Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Irony and Infamy


It's Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 and I'm sitting at home listening to The Doors’ "Five to One", watching a peaceful thunderstorm and enjoying the smell of the rain. No, it's not summer vacation yet—still seven days until freedom. And even though global warming has made snow in May a believable possibility, no snow day.

This morning, I was getting prepared for class (I have first hour off) when a coworker comes in and asks, “Where do you think the safest place in the building is?”

“Well, it depends on what you want to be safe from: a nuclear holocaust, a tornado, a gunman, or a principal?”

“Didn’t you check your email yet? Someone called in a bomb threat.”

Ten minutes later, our fearless leader announces that the school will be evacuated and that school is canceled. I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was to high-five the two teachers in the room with me. But as I walked into the hall and waited for the students to be unleashed, I got a horrible feeling in my stomach. I remembered that most school shootings I have read about were usually accompanied by a bomb threat at some point. I imagined a black-clad, semi-automatic-tech-9-wielding sniper opening up on the students as they poured out of the building. I don’t know what I would do if this happened, but my adrenaline was definitely pumping. I had all but convinced myself that I was going to grab a desk leg and charge straight at the shooter.

But, of course, nothing happened. Unless you count the fact that there were at least fifteen police officers (local county and state troopers) strategically placed around the small campus. The most disconcerting of these was the one leaning against his car on a hill a few hundred yards in the distance. He didn’t have a sniper rifle pointing at us, but he might as well have. There was a bad vibe in the air. I noticed a small ninth grader being comforted by an SSD teacher as she tearfully awaited her ride. This was not good a good situation.

All of the kids who lived to far to walk had to wait on the practice
football field for about an hour as the buses were rounded up. I decided to hang out with them so they didn’t feel this was an opportune time to punch someone in the face. It is spring after all. Then the helicopter came. We’re not talking about a news helicopter either. It was army green and circling around the building. I kept picturing the side door to slide open to reveal one of those manned machine guns with the smoking bullet shells flying everywhere, like in some old Vietnam movie. The buses eventually came, we were informed that the drug sniffing dogs found nothing and the building was more or less “cleared”, and
the teachers slowly and aimlessly disperse, uneasy but relieved.

And guess what I had planned in class today? After reading Lord of the Flies and watching Bowling for Columbine we were all set to debate violence in society and school shootings in particular via Socratic seminar. This irony was not lost on my students as several made a point to track me down as they fled the school and comment on the ominous coincidence. I wonder what this will do to my debate. Will they be scared? Angry? Upset? After watching the images from the Columbine shooting, were any of them terrified at what could have happened? If nothing else, I know they will be engrossed in tomorrow’s debate. We’re discussing things that directly impact them. The bomb threat may have helped them realize that they are not just bystanders in this world; they are a living part of it. If they can cut through the muddled haze of apathy and actually care about something, I feel I’ve done my job. We need more citizens out there that aren’t just here to enjoy the scenery.


I was all set to write about all of the hope I see in the world. Then the LAPD decided to march through a park holding a peaceful protest firing rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed men, women and children. I don’t know if those fuckers got the memo, but this is the United States. It is our constitutional right to hold public demonstrations. In my lifetime, I have never watched such a blatant example of inappropriate force. I don’t care how it was provoked. In this country, the police have no right to march towards a group of peaceful citizens firing weapons and swinging clubs.

There are no words to fully describe this incident. You just have to watch it. Here are two links to videos that show the brutal and unethical lengths this government will take to silence the opposition.

In this first one, a local FOX reporter and her cameraman are assaulted and thrown to the ground amid the chaos.

This second one is of a citizen journalist and his cameraman as they are pursued through the park and into the streets on the other side.

This is just an extension of the attitude of this current administration. No, Bush and his cronies didn’t get on the phone and call in this attack, but it fits right into the pattern of behavior we have come to expect out of them. In a country run by people who remorselessly lie to start wars, detain prisoners without charge, condone torture, unconstitutionally tap the phones of law-abiding citizens, blatantly distort science, and fire US attorneys who will not comply, it's no wonder that we have abuses of power that extend all the way down to our police forces. The administration sets some kind of example. The next logical step is to declare the entire country a police state. If you are planning to protest, demonstrate, or march peacefully for a cause that doesn’t fit in with Mr. Bush’s agenda, be sure to bring a gas mask and full body armor. Those rubber bullets leave a welt much larger than a paintball. Let's just hope it doesn't take anotherKent State Massacre to get the media and the public alike to wake up and hold the government accountable. __________________________________________________________________


Although eight of the national guardsmen were indicted, the case was dismissed and there was never a conviction in the slaying of the four students in 1970. Here is a segment of a Democracy Now episode covering the massacre.

The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song “Ohio” was written in response to the shooting. Here is a video that someone made to accompany the song. It’s pretty powerful, except for the jello shot part. I don’t know what they were thinking there. Regardless, the song is well worth a listen.