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Just before my first blog posted on the school shooting in Parkland, I got a message from an old college friend to call when I got a chance. Not thinking anything of it and having a moment, I called right away.  Two and a half hours later I was still in shell-shock.  Her daughter was at the school in Parkland during the Ash Wednesday shooting.

The details she shared were shocking but they are hers, not mine to share.  She simply wanted to talk to someone outside the area.  As might be imagined, there is a pall over the towns surrounding the school.  And the effects, especially to kids, parents, and teachers so closely related to the event will likely continue to be quite heavy for some time to come.  And will affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives, no doubt.

To realize how close I was to this shooting made me see that these things affect more of us than we might imagine. The connections radiate in all directions.  For every child killed, the child has two parents (at least), and often siblings, four grandparents (at least), aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, family friends and neighbors.  I’m in an outer ripple of a light splash for a child who came home from Douglas this Valentine’s Day.  Not a family member, not a neighbor, just an old college friend who lives across the country.  And I feel heartbroken.  I well up with tears as I talk with my friend, I hold back a sob as she talks about her experience and I imagine what this must be like for her.  And I imagine that a thousand fold because this group of affected people goes into the thousands, into the millions I’d venture.  We are all connected in so many ways.  And another’s pain is our pain.  None of us likes when a loved one is in sorrow.  The pain may lessen the further out in the ripples you go, but the pain is there nonetheless.

Listening to her, and talking with others and reading about the shooting, the ramifications are heartbreaking.  Here are some of the things we might not think about.  But our children do.  And parents who’ve experienced the dreaded wait, they do too.

  • Sarah Crescitelli, a 15-year-old, texting her mother during the shooting,“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciated everything you did for me.”
  • The 7-year old girl who tells her mother, after a “shooter drill” at her elementary school, “Mommy, I need new shoes.”  “But, honey, we just bought you those shoes.”  “Yes, Mommy, but the lights go on when I walk.”
  • The parent waiting outside Douglas to pick up his child, watching the chaos unfold, not knowing if he would be getting bad news instead.

What’s happening?

Well, lots of people are talking.  For now.  I am hopeful, in the short attention span we often have in America, we do not forget this issue by the time November rolls around.  Voting out the NRA-financed members of our government is a good start to being able to find solutions.  The NRA has been funding the problem for some time and they currently have more sway than the millions of Americans who have been affected by mass killings and school shootings.

What’s planned?

A Nationwide Walkout at 10 AM on March 14th ~ Seventeen minutes to commemorate the lives lost at Douglas.

A March 24th Protest in Washington, D.C.  Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin – these teens are stepping up to stop the madness that has gone on too long. They are organizing an event to make their voices heard and to bring about change.  The time is NOW they say, to talk about solutions.  It’s NOT too soon.   The students at Sandy Hook in New Town, Connecticut were too young, these teens say, but they are not.  Now is the time to take action and the NRA is their first point of attack. Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg sent a challenge to all politicians.   Either you Stand with the Children or you side with the Child Murderers.  NRA support is a badge of shame now.

A Nationwide Walkout April 20th – To commemorate the anniversary of Columbine and to stand for change to prevent these mass school shootings.

And perhaps they will solve even more of our problems.  emma gonzalezEmma noted that the gun control issue is “just the first thing” they are focusing on.  They are not just calling B.S. to our politicians in general, they are also calling out 45 on his thoughtless, self-centered tweets.

Thank God someone has the balls to stand up and say what we’ve all been thinking.  The Children will lead us where the Media and Congress have failed.

I’m seeing much hatred, rage, and meme-throwing – yes, I use them too.  But we need to get to real solutions.  We need to talk about real answers.  I personally like the ABC approach I read about: Assault Rifle (AR-15) Ban, Background Checks for all, Closing Gun Shop Loopholes.  I also support Waiting Periods and Limits on Ammo purchases.  And Requiring a License for Buying Ammo and making Ammo REAL Expensive – unless you’re on the range.  How about AR-15s ONLY at shooting ranges?  Kind of like the Army does, they leave the weapons on the range.  They aren’t carrying AR-15s back to the barracks. The MPs carry only handguns.

You don’t like those solutions?  Give me yours.  But I’m not buying that people “need” or “should have” the right to own semi-automatic rifles like that.  What is the basis of their need? And is honoring their desire for an AR-15 more important than protecting our children?  I cannot fathom how.

For a real look at what might work, The Rand Corporation has done a study and it shows what some ideas might do.

What can you do today?  If you are struggling with the aftermath of this shooting, find help.   Be sure you are talking with others, giving yourself space to heal, and finding productive outlets.  Grief is a process.  But balance the grief with hope and optimism.  I think watching these young activists in Florida is a good way to stay hopeful.

And their efforts are already affecting Minnesota’s race for governor.

During the last election cycle, as a Bernie supporter, I became VERY disillusioned with our political system.  Bernie would have beaten 45.  I’m sure of it.  Alas, that’s an argument that no one can never prove. But these kids are already bringing me hope that perhaps our political system CAN return to health.

Over the time since we’ve moved here, we’re seeing the same takeover in Minnesota that we saw in Indiana. The Republicans took over the government slowly and eventually took the Governorship and then began driving out the main Democratic leader, Superintendent of Schools, Glenda Ritz.  It was unbelievable how there would be meetings on Education to which she was not invited.  The Republicans kept taking more and more of her power away.  Of course, they didn’t want real education or teacher supports, all the things Glenda had run on and won in a state becoming more deeply red every cycle.  She took a position Democrats had not held since 1973.

Now we’re watching the same pattern materialize in Minnesota – where we moved because it was more progressive. (Well, and because there’s water.)  Things have been reverting more and more conservative. The Republicans are pushing a fear agenda in their efforts to pit Rural against Urban and it’s working. Division is the friend of the corporate and powerful… It keeps all us peons fighting amongst ourselves while they do as they wish.

This year, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor is stepping down. And it looks like the DFL (Democrat-Farmer-Laborer) party is going to support Walz, a white male candidate – largely because he’s a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) – and they are afraid of being too progressive with any of the three female candidates, all far more progressive than Walz.
But last Tuesday, Walz released a statement noting that he’s listening to these kids.  He’s donated all the NRA funds he’d received and will take no more. And he’s agreed to an AR-15 ban in Minnesota.  Sounds like a real come-to-Jesus experience!

I don’t think that’s enough, but it shows that he’s definitely realizing he may need to fight to hang on where he sees real political trouble.  And we need to keep letting the politicians know where they are in trouble.  From gun violence to climate change to fair wages to health care.

But rather than accept the candidates who “change stripes” to meet the demand, I say we bring in those who KNEW What The Fuck was needed in the first place!  Erin Murphy supported a ban on assault rifles BEFORE the latest shooting and uprising of the constituents-to-be.  These progressive candidates are a more trustworthy place to give our support. So much less likely to, once elected, go back to original plans, with full explanations of why they “simply cannot do what I really wish I could and had promised I would do…”

Closer to home, Bemidji has had it’s own fluff-up last week.  English teacher, Gina Marie Bernard organized “a “Women’s March Youth EMPOWER” walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the high school. The plan is to have students, teachers, school administrators and parents leave school buildings across the country for 17 minutes.”  The next day, the Bemidji Pioneer reported:

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess said he didn’t support a Bemidji High School teacher’s call for students and faculty to leave class next month to protest school shootings, and the teacher told the Pioneer the event has been cancelled.

So… those in power can just cancel a walkout, eh?  Do they comprehend that the very nature of a walkout indicates it is an act of civil disobedience?  That it’s not about asking permission but taking to the streets to express outrage?  I’m betting this decision by Mr. Hess spurs the event to be even larger than it would have been had he just let the movement grow on its own.  Never tell a teen what they cannot do.  I’m wondering if this Superintendent ever had children…  Instead:

District staff are weighing other options, which include a plan to speak to students about gun violence during homeroom on March 14, when the walkout was planned, or to meet at the school’s flagpole before school.

I’m betting those students may well do as they please.  Kind of like those in Florida who ignored 45’s attempt to control the situation.  People are ready to take matters into their own hands.  Administration has had plenty of time, and they’ve done nothing.

Two days later, my letter to the Editor posted.

In the end, if we are not teaching kids that they have a right to freedom of speech, and that this country was BUILT on nonviolent civil disobedience, WHY are we teaching them at all?

And do we think the efforts of these Douglas HS kids are working?  Well the criticism they’ve garnered seems  to indicate that thosewho oppose them are pretty scared.  And that’s where the fear needs to be in politics.  The power of the people CAN bring this country back to its senses. If only we can keep our focus.

Photo Credit:  CNN –  This is also a link to Emma’s entire speech.