Monday, December 17, 2012

When Do We Take a Stand...and Mean It?!!

Maybe it's because I know Newtown, having spent several lovely days among this lovely community.  Maybe it's because the first school I administered was a primary school, K - 3.  Maybe it's because I am already grieving a personal loss, but I have been glued to CNN to watch the coverage of this latest tragedy.  Feeling oddly reminiscent, too reminiscent, of the assassinations of the 60's, 9-ll,  Oklahoma City, Columbine.  Tragedies heaped upon the innocent.  Alternately raging, sobbing, applauding the courage of reporters who have challenged some of the inanity they were hearing, grateful for the respect they are showing the community, in awe of the dignity and compassion expressed by family members of victims, and despairing that this has happened yet again.

Above all, wondering whether this time we will have the courage and the resolve to address the underlying, systemic problems that contribute to this madness.  Granted, no one is asking me for my ideas.  Granted, I have my own biases.  But I have some questions I wish would be raised by someone of influence and authority.  I have some questions that could lead to different kinds of discussion than whether or not we should be arming our teachers!
  • What kind of society do we want to live in?  A violent, armed, fearful society?
  • What can we learn from other countries who are not as violent as we are?  Like Japan.
  • What have we already learned from previous tragedies that could help us identify potential dangers?
  • How much more information do we need anyway?
  • How do we support our "leaders" (perhaps demand?!) to get beyond their own interests to work together, to get beyond their bi-partisanship?  How do we become more responsible followers who are willing to sacrifice some of our own interests?
  • What can Newtown teach us all about becoming caring, supportive, responsible communities?  
  • When do the needs of the whole trump the needs of the individual?
  • What can we do as individuals to impact the quality of our society as a whole?  Simply labeling us as a violent society or describing what we are seeing as "reality" that must be accepted serves only to make us more fearful, more frustrated, more isolated.
  • How can we encourage, develop the critical thinking skills and the communications skills we so desperately need in order to address these larger issues together rather than against one another? 
  • How can we use social networking venues to promote responsible, thoughtful action...not knee-jerk, reactionary, simplistic actions that produce more (sometimes greater) problems!?!?
  • How can we defend controlling cars more than we do guns?!
  • Where are the systems thinkers that could help move a national discourse to consider the scope of the disease - right now it seems that we are arguing over the size of the bandage to put over the tumor!
  • When do we take a stand...and mean it?  

Friday, December 7, 2012

In Praise of Good Guys

My brother-in-law died yesterday.  Because we have lived a continent apart, we were in each other's company for perhaps only 3 weeks out of the 30 years I have known him.  But my sense of loss this morning is great.

You see, Gary was one of the good guys, a genuine nice guy. He had a gentle Jimmy Stewart disposition. Worked hard all his life.  Took pleasure in simple things.  Always played the hand he was dealt with grace and equanimity.

He adored his wife of 43 years, his children and grandchildren. It was this love that fueled his arduous fight with lung cancer this past year, enduring months of treatment with his usual upbeat, glass half-full optimism.  Never complained.  

He was loyal and honest, a steadfast man, accepting of everybody, tolerant of foibles that would have irritated a saint.  Even when he didn't like someone, he expressed his opinions without rancor or disdain, simply as his opinion. Never nasty, never demeaning.

This world could use more good guys.  I will miss this very decent man.