This is what Democracy looks like

This week, in small towns and big cities, from coast to coast and border to border, students walked out of their school building with one common message: enough is enough. Witness our next generation of voters. They’re organized. On the move. Asking the tough questions to legislators and senators and even our president about gun control and school safety and what they’re going to do to return to civility. They’re ready to tackle the hard stuff. And these high school students will be registered voters in 2020, remembering who listened to their pleas, who is looking after them.

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Are you a gun owner?

When I was in high school there was a smoking room in my boarding-school dorm. Back then people smoked everywhere. Doctors smoked in their office. The dentist smoked between drilling and filling. Adults smokes in living rooms and cars, even while reading nite-nite books to their toddler. Every restaurant, tavern, and airplane accommodated smokers. Yet now, there are whole cites that have banned smoking in all public areas. Why? Because of the simple fact that tobacco smoke, even second-hand, kills you. Yes, that’s a real fact. So how did this highly-funded-lying-lobbying industry lose its voice? “The lobby began to lose power as the industry lost credibility, Brandt said” (Keck). In hindsight change from the false to the true seems simple enough, even a lie with sex-appeal and allure, once we stop believing in it.

tree in dawn

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We Should Have Fixed It

“We should have fixed it.” Andrew Pollack made a passionate plea, didn’t he? Will we listen?

I must admit, there is a labyrinth one can easily fall down when you start to untangle this mess of gun violence plaguing our America. But I do believe we are beginning to see a horizon.

Where to start? Get informed. Not from Twitter. Or Facebook. Maybe not anywhere on social media. But by speaking to people in your community. Ask how many guns they have in their household. Ask them if they are locked. Ask how do they see a way to keep all citizens safe. This hard discussion needs the full participation of gun owners. They must come to the table. These are their weapons, and if they want them in circulation, they must figure this one out. With you. And me. Face to face.

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I’m sorry, but what else could I write about today? While my students participate in Vermont Writes Day, spurred on by 7 compelling prompts, I am halted by nonsensical bloodshed. Not drawn to write about the fantastical, no, not an imaginary letter to the bloat king who degrades our White House, nor a whisper coming from the phone either, not even the kindness which does come in abundance to my doorway, but me, shroud in a gray sheet of helplessness, naked and invisible. I cannot fathom how many children must be gunned down before we all throw our mistempered weapons to the ground.

high school building

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mountain pass

The morning started with a solid barricade of mountains rising up in my mind, leaving me, “cabined, cribbed, confined . . . ” I fought to maintain space, maybe even peace, but alas, something triggers something. “Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect” (Shakespeare). I drag myself from one room to another, desperate for an escape, but not seeing possibility. Whether cause stemmed from the bigotry of Washington GOP to unify a white-only America, the endless stream of gray clouds covering my state, or the disconcerting stream of #metoo people crying out their abusers, regardless, my mood hit rock bottom. I drown in despair despite the fact I avoided his new lies and the “fake news” disclaimer we have come to know as a presidential retort; and even though I applaud the bravery of the women who are calling out their truth, as a survivor, I am grabbed backwards into my own stolen childhood, circling around in panic attacks and emotional shattering each time I hear their abuse stories. Victimhood is a badge no one asks for, yet one finds near impossible to shed. So yes, even with the no-listening-to-the-news weekend rule, following this dystopian-metaphor converging on a convoluted new world, the walls close in around me. I think too much about the future. Breath in, breath out. I must move. With cleats strapped onto my hiking boots I get myself outside and onto the nearest mountain trail.

snowy road in Stowe Vermont

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Starry Nights

As I embark on a Shakespeare unit with my students, nine graders reading Romeo & Juliet and AP Lit reading Hamlet, we start with questions. Questions Elizabethan thinkers might have pondered in 1598; questions we still ponder in 2018. I am struck with our timeless preoccupation over destiny: Are we the masters of our own fate? I ask students to think and write about their beliefs on this topic. Certainly, these teens, like those penned by Shakespeare, want to believe they are, indeed, in control of their outcomes, while I, I who have screamed up at the Heavens in distress, frustrated by the unpredictability of chance, those ‘why me’ moments; “O, I am Fortune’s fool” situations. As if we are pulled by strings invisible to our own hands. Just when we want/need/hope for a different outcome we must settle for what is… but as I look across the classroom at my students, into their hopeful eyes, their exuberant optimism, I see their uniform belief that yes, they are masters of their fate. They aren’t phased by headlines or politicians’ lies; they see their own trajectory as it slants up and beyond, straight into the starry night. Straight into heaven.

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