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Defining Moments

  • Posted on January 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

That was candidate Obama speaking about defining moments.  That was then and this is now!

Well the 2012 presidential election officially started this past week with the shooting in Arizona.  I listen to Morning Joe in the morning when I’m getting ready for work and a bit of Chris Matthews and Big Eddy on MSNBC in the evening.  I have noticed the continual slow indoctrination of the American people by MSNBC and probably other channels as well.  This last couple of days the words “defining moment for the president” seemed to take precedent over all other talk.  We, the public are being indoctrinated by the press that Obama’s speech at the memorial service in Arizona is his defining moment. Donny Deutsch said something this morning like Obama made us remember why we voted for him.  No, Donnie, the president did no such thing because it wasn’t about the president.   Chris Matthews even said it was an “opportunity” for Obama.

I’m not in President Obama’s head but politicians seem to dirty everything they touch with that old opportunity thing.  Just to clear things up for Chris Matthews and opportunity doesn’t usually come off the deaths and injuries of real people.  If anyone looks at a memorial service as an opportunity, they are nothing more then a leech off society.  As for that “defining moment”, it’s hard to see a connection to the presidential politics of 2012 and what happened in Arizona.

When my mom died that was a defining moment in my life.  I seem to remember things as before and after her death in many ways.  The same goes for my dad and sister.  At my mom’s funeral I read a poem I had written.  The poem and the service itself were not defining moments for me.  The defining moment was when my dad screamed up the stairs for me to come down because mom had died.  I’ll never forget that lonely Thanksgiving morning when I lost my wonderful mom.

We all have moments when our life may be defined in one capacity or another.  The birth of our children or our marriage, are moments that probably are defining for people.  Great events in a person’s life will probably be defining moments.  However, the shooting in Arizona wasn’t about President Obama and it wasn’t about politics really.  It was about an epidemic in our society of violence and probably mental illness.  It just so happens that this time the violence struck a politician.  It was a defining moment for all the people involved in the shooting.  For the rest of us it was a tragedy that we saw unfold slowly and continuously on our TV sets and the Internet.  We heard day after day many pundits talking about who is to blame and so on and so.  We can empathize with all involved and we can pray and hope that the wounded have a quick recovery.  We can share in the loss of life but we cannot really know the suffering of each family that was touched by this madness.

In my mind a defining moment for President Obama was his election.  It was about him and what he had accomplished.  Arizona isn’t about Obama or Sarah Palin or any other politician.  I’m tired of the same old talk from the same old pundits who are once again trying to make us pick a side.  In December they wanted us to like Obama because he did so much and we all got out tax cuts.  I feel the drumbeat from people that are in the pocket of Obama trying to get the rest of us to fall in line and vote for him in 2012.  All I can say is 2012 is a long way off and the economy will probably be the defining moment for the next election, just like it was for the last election!

Shattered Dreams and Our Violent Society

  • Posted on January 11, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Shattered Dreams

After the last couple of days of hearing non-stop news about the shooting in Arizona, I have decided to say what’s really on my mind.  The pundits started the blame game early on and seem content to want this to be more about getting ratings than anything really useful.  From my perspective as a teacher, I don’t really see what is so different about this act of violence than the violence that schools have had to deal with since Columbine.  Every school administrator, teacher, school personnel and even students across our nation all know about the routines schools go through every year since Columbine to be prepared in the event of an emergency.  Prior to Columbine, we all felt safe.  Safety in schools is kind of remembered as before and after Columbine.  That one violent day changed our schools forever!

At Sturgis Middle School every teacher has a “Go To” box.  This box has a first aid kit, flashlight, class lists and a book of procedures to use in the event of an emergency.  Each year we practice drills with our students where we go into a “lock down” phase.  We have had in-services with police officers visiting our school and training us in the proper procedures to use in an emergency as well as what to look for when students seem troubled.  Students cannot wear long trench coats to school for fear that they might be hiding a weapon much like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did on that fateful day.  Students aren’t supposed to take their backpacks to their classes for essentially the same types of fears.  The point I want to make with all of this is just to let the rest of the world know that learning about the shooting in Arizona this weekend wasn’t shocking at all to me.

I feel very strongly that many people are troubled right now.  Some of our youth are even more troubled.  I’ve said this many times on here about how my life as a youngster was a lot less complicated than most of my student’s lives today.  To top all of this off, we have record unemployment, woeful economic conditions, record costs to go to college, not to mention those hefty student loans when a kid is finished, and a society seemingly filled with hate and violence.

All during the fall we heard about bullying.  We couldn’t turn the TV on without hearing about some poor young person that just couldn’t take it any more.  They committed suicide because they just couldn’t take being harassed any more.  There is meanness in our country and a total lack of civility when dealing with each other.  It’s not just in politics, but it starts from the top down.

Yesterday, I came home from school to hear Chris Matthews on Hardball talk about how this could give President Obama and opportunity because he’s always been above the fray.  This might give him a chance to show some emotion.  This could be a good moment for him.  One again Chris Matthews speaks before he thinks.  I had to turn the TV off because it was appalling to me.  President Obama may appear to be civil but he has had his nasty moments as well.  Most people will remember his comment about bringing a gun, if the other side brings a knife to the fight.

At the top of our food chain of people there really isn’t the civility that we need.  Ronald Reagan believed in that trickle down economic crap, however, the only thing that I think has trickled down is the lack of decency people show each other on a daily basis.

At our school we have embraced a program called “Rachel’s Challenge”.  Rachel Scott was a young student at Columbine who didn’t expect to live a long life but who wanted to make a mark on the world.  After she died her parents went through her journals and also found a statement that she had put on the back of her dresser.  They were moved to have something positive come from her death.  Her family goes all over the country challenging students to commit to Rachel’s Challenge.  Rachel wrote an essay and she wanted to start a chain reaction of kindness.

When the Rachel’s Challenge program comes to our school students are challenged to do these five things:

– Look for the best in others – Eliminate Prejudice

– Dare to Dream – Set Goals – Keep a Journal

– Choose Positive Influences – Input Determines Output

– Kind Words & Actions = Huge Results

– Start a Chain Reaction with Family and Friends

These are not earth shattering concepts, but if you think about it many adults could benefit from following these five principles.  They are pretty simple and could actually be life changing.

The sad truth is there are many troubled people out in the world today.  We can choose to put our hand out and help each other or we can continue following the shrill, violent path to destruction that we are currently on.  Our government could start by creating people friendly programs instead of just business friendly programs.  It seems like our current government policies leave many people without hope.  If you are at the bottom of the economic food chain, life can be dismal as you face hardship after hardship.

I had a little boy come to school the other day because he was upset.  His mom had a car accident and he was worried about how they were going to pay for everything.  One hardship can break a family.  We all know families that are struggling in debt, or unable to find a decent paying job, worrying about how to pay their utility or health care bills or buy shoes for their kids.  These are hard times and some people crack under the pressure of hopelessness.  I’ve heard some pundits talking about Jared Loughner being mentally ill.  Of course, we all think he must be mentally ill because of what he did.  Chances are that he is mentally unstable but with the cost of health care how would some kid who worked at several big box stores afford that care?  It was probably cheaper just to buy the gun!

It seems to me that the American people have been failed by government officials and the government policies that they vote for because those policies don’t do a lot for the poor, the middle class and the disturbed.  In addition to this, we are assaulted daily by TV and radio pundits that drive the agenda and constantly bombard our homes with hatred and violence.  I remember that show “Crossfire”.  That was a hateful show and Jon Stewart was right then and he was right this fall when he talked about the political discourse at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

If people want to see a change in this country on the issue of violence, then it must start from the top with the president and government policies that help create a climate of economic hope.  However, we can’t sit back and expect the government to do everything.  If each of us does whatever we can to help each other in these trying times by just following the simple guidelines of Rachel’s Challenge, we could change the world.  We must change government policies, but we must also listen to each other.  It doesn’t matter if you are right or left leaning, an independent or non-political, we all need to find a way to talk to each other in a civil manner.  If we want to change our nation, violence isn’t the answer.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and he had hope and he demonstrated through peaceful means.  We could all learn from this.

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