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Archive for the ‘Teenagers’ Category

I am a man, just a man. I bear the burdens of all other men. I have the flaws of all other men. And yes, I even have some of the assets, skills, and intelligence of all other men. I have seen my grandparents die, and I loved them both. I have watched cancer kill my Dad, and I loved him. I loved my Mother, but we had quarreled over a period of time, and I was not there when she died. I watched my wife die at home of the same disease that killed my father. I loved my wife as only a spouse can over a fifty plus year period. I still speak to her every night as I’m quite certain other spouses speak to their own loved ones who are deceased. Love is love is love, and loss is loss is loss.

There is one loss that I have not experienced, nor do I believe I could ever survive. It’s the loss of a child. Yes, Joan and I lost three children before our first was born. However, these were miscarriages. We never knew our child or even its gender. Our first is now in her fifties and has three of her own. Our second is a year behind her, and he and his spouse have three of their own. Our youngest is also blessed with three. If any of these twelve people died, I know I would soon follow. The spouses? Yeah, they’re great, but they aren’t mine. My children are mine. My grandchildren, strange as it may sound, are mine…and I would die.

Where am I going with this? I’m going where, perhaps, I should have gone a long time ago. We see on television and in the newspapers that this 16-year old was killed walking on the railroad tracks, and we, or at least I, wonder, “What the hell was he doing walking on railroad tracks…oh, well.” And I think little more about it. Then my eldest calls and asks if I saw the news. “Oh, shit,” I think, and she goes on to explain that he was the only child of a young woman I knew very well when she was a student. She goes on to explain that the boy’s uncle and his wife were at dinner with my daughter just a couple of nights before. I knew the uncle, too, as a student. Then it dawns…what are these people going through? What could possibly be said to comfort them? The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing you can say to someone who has lost a child. There is no “closure,” oh God, how I hate that word. “Closure” implies to me that something good is going to come of what happened. A child is dead, not just that, but in this case, an only child, and I sincerely doubt there will be another for this family. What will they do? What can they do? How the hell will they get through the rest of their lives together? Will this make their bond stronger or will it turn into a blame game ending in divorce and two more lives destroyed? Pause for a moment and consider this…every time, this young couple sees a train while they’re out driving, every time they hear the mournful whistle of a train as they are going to bed or getting up in the morning, they will probably be reminded of their son’s untimely death. Not a particularly pleasant thought, is it, to have such an obvious reminder of this terrible tragedy.

If this is all too morbid for you taste, tune out now because I’m just getting started. Over 20 years ago, friends of this same eldest daughter lost their first born to SIDS. He was under a year old. I had held that child and then he was gone. I guess I was just trying to be a good Dad when I accompanied my children to the funeral. I remember thinking that I was going to have to be the ‘good’ one, the one who held my family tight as the funeral progressed. Pall bearers carried the tiny white casket to the front of the church. The Mass began. Everything was fine. My kids were weeping and I had my arms around their shoulders in comfort. “Stay strong,” I remember repeating to myself, even though I was fully aware of just how close I was to not staying very strong. Then a soprano in the balcony began to sing Michael Joncas’ On Eagles Wings. That was the end of my ‘stay strong’ period. It’s one of my favorite hymns, and, frankly, I fell apart. When the service ended, it was my kids propping me up as we made our way to the car.

Children who die before adulthood, think of what the parents have actually lost. There will be no pictures of high school or college graduations. There will be no pride of having a son or daughter join the military because it’s something they had always dreamed of doing. For Dads, there will be no walking her down the aisle or the joy of seeing him standing at an altar, watching his life partner walk toward him. There will be no grandchildren to love and to hold…and, of course, to spoil rotten. No, all of those things will be denied, and that means that the word, “closure,” is a nothing word. It connotes nothing to the parents who have lost everything.

Perhaps this is my way of saying that I will never, ever, take the loss of a child quite the same again. Whether it’s because the kid was speeding and he/she survived while others were killed, or because all were killed because the 17-year old had found someone to buy booze and was drunk at the wheel. It just doesn’t matter. It’s a child or children who are lost and cannot be reclaimed. The SIDS death mentioned above was, in its own way, favorable in that the couple went on to have two more kids who are now young adults, but that’s just not always the case. So whether it’s a child shot in a drive-by, or a teenager who overdoses on fentanyl, it’s still a child who is lost to this world, and that’s a burden that you or I never wish to shoulder. To every family who has ever lost a child, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it took me so many years to understand the depth of your loss.” May the Good Lord find other ways to bring positive blessings into your lives.

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Oh, how times have changed…and not for the better.

We were told by our parents that we should treat our school teachers exactly as we would treat our parents…with both courtesy and respect. Those of us – yep, I was one of ‘em – were punished accordingly if a note was sent home that we had, in any way, misbehaved in class. The only time my folks didn’t drop the hammer was when the teacher, Miss Lannin, sent a note home saying that I had kissed Gloria Madden. Of course, Miss Lannin didn’t know that I’d been dared by the ‘janitor’ to do it and had received a nickel for my efforts. Mom and Dad had a difficult time trying to bawl me out while holding in their laughter.

Later, in my academic career – fifth grade to be exact – I received a sharp rap across the back of my hand from Miss Shea, a former nun, who was exceptionally skilled in the use of a ruler as a weapon of individual destruction. My crime was in mispronouncing the word frigid – looked like frig-it to me, but evidently, Miss Shea found my interpretation bordering on the edge of indecency. How the hell would a nun know that? Ah, well, I guess we’ll never know.

Later, I sat in Bertha Tenney’s math class in junior high school, and when Billy Bailey decided to act up, Bertha knocked his ass right out of his seat and onto the floor. Billy was tough. How the hell she could have put him flat on the floor is something that still confounds me.

There were several other examples of corporeal punishment that I could relate about my own high school experiences, but I believe you can see where this is going. What happened to me after the Holy Roller incident and to Bill after Bertha took him out with one swift back hand was nothing to what happened to us when our parents learned of our misdeeds. Yet, in spite of all of this, Bill and I grew up, went off to college, achieved a modicum of success…depending on how you define it, and raised children of our own. Were we as tough on them as our parents had been on us? I doubt it, but if a teacher told me that my kid had disturbed a class, I kind of doubt that I would have blamed the teacher.

Today, it would appear, that the teacher is never right, can’t lay a hand on some little puissant who is disturbing her/his class, and can be sued at the drop of a missed call in class. My reaction to this is one of horror. Recently, a teacher with 16 years of experience clapped a piece of candy out of the hand of a 14-year old who had been disrupting her class. She is now being taken to court over this…she left a mark on the poor child’s wrist. She should have left the little punk with a couple of black eyes.

There is a law now that says teachers cannot touch students. Are we afraid that some teacher is going to go “postal” and wring some kid’s neck? I rather doubt it. I won’t reiterate what I did to one of my sophomores in high school, other than to say that two weeks after I’d punished him, the Massachusetts State Police came and took him away on felony charges.

These are different times. Latch-key kids whose lives are programmed from the moment they rise in the morning until their heads hit the pillow at night are given little outlets for some of the hormones that begin raging in their bodies earlier and earlier. The word, “Discipline,” is foreign to them. They aren’t disciplined at home…”You’re grounded; go to your room!” Go to the room with your cell phone, computer, and every other electronic device one can think of; that’s not discipline; that’s peace and quiet. Sparing the rod and spoiling the child has become too much of a mantra for today’s parents and it has carried over into the legislatures which are makings laws that completely handcuff teachers in their efforts to do what they are poorly paid to do…teach children who are eager to learn. If a child is a disturbance in a classroom, he or she should be disciplined to the degree possible and that doesn’t mean giving up a cell phone for 24 hours. Punishment must be meaningful and fitting. Unruly child…refused to listen…created a disturbance in the classroom…was eating candy openly…hey, kid, I’m so sorry that you didn’t know Miss Tenney. Had you lived, you would never have forgotten her.

Years ago, teachers were treated with the honor and respect due them. What happened? Where did all of the respect go? Did teachers change that much? I taught high school for a brief period of time. It was in the same school from which I had graduated. I gained an even greater respect for teachers, now colleagues, in whose classrooms I had been a student. Did teachers, as a whole, become people to be disrespected and not believed? Has television and social media been responsible for the lack of respect shown to these people who, generally, want nothing more than to increase the knowledge and intelligence of those with whom they work day-in-day-out?

Perhaps the parents of captain-candy-eater should be in the dock with the teacher. After all, who raised him to be disrespectful to other adults? I cannot imagine what this child gets away with at home. There is no such thing as “Stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby” ad nauseum. There is only one “Stop it Bobby,” and if it is not stopped, Bobby will wonder if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just ran him over.

It’s time we reinstated two words in the classroom…RESPECT and DISCIPLINE…on both sides of the desk. Teachers have known those two words for years. It’s too bad that today’s children have not been taught their true meaning before they even begin school.

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Kid got killed here recently; got hit by a train. That doesn’t sound like a very pleasant way to die. His mother was out looking for him, and she stopped a group of his friends, asking if they’d seen him. They admitted that they had but didn’t know where he was. It was about this time that the state police helicopters started circling overhead, not far from where the mother and the kids were talking. It got me to wondering…was this an accident or was it suicide. Today, a week after I wrote what you just read, I learned the truth…he stepped in front of that train intentionally. He had been bullied to the point where he felt that his life was no longer worth living. How, in the name of God, does one reach that decision?

Kids growing up today have it much tougher than I did and even tougher than my own children. Heck, social media was a term that I don’t believe my kids ever heard. Today, there are chat rooms, dark chat rooms, and probably more kinds of rooms that you have to be “in on” in order to access. Cyberbullying has been added to the lexicon of the 21st Century, and it’s causing some serious problems.

One of the resources that I used in preparing this essay is The Anika Foundation in Australia. One of its objectives is, “To raise awareness about, the problems of youth depression and suicide.” I have found their research to be sound, sane, and very informative. It’s not limited to the happenings “down under,” but is international in its scope. For example, one of the first citations in their research is of a paper written by Harvard Professors David Cutler and Edward L. Glaeser, along with Assistant Professor Karen E. Norberg of the Boston University Medical School. In their study, they note that “Suicide is now the second or third leading cause of death for youths in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many countries of Western Europe.” While this study was published in 2001, other articles from more current sources agree that suicide is still number two or three, overtaken in some years only by homicide among youth.

Recently, two high school friends in Texas killed themselves hours apart in what appears to have been a suicide pact. Less than a week later, Arizona State University junior, Thomas Wagoner, jumped to his death from a campus building. The victim of bullying in high school Wagoner was known to have suffered from depression because of his experiences; it was something he mentioned in his suicide notes. According to his roommate, Jared Blevens, “He mentioned being depressed. I had known he was depressed, but I didn’t realize how depressed he was. I thought he would talk to me or one of our friends.” Blevins added, “I would say if you are concerned at all then you should get help…because I didn’t realize how bad it was with Thomas. And I knew him better than anyone else.”

These are sad stories, crazy stories, stories that didn’t seem to happen when I was growing up or when my children were growing up. It makes me worry for my kids and their children. Getting inside the head of a teenager is about as easy as herding cats or nailing jello to a tree, ergo, it cannot be done. If they are depressed or suicidal, most of them appear to hide it well, and if they go ahead and commit suicide successfully, we never know the reasons because they take those with them. Suicide.org says that “…teens who attempt suicide and survive tell us that they wanted to die to end the pain of living. They are often experiencing a number of stressors and feel that they do not have the strength or desire to continue living. We also believe that the majority of youth who die by suicide have a mental disorder, like depression, which is often undiagnosed, untreated or both.”

I care about this for two reasons (1) I have grandchildren, some as young as five. I probably won’t live to see him to adulthood, but I don’t want my daughter and her husband to suffer the pain of losing a child. I don’t want any of my kids to lose a child. I think the greatest fear that Joan and I ever experienced was that of having to bury one of our own. Perhaps, in a way, she was fortunate to have died when she did. I still live with the fear that one of my kids may go before me, and it terrifies me. (2) I worked in higher education for 40 years. During that time I saw students who had friends who had committed suicide. When a young person looks you in the eye and asks, “Why do you think…?” how the hell do you answer them? Their pain is palpable and feeling it along with them is just too easy to do. One young woman sat in my office after missing mid-terms. She had gone to the funeral of her best friend in Washington, D.C. The friend had hung herself. Frankly, working with this young woman was physically and emotionally draining. She got through it and graduated. Her faculty members were wonderful in their understanding of what she was going through.

How do we know when a person is getting ready to commit suicide? Wow, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question. As a parent, a teacher, or a friend, you just have to keep your eyes and ears open. It’s been estimated that perhaps eighty percent of those thinking about suicide want other to know they’re hurting and want to stop them from dying. If they begin to give away things that they’ve highly prized in the past; if they seem hopeless or depressed; if they show signs of a preoccupation of death, it may be time to step in or to call for help from the professionals. As I say, knowing the signs, seeing the signs, is not the easiest thing in the world for an untrained friend, teacher, or family member. Several years ago, a high school student I know surveyed her class about suicide. She found that thirty-two percent of the class had considered it. Fifteen students had actually tried it unsuccessfully. She was shocked as were other members of our committee.

Jared Blevens said about his friend, “I didn’t know how depressed he was.” Perhaps the one-time use of any word that’s even associated with depression should be a key to begin talking. Or, perhaps, communities should begin developing programs to talk about suicide in much the same way they now openly talk of bullying and cyberbullying. We cannot allow this to continue to be the second or third leading cause of death among our youth. If we do nothing, it could easily challenge motor vehicle accidents as the number one cause of teenage fatality.

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“Wow, what a bunch of lucky dogs!”

“Yeah; Barcelona for a couple of weeks; that would be just so cool.”

“When I took French last year, we went nowhere. That sucked!”

“Yeah, what a bunch of lucky dogs.”

“Oh-my-god!”

“Did you hear?”

“Yeah”…starts crying…again.

That’s dialogue. I don’t know whether it’s anywhere near what was said before and after the plane crashed into the Alps. I have no idea if that’s the way it went, but to this day – sixty-three years later – I can tell you exactly how those kids felt. I can tell you how fast the news spread through Haltern, Germany. I can understand the shock of fellow students, although not to the extent that comes from losing that many. But, I understand; I remember.

I remember sitting in a funeral home on Webster Street and looking at a casket who’s lid was closed…and sealed…because there wasn’t anything the funeral director or embalmer or whoever makes a corpse look life-like could do. I remember wondering how much of him was in the casket. Did they find all the pieces, parts of his body? Did he see it coming? Was he aware that he was about to die? Did it hurt much? We’d never toss a football around, ever again. He wouldn’t be one of the first ones picked when we bucked up for teams, never again. Yeah, I remember.

The “he,” in this case, was Joe Thompson, a friend who decided to leave high school in his senior year to enlist in the Army. He loved a good fight and wanted to go to Korea. He was at Fort Benning in Georgia; had come home on leave. He and four of his Army buddies were heading back. We never really knew precisely what happened; whether someone fell asleep at the wheel or what, but they all died. I don’t even know where the others were from, but Joe was from our town, a town of about 10,000. Word traveled fast. In those days, we didn’t light candles or create little shrines anywhere. We went to the wake at the funeral home, sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. One of the other things I remember well is that the walls of the funeral home were white, a stark white, and I remember thinking that they should have been something other than white; funny, the things you remember.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s one or sixteen; whether it’s the jock or the class nerd; it’s a classmate and he or she is dead from this, that, or the other thing…and you won’t see them again. It doesn’t matter whether you were a good friend or not; this was a classmate. Kid could have been the biggest jerk in the school, but now the jerk got killed, and that changes things. As kids ourselves, we may not express it or even understand it, but it’s an indication that we aren’t immortal, invincible, or inviolable. He or she was a classmate – same grade or different; it doesn’t matter – and high school is nothing if not a community unto itself.

Is this as tragic as Newtown, or Littleton, Lockerbee or Malaysia flight 370? Sure it is. Nearly all death is tragic. It’s more so when it’s young people who die; even more when it’s a violent end to young life. The people of Haltern will get through this…almost. The pain will last for years. Memories will come back after years have passed and those classmates will remember an episode and they’ll start to cry. Someone may ask them, “What’s wrong?” and they’ll just shake their heads; perhaps look at their own kids. They’ll dry their tears and get on with what they were doing.

Some memories fade quickly. I used to believe that it was the bad ones that faded the fastest; that the good ones remained far longer. However, as you can see, there are times when even the bad ones come back to bite you. Just ask someone who lost a friend when they were young.

 

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In Corinthians 13:11, it says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

“When I became a man…”

I suppose that by necessity we must all become men…of one kind or another. I am not certain, however, that becoming a man, or a woman for that matter, means putting all of our childhood thoughts behind us. Heck, when we become parents, most of us, at least for a while, revert to talking like a child, particularly to our babes in arms; truth be told, we even do that when we first become grandparents – and isn’t that most embarrassing when a nurse walks in and hears us cooing and oooing over our first grandchild. If you have yet to experience that particular joy, there is a real treat awaiting you.

“…I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

“Why” and “how” I sometimes ask myself. No question that we must do it. Our reasoning has to become more complex because as we grow our world becomes more complex, particularly since our exponentially expanding technology has compacted our world to the point where we are in touch with one another so rapidly that before we can LOL, we’re COEO.

Call me a sentimental old fool if you will, but I miss much of the time when, as Barbra Streisand sang, “Can it be that was all so simple then…” and I think, “Yes,” it was so much less complex. No one had the power to end mankind with the push of a single button. If someone had measles or chickenpox, we were told to go visit them so we could catch it young and get it over with. Our heroes were Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and even Jimmy Doolittle. Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga wouldn’t have been very well accepted when we were in our childhood, so yes, “…time [has] erased every line.”

At nineteen, I was still a teenager, but I drove across this wonderful nation of ours, stopping to see Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and mountains the size of which I had never seen before. On the verge of entering my third decade of life, I still found it difficult to accept all of the snow atop Mount Rainier in August or how much darker and more foreboding the Pacific felt when I swam in it. Does that mean that I hadn’t left my childhood completely behind? Who knows? If you wish to compare me to some kid who graduates MIT at fourteen, yeah, I guess I was a bit behind the times… but those certainly were fun times.

It’s tough being forced to grow up. I think of the children who lose a parent early on and are put in a position of becoming man or woman of the house, and I wonder how I would have reacted had I been placed in that turmoil. My answer is that you just have to do it. I recall my time in basic training in the Army. We were the extremes in age in our company. We had youngsters of seventeen and people of my age – 22 – and even older…Kemper Callahan was, I believe, 28 and held a doctorate in forestry. It was, to say the least, a motley crew. There were times when the younger ones behaved as veterans and other times when the older ones behaved like children. As an example, you don’t tell a sergeant to go find someone else to unload the milk for the mess hall just because you have a master’s degree in some obscure field. Sergeants-do-not-care-about-your-academic-credentials, particularly when they have drawn night duty and have to get a milk truck unloaded at three o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, I was the acting barracks sergeant [still a trainee, however] and the mess hall was next to our barracks. My platoon wound up standing at attention in February outside company headquarters, and I spent an hour inside convincing the company commander that it would not be in anyone’s best interest to court martial the “yes sir, we all know he’s an asshole” and to let the academic idiot graduate from basic training and move on with nothing more than a notation in his file to keep him on a very short leash… an adult acting as a child!

Ah, the memories…”Memories may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget…” This year will mark the sixth anniversary of my wife’s death; same day; same date; it will be particularly painful because, as it is this year it was on Father’s Day that it happened. I choose not to forget the pain of that day nor will I ever…and that’s only right and just. I do choose to forget other painful memories. I can’t tell you of the painful days of the many surgeries I’ve undergone. For the most part, “…it’s the laughter [that] we remember whenever we remember the way we were.”

 

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The Class of 1946 of Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts cannot write their names. Wow, there’s a broad statement for you. However, it’s also a true statement. Brookline was a test study for a project by the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. They taught children to print. Don’t get me wrong; they could print as fast as some of the rest of us could write…but they could not write. How do I know this? I worked with a member of that Brookline Class who told me the story. He never forgave the Brookline school department or Harvard.

Why is this important? It demonstrates the stupidity and naiveté of some communities when it comes to what is taught in our public schools…or what isn’t taught, as the case may be. I have not forgiven my own school system for allowing me to be placed in a curriculum that did not take advantage of the skills that I wasn’t even aware I had when I entered high school. Where were the ‘guidance’ counselors who were supposed to work with students? My memory, believe it or not, is still reasonably solid, yet I cannot remember the name of one single guidance counselor in my high school…I can tell you the name of every teacher in the school and even the number of their classroom, but not a guidance person. I mention this because it appears to me that times have really changed…and not necessarily for the better.

Today, teachers teach to tests and bullshit, no matter how minor, is not tolerated. Today, students are subject to search and seizure, suspension and expulsion at the drop of a hat. I saw where a student in Tennessee was going to be sent to an alternative because a search of his car turned up an old knife of his father’s. Wait a minute; who was searching his car and why? A kindergartner was suspended for pointing a finger gun at another student; what is with that? You slap the kid upside the head; tell him or her it’s wrong and get on with your day. If the parents come in to complain, tell them to “fuck off and let me do my job.”

Some wise old fool came up with the term, ‘zero tolerance,’ and everyone said, “Oooh, what a great term; let’s see how we can use it as a control tool.” Here’s one definition:  “Zero tolerance is a type of policy, which implies that certain actions will completely not be accepted under any circumstances. It is generally applied in reference to policies that make clear exactly which actions are not allowed.” It is a “type” of policy which “implies,” and then it establishes what won’t be tolerated. To my mind, it’s a type of policy that puts too much power into the hands of too many different personalities, and that, my friends, is a bad, bad thing to do.

A police chief friend of mine had a zero tolerance policy instated in his town that said underage drinking would not be tolerated…anywhere…any time. He enforced it. I think we have all read of what can happen when people under the legal age get drunk and get behind the wheel of a car; usually someone dies. The unfortunate part is that too rarely is it the drunken teenager. Everything went along swimmingly until the chief and his men arrested the “wrong” underage drinkers. “Oh, my child will lose her athletic scholarship to X College next year.” Oh, my child will be thrown out of the honor society.” “Hey, I’m a cop; you can’t arrest my kid.” The excuses were many and myriad, but guess what? He didn’t care; he enforced a law that had been passed in his town, and when he did, the baloney went right into the Westinghouse [a polite way of saying, [“The shit hit the fan”}. In other words, zero tolerance is fine until it affects ‘those’ people who aren’t supposed to be affected.

Years ago, I was asked to write an emergency plan for the institution at which I was working. We had some problems, and no one really knew how they should be handled. Therefore, together with the head of the campus police department, a plan was developed. The very first paragraph contained words to the effect that no emergency plan could ever hope to anticipate all potential emergencies. It can’t be done and/or if it could, the damned thing would be so voluminous that no one would ever read it. Immediately, critics jumped on the fact that the plan was too general. The critics were the same people who would stick their collective heads in the sand and pretend that everything was right with the world…while the bombs were falling all around them. Eventually, the plan was passed. Within two weeks of its passing it had to be put into effect. A couple of years later, I learned that a teacher at Harvard told his graduate students, “If you want to learn how to properly address an emergency situation, look how they did it at {our school}.”  Would we have handled a different emergency in a different manner? Yes, we would have, but the principles would have been the same.

It is possible to have a zero tolerance policy without being intolerant. Automatic sentencing for a violation of a zero tolerance policy is idiotic unless you know the circumstances of the violation. Certainly, if someone brings a loaded weapon to any school, that cannot be tolerated, but what’s the punishment? Has this person been in trouble before? Certainly, the weapon is immediately confiscated, but what’s the why? Had they, in fact, been planning to kill? Zero is an awfully big word. What if the weapon was unloaded; the student had spoken to the school security officer, his teacher, and the principal, and was doing a presentation that involved a demonstration using an unloaded weapon? Certainly, the circumstances are exaggerated but how does this fall under ‘zero?

Schools are different places from when I attended. The students are brighter, more worldly and sophisticated. They have smart phones and texting; they have so many entries into an information age that is fascinating and endless. Those who want to learn want to be challenged, not taught for some bloody test. Those who don’t want to learn but prefer to disrupt, get them into a situation where their disruptive traits can be put to work…like cleaning bathrooms in a police station. If schools suspend or expel students for violating a zero tolerance policy, examine the policy at the same time the punishment is being examined.

From day one at school, every child is aware that the world is one big, frightening place. They have no clue regarding where they fit. We tell them to study hard and they’ll do well; that’s bullshit. We tell them to go to college and they’ll succeed; that, too, is bullshit. We provide so much false hope for so many of these kids that when their hopes and wishes don’t come true, whether it’s in the first grade or in the workaday world or anywhere in between; when they see the world for what it is, they want to blame someone and they rebel. It can happen at any time along life’s continuum. We often forget that, but as we’ve seen all too often, sometimes we’re too late…or others just don’t want to listen. Maybe the world is just spinning too rapidly for some people.

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This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

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