Fear of expertise. Or Vaginas.

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It has been clear for sometime that education has been under attack in our country and that it has even been used as a way to insult people (especially politicians, it seems that being an educated human makes you elitist, and ironically, unintelligent.) Today I had the most hilarious* exchange on Facebook with someone (who I do not even know) through a friend’s post. First of all the unknown, who thankfully did not pepper his ad hom vitriol with spelling errors – only formatting ones – credits his educational background to the smoking section at the high school I attended, and said his primary activity was drinking Budweiser. (Here is me desperately trying to not be a beer snob. Oh. Whoops.) I am fairly certain I have acknowledged the mediocrity of my high school, so imagine the potential of the smoking section. Anyhow….

This person began to quote, with intermittent success, all sorts of interesting “facts” from the Founding Fathers about how they supported the unrestricted ownership of any and all firearms. I am sure you can now see where this is going. This followed him trying to tell me that when the Founders used the word ‘state’ they meant the 50 states.

Seriously.

After I explained how state (especially how it is used in the Second Amendment) refers to what he would likely call a ‘country’ today, defined by a single national government. I suggested that this common mistake was akin to people who mistakenly think the word nation means ‘country’. Again, as Alex Trebec would say, “No, I’m sorry, the correct response is ‘What is a specific group of people.'” I also reminded him/them that the Founding Fathers didn’t want the majority of people to even vote… they sure as shit did not want them armed.

This went back and forth for longer than it should have. And the more I got to thinking that the levels of idiocy we are facing in this country are infinite, the more acutely aware I became of the fact that in my efforts to try to actually have this conversation, I am the idiot.

It gave me a headache. And really, this whole position that gun regulation somehow equates to a loss of access to firearms is just so… lame. [Bring on Bill Maher and Jon Stewart please.] A second participant in the “discussion” asked me if I would be okay with forced registration of my vagina, since prostitution was a crime. In speaking about having to register his gun he said: “The implication is that because someone else will commit a crime with it [a gun], I should be treated as a criminal. Are these methods acceptable for all potential crimes? Rape? I would happily register my penis, but mostly just cuz I like to show it off. Prostitution? Wanna get a vagina license?”

I could not make this shit up. The gun-to-penis connection took two sentences. And yes, I think even though he lives in Nevada (clue number one that this was a futile endeavor) he might be unaware that prostitutes do basically register their vaginas. I refrained from asking him about the last time a vagina was responsible for the violent deaths of myriad human beings a la Newtown.

It went back and forth, and to every challenge on either side there was a come back… to varying degrees of success on all sides I would say. When I tried to explain that not only were we talking about my field of study in college, this was also something I studied and taught on a professional level, I got  mocked outright. [A possibly more salient question is what is scarier… an education or a vagina? Answer: An educated vagina.] I countered by saying if we were discussing drywall and I offered my opinion, and said I was a professional drywall installer, would it seem like something to make fun of? And then I got this question: what in the world could make anyone an expert on the Constitution. (Prefaced by, “Not to be an ass but…”)

And I believe he was serious. Or at least, I assume.

*Eupemism. One of many herein.

I’m old.

It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

I say I am old a lot. Mostly because I teach teenagers, who keep me young (at least at heart) and because I find it personally ironic since I do not actually feel old. But on days like today I recognize that I am old.

I am old because I watched Fred Rogers in his time and his lessons were reinforced in my daily life. And this was in the 70s when things we like to blame for the hideous shit we see in the news (the economy, world strife, unemployment, resource shortages, racial tension, social inequity) were daily realities just like they are today. Mr. Rogers may have been an easy target for mockery, and I would suggest that these days kindness is far more often mocked than it is revered. One need not look to far to see examples of the nice kids at school being called “pussies” or “fags,” or the President of the United States being denigrated for NOT being a bumptious, belligerent, bully in a national debate, or the metaphoric high-road being that of the weak, ignorant, losers.

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

I am old because I remember when school was the safest place to be. I do not remember a day that I went to school afraid of anything more than the sometimes awkwardness of growing up. Perhaps that was a gift of the times, the places, or the people I was around. But I do not think that this should be a gift. It is a right. “Freedom from fear,” FDR told us was one of the four essential human freedoms. I remember being bussed into a middle school in the heart of one of San Diego’s most notorious neighborhoods, El Barrio Logan, and the school was the safe haven. It was where my peers came to get away from the madness that was their lives, the sort of which I had never seen before with my inquisitive suburban eyes. Francisco came to school because no one would mess with him there, even though he certainly faced danger on his walk to and from the gates of Memorial Junior High.

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

I am old because I come from a time when no one would have ever even considered suggesting that the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut would have been prevented if the people in the school had been armed. This sentiment is so totally incomprehensible to me I can barely articulate it aloud.

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s land

I am old because I remember when no one believed the news they were hearing out of Columbine, Colorado. The stories were met with disbelief rather than resignation. We promised that we never let something like this happen again. Now I can count, and recall, more school shootings in my professional lifetime than people in most nations would in multiple lifetimes. I am old because I can see how the instinctive need to protect our own – not only our families, or our friends, or our communities – but our species, and especially the youngest of our kind, who turn to us to model for them what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a society, is being lost.

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

I am old because I have had the chance to travel the world and been in the company of people who have survived unspeakable horrors and still are more frightened of the United States than any place on earth. How can I explain the struggle to understand a young man in Siem Reap who played music outside the night market and had lost both his legs to a land-mine, who on discovering where I was from, asked me if I thought living in America was scary. America scary? I repeated, sure I must be misunderstanding. He shook his head at me and laughed and said, Yes, are you scared of America?

I am old because I remember talking with my college bound students in Hong Kong, the very sophisticated, world-traveling, children of privilege, who had seen so much, and seemed so Western, but were consistently contemplating how they would maintian their personal safety in America. What do you mean? I asked. I think you watch too many movies, I said. No, they said. There are so many guns in America, it is very dangerous there. I shook my head. Today I shake me head in a different way. And I shake from the inside for the children I don’t have but take care of everyday. What could I do for them in the face of this?

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

But most importantly, I am old because I have had the chance, the privilege, to be allowed to get old. We are failing our children today. “What children need to hear most from adults is that they can talk with us about anything, and that we will do all we can to keep them safe.” We are failing to uphold the social contract, and we are perpetuating a society that will make the Assyrians, the Huns, and all the warring tribes of the past seem docile in a historical comparison.

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

My heart is broken tonight, for a country that has lost its way. We are good people. Mr. Rogers knew this. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” We can do better than this.

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Peace be with you, Newtown, Connecticut.

Today IS the Day.

There is no good time to address this reality.
Today IS the day.
The conversation must be had.
Today IS the day.
To those who say guns don’t kill people – I call bullshit:
Today in China a school attack took place.
The assailant was armed with a knife.
People were hurt and people were traumatized.
No one was killed. Ask yourself what the difference is.
Today IS the day.
Since July of this year, we are averaging a shooting every two and a half weeks.
Today IS the day.

 87 people are dying from gunshot wounds daily in the USA.
Today IS the day.

Brady Campaign

I’m accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I’m a dog who’s lost its bite
I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don’t expect to sleep through the night
Some people say a lie’s a lie’s a lie
But I say why
Why deny the obvious child?
Why deny the obvious child?

#todayIstheday