases a day, and these are jumping dramatically by the day. My county, Franklin — the state capital, home of The Ohio State University (with its 50 thousand on-campus students, in normal times), and the world HQ of Nation Wide Insurance and Wendy’s — has now gone “Purple” in the state Covid warning system. This is the most severe category and we are the first Ohio county to attain it (“We’re No.1; We’re No.1!”) In response, some stores are closing early, some school systems are going online or staying there longer. Some schools are going online for Middle and High School but staying in a blended mode for elementary students, who do not learn well online and cannot be at home alone. We are recording about 50 to 60 deaths a day.
The madhousecharacter of the situation hit home this morning when my wife went grocery shopping. The store was packed! No carts were available. The store had people waiting at the door at the 6am opening she was told, and by the time my wife got there at 9:30, most paper products were gone and also boxed spaghetti, macaroni, a lot of bottled water and a few other items. When she left, an hour later, the store was more crowded than initially. This crowding situation at the store was probably exacerbated by a Noon Kick Off here in town for our OSU Buckeye football team. But no 100,000 fans at the stadium (by order of the Health Dept.) only lots trying to get errands done by noon to watch on TV.
To put some perspective on the Ohio situation, we have 64 Covid cases per 100,000 people but North and South Dakota have 177 and 137 respectively. That is outrageous considering the open spaces and lack of urban crowding in those states. Their Republican Governors have been flamboyant in their denial of Covid’s Reality, and now they are the world’s Hottest Spot for spread and their hospitals are Full and staff’s Exhausted! Nationwide the average is about 40 per 100,000.
We need to get TRUMP OUT and Biden’s Team in as fast as possible to start leading this National Health Crisis!
And now, moments before the publication of this post, I have learned Trump has got The Virus. Well, he didn’t want us to wear that mask, now look! Here is my post, with no alterations made in light of the big news. “Trainwreck” Trump, he is.
Been talking to some people, watching and reading a variety of news sources, seeking their take on the debate. Seems a pretty common reaction that Both Did Bad: Biden and Trump. Some of the headlines and leads suggest something of the same: “Debate Chaos” and such. But this is misleading, I believe!
Granted, your frame of mind and reference point does have a lot to do with your final interpretation, and I’m glad I waited till Wednesday morning to view it because I wasn’t tired and had more patience than late Tuesday evening. But really, what else should you have expected from President Trump?
Here is a headline I like better, from The Columbus Dispatch as part of the USA Today Network: “Analysts: Trump hurt worse by chaotic debate.” And then soon in the article it gets to the heart of the matter, our President destroyed that debate!
“Doubling down on the steamroller tactics that helped him…in 2016, Trump repeatedly talked over Biden during (Biden’s) allotted time,” said the paper. “When moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly admonished him, Trump loudly talked right over (him) as well.” The paper then reported that Biden, in his own defense turned to the President and said, “Will you shut up, man?” Wallace then finally reminded Trump that “the country would better be served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions” and later reminded Mr. Trump that his campaign “agreed to the rules” that he was so poorly following.
That is the debate that I saw. Biden won that debate, in so much as it was one. He showed reasonable poise in the face of Trump’s attempts to bully, and actually had several fine moments when he turned away from his opponent and spoke directly to the camera and the American people. Granted, he did refer to Trump as a “clown”, but a clown, and worse, he was and is, in my opinion.
Mr. Trump continued to disparage and undermine our electoral process on Tuesday evening, and this is grounds enough to vote him from office, in my view. He does our entire nation and it’s history a grave disservice when he pretends our elections are not fair and accurate. This claim was aptly rebutted by Mr. Biden. Also, when the President of the United States cannot call out and unambiguously disavow an armed and violent group based in racial and other forms of hatred our country is in dire straights. Former Vice President Biden skillfully assisted in putting Mr. Trump in that spot in this debate, the spot from which he miserably stumbled.
I say, Joe Biden succeeded in that first encounter with this unscrupulous man. Let us not soil that accomplishment due to the dirt in which Trump placed that event! Apparently various Biden aides have labeled Donald’s performance, “a trainwreck.” I think that is an apt description but also a worthy monicker: “TrainWreck” Trump.