A Teacher and School Violence

My voice will not be the only voice speaking this morning in anger, sadness and disgust.  My head will not be the only head filled with media images and sounds of violence, sadness and fear. Many voices stronger and louder than mine have spoken powerful words of sadness and condemnation for the state of our country and its love affair with guns.  I will speak none-the-less.

As many of you know, I am a retired teacher.  I have helped children deal with school violence since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Seeing children flinch in their seats at the sound of a banging door, watching children respond with disdain at the feeble attempts at safety protocols and rehearsals for potential threats ins school, and imagining our response to a live shooter in the building or visualizing ourselves trying to staunch the flow of blood from a mortally wounded child in my classroom is the silent burden every teacher carries every waking minute of every day. Sometimes our dreams are haunted by fears and worries, too.

You see, adult teachers know that they face death at any moment every morning when they walk in the school door. We know how many hurting and damaged children are in the seats every day. We know that despite the hard work of counselors and administration, hurting and angry children face us with thoughts of violence — every day.

Perhaps, if, like teachers, Senators and Congressmen had to carry the daily burden of a real and imminent threat of facing death, we would have some movement in the regulation of deadly weapons. Perhaps, if Senators and Congressmen, had the physical responsibility of keeping twenty-five young lives safe at any given moment of their day, they would be able to see beyond their wallets stuffed with IRA dollars.  Perhaps, if, the children, grand-children and wives of Senators and Congressmen, were facing the daily terrorism of imminent school violence, we would have some authentic conversation about guns in America.

But, in this country, we are in love with the idea that our politicians are public servants; when, in reality, many of our politicians are self-serving: favoring cronyism, self aggrandisement and the accrual of wealth.

When will it stop? How can we reconcile the right to bear arms with the proliferation of high powered guns designed to inflict death on a massive scale? As I sit here and write this, I question my activism, my willingness to get my butt off the couch and become involved in the social and political issues that concern me.  Today is a new day.  Get up with me and make your voice heard.

A Word about Shit-hole Countries

I have been blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of traveling in the past five years.  Many of the countries I have visited could be described as shit-hole countries.  I say this because of the reactions I get from many people who hear about the places I have seen.  Their face and their comments say it all: why would you go there?  To that shit-hole country where the food is bad, the water can make you sick, and the people are so foreign?

“Weren’t you afraid?” “Was it safe?”

I was teaching in Kuwait in 2012 and 2013. Kuwait borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia. People in America were concerned with my safety in Kuwait. That is odd since in 2013 there were 33,636 gun homicides and 73,505 non-fatal injuries by guns in the United States. In Iraq during the same time civilian deaths by gunfire were estimated at 10,000 in a country that was at war. Was I safe in Kuwait? Give me a break?  From August 2012 to October 2015 while I was in Kuwait, there were over 80 incidents where guns were brought to school with over 80 deaths. While gun violence in Kuwait is difficult to measure because of bureaucracy and censorship, I heard about zero incidents of gun violence in schools or elsewhere while in country.  Was I safe teaching in Kuwait?

Was I safe in Mexico where I taught from January 2016 to June 2017?  Probably not,  but during that time there was one school shooting resulting in two deaths.  During the same period of time in the USA, there were 22 incidents where guns were brought to school with 14 deaths.  The 2016 homicide rate in Mexico for 2016 was 17.03 per 100,000 while the USA homicide rate was 12 per 100,000. Okay, Mexico is not a safe place to be but there is only a 5 point difference.  So who’s safe where?

If gun violence were a marker for shit-hole status, the United States would be right up there. In fact, many people that I talk to in my travels picture all Americans holstered and locked-and-loaded.  Many were shocked that I did not have a gun and did not know how to shoot a gun. Maybe they think even Mickey Mouse wears a gun at Disney World.  Who knows?

I visited some other countries such as Italy (4 times), Sri Lanka (15 times), Nepal, Egypt, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Netherlands. I have discovered that people don’t really want to hear about travels to shit-hole countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka because they would never consider going there.  They are very eager to hear about the palaces and museums in Vienna, the ruins in Rome and the art masterpieces in Florence; not so eager to hear about the temple marking the birthplace fo Buddha in Nepal, the place where Buddhist teaching where first committed to writing in Sri Lanka, or the magnificent Mayan ruins in Mexico.

If the food is no good and the water coming out of the tap has bacteria that you are not used to, then, for many of my fellow Americans, that is a shit-hole country.  If people flee a country to escape the ravages of a natural disaster or to find a job that can improve the lives of their family, then they come from a shit-hole country. Little do they know, or care, that people in these so called shit-hole countries work from dawn until dusk for a month to earn what an employee at Macdonalds earns in a day. Little do they know, or care, that these people love their children, worry about the future and the environment, and value education.  Little do they know, or care, that millions of men leave their families to do menial labor in hostile environments little better than slavery to better the lives of their families. Little do they know, or care, that the culture of these so called shit-hole countries is rich and ancient and based on the same principals our country was based on.

When I hear that Trump has made another crude and deplorable remark, I am not surprised because I have found that many who share his ideology think the same way.

We are lucky to live in a great country.

We are unfortunate to have such a low class, vulgar, stupid man as our President.