Civil Discourse – The Endangered Species

If civil discourse from public figures and politicians in this country is needed to save the planet I, for one, will be making my final plans.  In recent weeks, the level of intolerance, personal attacks, and the lack of civility has reached an all time low in this country.  My breaking point was the posting by the attorney formerly associated with CBS who stated that she felt no sympathy for the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas because apparently only white Republicans attend country music concerts and she believes such people are fair game for killing.  More troubling – the sound of crickets from all levels of leadership in this country against such hatred and acceptance of violence against a certain segment of our population. Such tacit consent for hatred and violence does not bode well for any organization within our country, much less the country itself.  The silence is deafening from virtually the entire political and socioeconomic spectrum.  In my assessment, no one has anything to be smug about here because no one seems to be standing up and saying, “enough!”

No one, and I do mean no one, should be the target of such filth.  We may not agree on politics, religion, sports, or whatever topic, but each of us has the right to feel safe and secure when expressing an opinion on any topic – AND the obligation to be civil as we do so.  Yes, even those who espouse hatred toward an individual or group because or race, gender, etc., have the constitutionally protected right to stand up and publicly demonstrate how misinformed, intolerant, and stupid they really are.  But no one has the right to espouse violence against another.  And when such tragedies as Las Vegas happen, no one has the moral superiority to gloat over the deaths and maiming of hundreds of people.  That concert wasn’t about politics.  Plain and simple, it was about listening to and enjoying the music by a group of very talented musicians.

To those talking heads, political pundits, and public figures who publicly demonstrated their complete lack of sensitivity and civility – out of respect for those who lives were lost and those whose lives have now been horribly changed, if you can’t be civil, just be quiet.

Never ceases to amaze me

I recently traveled and people continue to amaze me.

Here are the folks who follow the neck cushion trend.  Whoever invented that pillow must be living on Easy Street by now.  Every color of the rainbow can be seen on parade through the airport of your choice.  With the way the airlines are configuring the seats in coach (or economy) to be sure to pack in six folks in the space originally designed for four bodies, if all three folks in the same row use these cushions, it certainly makes for some interesting gymnastics to fit them comfortably.

We have folks who believe that if they like the smell of their food, every passenger within a radius of three rows must like it, too.  I have nothing against onions (well, maybe the chopping part) but at 7:30 in the morning on a fully packed flight, having one passenger consume the Italian special sub, loaded with spicy meats, peppers, and extra onions sure makes for a difficult few moments, especially when that person is in the seat next to me.  Wonder what the reaction would be if I asked them to dine outside?

Then there’s the child pulling on the back of the seat in front of him or her, or deciding that he/she is going to kick the seat in front for the remainder of the flight.  Mom (or Dad) is completely oblivious to whatever Junior is doing and now, here come the screams.  How do those kids get that decibel level out of their throats?

But my favorite is the passenger currently in front of me who has decided to recline his seat back ALL THE WAY. Forget about using my tray table.  What I wouldn’t give to be a kid, kicking the seat in front of me……

 

A Step Forward

Earlier this week I was honored to attend an adoption ceremony where three little boys had some permanent stability finally come into their lives. How wonderful to see those three superheroes ( they attended the ceremony dressed as Batman, Spiderman, and Superman) become a family – a true, loving, and stable family. Their future became just a little brighter in that one magical moment.
This moment did not come easily but my friend who initiated the adoption proceedings persevered through thick and thin. Despite the challenges, obstacles, and bureaucracy, my friend stayed positive when talking with the boys, reassuring them that the day would eventually come. And it did. I like to think it came because common sense prevailed. Never once did she let the boys think that things were not going well. Never once did she waver in her push to achieve the goal of adoption. Wonder why? Because she believes in what she is doing. She believes that the boys deserve a second chance at a happy childhood, leading hopefully to a happy and successful life. The journey for her children won’t be easy. There are physical and emotional scars which need to be addressed. But those will be addressed in a world now where these three little ones know that they are loved, that love will never die, and they have the love, prayers and support of a whole “village” of relatives and friends. I wish this new family all the very best and will continue to enjoy watching these three superheroes make their mark on the world.

It doesn’t take a crisis

In a recent discussion, folks expressed their belief that it was sad that it took the crisis of Harvey to have folks do nice things for others. I’m sorry – I have to completely disagree.
Good people, kind-hearted people don’t wait for a crisis to help others. With or without a crisis, not a day goes by in this country without folks getting involved in trying to make life a bit easier for their neighbors. The difference is that they don’t broadcast what they’re doing. They’re simply doing it because it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing it because three little boys need a loving home and people to help them learn that childhood is not about being abused or locked away in the dark. They’re doing it because some young people made a poor decision which landed them on the wrong side of the law and they don’t want to see those lives thrown away, nor the lives of the rescued pups the young people are training with. They’re doing it because of their love for teaching and wanting to see young people learn the importance of art and music in expanding their minds. Race, color, gender, and all those other labels folks use to try to separate us don’t matter. Good people help folks simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The devastation from Harvey and Irma will pass. But the kindness shared between strangers will live on in the hearts of those receiving and giving those kindnesses. What lesson can we learn from Mother Nature’s latest show?  All of us are affected by the devastation. But we also know that a better day is coming and we all will have yet another opportunity to share a kindness with strangers.

Words

It recently dawned on me that I didn’t get the memo.  It seems a complete paradigm shift has occurred. At some point in time, folks have apparently decided to turn over to words the power to completely control their lives.  If someone says something they disagree with, they can’t control their emotions. The rest of us get treated to the spectacle of temper tantrums in adults that are worthy of three-year olds.

Why in the world would anyone give such power to words?  When these folks hear something that hurts their feelings or with which they disagree, they apparently can no longer function as normal adults.  They lash out, using words that would, in previous generations, result in a serious washing of the mouth with a bar of vile tasting soap.  They foster more hate and division than the original words could ever hope for.

Words are just that – words.  How we use words is what is important.  We can use them to create great literature, poetry, and songs.  We can use them to make inspiring speeches, or empower others to seek out new discoveries and ideas.  We can use them to console others when tragedy strikes, or to comfort those who are sick or dying.  Words allow us to express what is in our hearts.  As an educator, I use words to challenge my students to engage in critical and creative thinking as I ask them for new solutions to entrenched problems, always keeping in mind the value of the individual.   We can use words to motivate ourselves to become better people, to heal divisions between people who probably have more in common than they do different.  Or, unfortunately, on all sides of the political spectrum, we can hear and see words used to foster hate, division, and animosity.  Those of us who disagree with hateful speeches can follow the new philosophy of doing nothing because our feelings are hurt – or we can stand up and overwhelm that hate speech with words of tolerance, patience, and understanding.   I don’t know about anyone else but I choose the latter option.

Prayers for Texas

Watching the devastation which has hit Texas as a result of the hurricane has been heart wrenching.  The rain amounts have been without equal.  The cleanup will be long and hard.  But knowing our neighbors in Texas, I am confident that the recovery will be full and complete.  Please join with me in keeping all those affected by the hurricane in our thoughts and prayers.  There are no politics when disaster strikes – only neighbors helping neighbors and a country united in helping those in need.

Leaving Our Comfort Zones (it’s all for the good!)

I had the privilege of attending the recent annual symposium of the National Organization of Victim Assistance (“NOVA”) in San Diego this week.  I was in the company of well over 1500 victim advocates who exemplify the meaning of being passionate about their calling to help others.  I was honored to do a presentation at one of the breakout sessions where I got to talk with many of the attendees on a more personal basis.  My participation in the symposium energized my commitment to seeing our grass roots endeavor through to a successful conclusion.

The conversations I had with many of those at the symposium confirmed one thing for me.  All of us, and I am definitely including myself in this, will need to leave our comfort zone of working in the background.  The agenda that has come together will demand our best effort even when we face challenges and potential setbacks.  Those events will simply be opportunities for us to excel.

Please join with me in this project.  I am confident that our efforts will be successful in getting the national registry of child abusers fully operational. We will also be successful in changing the way in which child abusers are sentenced – focusing on the harm that was done to the child victim(s), rather than what is expedient.  The time is now and the hard work begins today.

Focus Our Attention

“STAN” – Stop The Abuse Now!
I have waited to see what people’s comments might be concerning the immediate focus of our efforts. From what I am hearing there are two primary concerns.
First, as individuals and as a group, we need to take whatever steps are needed to insure that each state has an active child abuser registry for all convicted child abusers. Using the experience of the states in developing the registry for sex offenders, we should be able to avoid many of the pitfalls and delays in getting the registry for convicted child abusers up and running nationwide.
The second goal is to insure that each state assesses the effectiveness of its laws for child abusers. We should ask each legislature to consider revising the laws to insure that there are mandatory minimum sentences for child abuse events which involve physical, mental, and/or emotional abuse of children. The mandatory minimums should increase with each subsequent conviction.
With these two goals in mind, we can now begin our work. I will be the first to say that this task will not be easy. However, it is well worth every ounce of effort we put into it. The option of doing nothing is not available to us any longer. Our children are depending upon us to speak up for them, including the ones whose voices have been silenced forever.
I know the summer vacation continues for many of you but I ask you to please get involved.  If not us, who?

Our First Step

A heartfelt thank you to all who have read and shared the recent posts.   Now let’s take our first concrete step toward achieving our goal.

The grass roots movement starts with everyone who has read and shared the posts, talked about them with friends, or have family and friends who are passionate about making this movement a reality joining a meeting near them.  This meeting can be in person, over the phone, via Skype, or whatever means you have to get folks to come together in small groups. This movement already has people who can lead such meetings so please step up!  The focus of the meeting will be to brainstorm and develop 3 – 5 priorities you would like us to focus on.   Notes should be taken of all the ideas on the priorities and the listing forwarded to me.  If at all possible, let’s get our contributions together by the the end of July.

If someone thinks of something they want to see on the list but forgot to mention it in a meeting, send it directly to me.  If you have questions about how to get a meeting organized and creating an agenda, please contact me.  I am a resource for you   The email address is vcswish@gmail.com and direct inquiries are always welcome.

If you reside in the Phoenix, Arizona area, I will be happy to host however many meetings we can to give folks a chance to contribute to the grand list of priorities.  With the help of some very good friends we will compile a master list of all suggestions.  That list will be published in an upcoming post. Your comments on that list will help develop the final list of priorities.

We have to do this.  Our children are depending on us.

Let’s get started

In the time that has passed since my last blog, more children have been abused and several more silenced forever. It is time for us, as leaders in our communities, to start the long overdue process to end this madness.

I now request that each of you share this blog with all of your contacts because we are going to engage in an online brain storming session to start our work.  Our collaboration begins with ideas on two important points.  How can we best make the national registry an effective tool, and how do we change state and federal legislation that will insure convicted child abusers are punished to the fullest extent of the law.  Another point follows from the last one – we need to have the most effective system in place to insure that people charged with child abuse are charged appropriately, especially in situations where a plea agreement is reached.  Each charge should reflect the seriousness of the harm caused the victim.  If a child dies as a result of the injuries inflicted, we need to work with victim advocates and others to insure that the prosecution brings the most appropriate charge against the defendant.  Doing this lets victims know that our society has their best interests in mind and the sentencing goals of specific and general deterrence might actually come to mean something.

My request for help in achieving this goal reflects my personal philosophy – If it truly does not matter who gets the credit, we can accomplish any goal.  Please remember the focus of our activity – to make the national registry effective, and to work with the criminal justice system to insure that those convicted on child abuse charges are not given a wink and a nod for their conduct. Children’s lives are at stake.