Children In Danger

In the 1950s, when I was a child in elementary school, we were taught to hide under our desks and shield our eyes in the event of an atomic bomb attack. The nuns in my school didn’t seem alarmed. Simply another thing we practiced at school, like fire drills, multiplication tables, and penmanship. It was called “duck and cover.”

Adults talked about the A-bomb.

We lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, a likely target of our enemy, the Russians, who lived far away.

My mother mused that we might evacuate to get away from a bomb. My father worked in downtown Washington, and we were in the suburbs, so if we decided to evacuate during the day, we should plan to meet up at some church about an hour’s drive west, near Frederick, MD. My father was more interested in reading the afternoon paper. A day off from school! That was my thought.

This atomic bomb thing, should it ever happen, would be a big explosion in the distance, and a main danger was that the bright light would hurt our eyes. Duck and cover was the thing to do.

No one, adults or children, had ever seen an atomic bomb explosion. We hadn’t heard of such a thing actually happening, certainly not at any school nearby. Or anyplace else in our state. Or anyplace, really. Adults recalled that airplanes had dropped two atomic bombs, but that was far away, long before we children were born.

The 1950s are more than a half-century in the past. The distant and naive past. Today’s schoolchildren and parents live with the fears of 2018. The more things change, the more they remain the same?

No.

In elementary school, today’s dangers are different. 

Children now drill on how to survive an “active shooter.” A shooter inside their school. It’s not a distant, abstract danger. It has really happened in schools. Already happened! 

It’s happened over and over. It’s happened in schools in your own state. Everyone knows about it. No one denies it. The danger is in your neighborhood, possibly next door. Maybe in your very own house!

In my childhood, we saw guns in cowboy movies. For today’s children, guns are everywhere. Sometimes it seems as if nearly everyone is armed, at least here in Florida.

As the new school year begins, the state is belatedly (reluctantly?) spending some money in reaction to public opinion. It is, after all, an election year. Nothing to control guns, mind you. But they’re putting up fences around some schools. Rushing to hire and train more school security personnel. Dress them in more military-like uniforms. Putting on a show to placate fearful parents. In some cases, making schools look like prisons with correctional officers.

Meanwhile, inside the schools principals and teachers conduct active-shooter drills. Children are taught something new: “Run, Hide, Fight.” Sounds like basic training in the army. But it’s not the army. It’s elementary school and high school. It’s worth repeating: “Run, Hide, Fight.”

Wait.

Children are now expected to fight a man shooting a gun in the classroom, the hallway, the cafeteria?

Oh, well. Only as a last resort. First, you should run or hide. Hope and pray (is prayer OK?) that the police arrive. Hope and pray that police arrive, like, RIGHT NOW.

And yes, you might have to fight a gunman with your bare hands, as a last resort. That’s what the schools are teaching. Is it possible that I’ve misunderstood? If that is incorrect, please, somebody correct me.

No, the danger children face at school is not the same.

Yes, the danger at school, and other places too, is WORSE. The danger is not abstract. It’s real. It’s immediate. It’s everywhere.

Are children traumatized by this fear? Or do they ignore it? What about parents? What about teachers? How do teachers cope with fear? Some suggest teachers should carry guns.

Full Stop. Those thoughts — danger in school, children and parents in fear, teachers, guns. More than enough for one day. A good place to stop writing. The only place to go from here is: Can a society live like this, and survive?

— John

Note: This post was prompted by a news story, “Parents block shooter video: Pinellas elementary school kids won’t have to see it as part of active shooting drills,” in The Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 21, 2018, page 1B.

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One Year In Florida

ducks for blog

THE DUCKS THINK THIS BRIDGE WILL TAKE THEM ACROSS THE BORDER TO CANADA. 

As of Aug. 1, I’ve been a Florida resident for one full year! Driver’s license, car registration, voter registration, all accomplished within the first couple of months. Survived my first hurricane, too. Last week, I signed a lease renewal. Small rent increase, now will pay $699 a month. And my typical electric bill is around $46. Zero commuting time and distance.

Won’t try to write a full account of the year, but if I did, it wouldn’t be long. Compared with the first nine months of 2017, which included putting my financial house in order and removing myself from Maryland to Florida, the past 12 months have been a walk in the park.

I met the neighbors in the other three apartments on my floor. Three lone individuals, like me. I speak to one of them nearly every day. Big improvement over the $900 basement apartment in wealthy Montgomery County, where my neighbors were the storage room, the trash room, and the laundry room.

I soon discovered two excellent public libraries and one big bookstore with excellent discounts. And I tried a few churches. Like everyone else, I shop at Publix supermarket and Walmart. Four cheap restaurants are nearby. They meet my need for simple food and ambiance. But I eat in the apartment a lot. I know where to recycle newspapers and aluminum cans, but not plastic bottles.

Each apartment has its own air conditioner outside. My unit died in early July. No problem. Apartment management installed a window unit to tide me over two days while a new outside air conditioner was installed. It is powerful and efficient. Inside air temperature is NOT a problem, I can assure you! The outdoor temperature, humidity and rain in summer, that’s another story. Don’t even want to talk about it.

You have not seen lightning until you’ve lived in the Tampa Bay region.

Full disclosure requires me to report that I turned 70 in June. I’ve been aging at an alarming rate the past few years. Sleep too much. I accomplished the move to Florida on adrenaline fumes. Did it in the nick of time; not sure I’d be able to manage such a feat five years hence.

Truth is, I’m well on the way to becoming a cynical old man. Possibly I’ve already arrived. If a man isn’t cynical at this point, he just hasn’t been paying attention.

The move to Florida was necessary, and possibly life-saving. I escaped the nasty winter cold and the impoverishing Montgomery County cost of living. I haven’t had bronchitis since departing Maryland. Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I survive nicely and balance my budget. And that’s enough honesty for one blog post.

— John

A Little Change Is OK

Housekeeping is not what I do best. In fact, mostly I avoid housekeeping. However, I realized that restarting this old blog is going to require a little. A little housekeeping, I mean. As little as possible. Please bear with me.

Until this month, I hadn’t posted here since the end of 2016. Seems like my will to blog faded away after the sorry election of that November. Not a single post in all of 2017! After all that time, the blog seemed to need repair.

You might notice that I’ve been tinkering with the blog title and the visual theme. I might  cull out a few old posts that no longer seem relevant. Maybe fiddle a little with categories, tags, widgets.

Housekeeping will be done soon, or I’ll simply give up on it. I’ll turn my attention to blogging. But the posts will be different. Writing will be more concise. My political opinions will be banned. Simplicity will be the focus. I hope to have photos and observations on my new life in Florida.

In a day or three, I shall return with a brief outline of the changes necessary to bring me and my life to this time and place.

— John

WE NEED CHANGE.

I think the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is about the same as in Britain. In the richest countries of the world, including the U.S. and Britain, it is immoral to have so many children living below the poverty line. In fact, I believe the child poverty stats indicate that rich countries like us are morally bankrupt! As the artist who created a nifty and instructive poster said, Zero children should be living in poverty. “We need change.”

Indeed. We as a society (and as an electorate) have both the means and the power to reduce child poverty nearly to zero. But do 51 percent of us want to really do that? Do 51 percent of us even care?

I’m afraid to say the answer.

(You can see the poster by clicking on the Abba1blog post below.)

— John Hayden

abba1blog

This started of as a little sketch of a table and chairs in a coffee shop, which evolved in to a mini poverty poster!

I have been reading so much lately about the hidden and unspoken inequality and hardship that goes on in Britain that no one speaks about, and most probably don’t even know about, for example these insane poverty statistics.I think when your’e eating a cinnamon swirl with a soy latte you realise how lucky you actually are? and that a cinnamon swirl probably isn’t a life necessity (no its definitely not). So all of us in that coffee shop that day who were spending too much money on cake, are lucky people to even be able to have that as a opportunity to us, and i completely recognize that.

The fact that 1 in 4 kids live in poverty I think is really really sad, as like…

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Bernie Sanders Wants To Change The Democratic Party

Give Justice A Chance

Bernie Sanders made it clear last night in California that he’s no longer running against Hillary Clinton. He’s running against Trump.

But more importantly, Bernie continues to run because he hopes to imprint his values and issues indelibly on American politics.

Bernie wants to establish a left-of-center political movement that will live on long after the 2016 primary season is over. Continue reading

How Far The Republican Party Has Fallen

Let’s try to apply a little historical perspective to the 2016 election.

When Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York, ran for the Republican nomination in 1964, his divorce and remarriage were considered to be disqualifying, in the eyes of many voters, especially Republican women.

Today, the presumptive Republican nominee for the highest office in the land is . . . Donald Trump? How many times has he been divorced? I forget. It doesn’t matter.

How America has changed in half a century! We were an intolerant society with overly rigid standards. We’ve become a society with no standards at all. We tolerate anything.

For Donald Trump, the charismatic chameleon, no standards apply. Nothing is too crude or too reckless. There are no limits to what the crowds will cheer for.

I wonder, what would President Eisenhower think of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief?

— John Hayden

 

State and Warfare

I don’t know if this perspective on the changing nature of war is 100 percent correct, or not. It certainly provides food for thought in this second decade of the 21st century.

I’m uncertain about the term “consumerist warfare.” This would seem to imply that the warfare is designed to protect a consumer-driven economy.  I need to think about this some more.

As we view the final season of “Downton Abbey,” it’s as if many in America and the U.K. and Canada are caught up in an extended meditation on the old order slipping away and a new and unknown order going forward. Ready or not! The many posts pondering the end (or at least evolution) of the western nation-state over at Clarissa’s Blog also cause us to think about changing times writ large.

Clarissa's Blog

The manner of waging war transforms with every transformation of the state model (Many people say that it’s the other way round: the state form follows the changes in the ways of waging war. Ultimately, the warfare methods are indissolubly linked to the state model, no matter what “comes first.”)

As we discussed before, the nation-state model arose, to a significant degree, in response to a need to find a less costly way than any that had existed before to wage war on an unprecedented scale. This goal was achieved in full, as we all know from the example of the two world wars. Without the nation-state, this kind of warfare would not be possible.

As the nation-state withers away and a new state form comes to replace it, warfare changes as well. Today we are seeing a gradual consolidation of what I call “consumerist warfare.” (This is just my own…

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One Thousand Blog Followers

followed-blog-1000-2x

 

How the blogosphere has evolved since 2007!  WordPress.com logged 660 million blog posts in 2015, according to the Year In Review report, published this week. However, I often wonder if blogging, which was the big new thing in the first decade of the century, has peaked. Every year brings more online competition. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, podcasts, on and on. Continue reading

God Has A Tiger By The Tail

It’s as if God has a tiger by the tail.

Do you feel like the world is spinning out of control? That the center cannot hold? Or that the universe is spinning so fast it will self-destruct by centrifugal force? Or some other, as yet unidentified, force? 

The scary thoughts I’m having at the end of one bad year and the start of an unknowable New Year were sparked by seeing the movie, “Star Wars.” However, this witches’ brew has been bubbling in my brain for some time.

Change comes fast and furious, and I wonder if we are near a convergence of forces that could bring on catastrophic change. I’m flashing on the Age of Aquarius, but this is not what hippies and free thinkers were hoping for in 1967-1969.

Think about it. All Black Swan scenarios are on the table.

War.

Global warming.

Technology off the leash.

Government. Or worse, the absence of government.

Economic collapse.

Social upheaval.

Mass migration(s).

Epidemics or pandemic.

Water scarcity.

Starvation.

Revolution.

Fascism.

Anarchy.

Chaos.

“Star Wars” is a brilliant, futuristic story of the battle between Good and Evil. The Light side and the Dark side.

(Aside: Does Star Wars glamorize war?  Don’t worry, this won’t be on the final exam.)

Back to the battle. Is it a battle between Good and Evil, or between God and Satan? I suppose it depends on whether you have a religious point of view, or a secular point of view.

Maybe it’s not a battle so much between Good and Evil, but rather, a battle between Truth and Lie. Or Truth and Illusion?

In 21st century political discourse, we have difficulty agreeing on facts. Maybe it’s a battle between Fact and Falsehood? Or Fact and Ignorance? Love and Fear?  These are some of my disorderly thoughts at the turn of the year, questions sparked by Star Wars. I should not wade too far into philosophy or theology, lest I be in over my head.

That’s enough uncensored thinking for the first day of the year.

What say you? A tiger by the tail? Spinning out of control?

— John Hayden

Jon Taplin On The Brave New Technology Revolution

If you have 45 minutes and you’d like to know what’s happening in the worldwide technological revolution, I recommend “Sleeping Through A Revolution,” a lecture by Jon Taplin of the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Watch and listen to the lecture here.

The Internet economy is destroying jobs. Taplin cites the ruins of the music, newspaper, book, film, and television industries. The Internet economy has transferred a wealth of income  from the “creative class” (the makers of content) to monopolistic Internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook, Taplin says. And Amazon.

But wait! Musicians, editors, printers, authors and workers in the TV and film industries are not the only losers in this Brave New World of technology monopoly. Taplin predicts:

“The technological revolution is about to come for everybody else’s job too.”

Do you doubt it? The number of robots in the world is doubling every 30 months, Taplin reports. The lecture covers a lot of ground. Past, present, future. I’m not going to report the whole lecture. I urge you to watch it for yourself. I plan to listen to the lecture at least one more time.

— John Hayden